Down & UP in the Magic Kingdom!

Put this in the quirky memetic banter file …

So here is the clan, Thomson 9, Sydney 7, Sister Paula, my Dad and wife Andrea on the mandatory pilgrimage to Disney World in Florida.

https://plus.google.com/u/1/photos/111927785652617267633/albums/58538080096…

You can see the whole album here: https://plus.google.com/u/1/photos/111927785652617267633/albums/58538080096…

It was fun. I can’t help it.

But for those of you who share a uneasy awareness that Disney owns not only a place in our childhood life cycle, but also a place in our parent’s life cycle (this was a trip on Grandpa’s bucket list!) … here are a few tid bits that may entertain you in a quirky kind of way:

Highlight of the trip for me was reading Cory Doctrow’s Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom while staying in the Park: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Down_and_Out_in_the_Magic_Kingdom

This might make me a terrible Dad, but this “fantasy destroying” moment made me proud of my children. Watch as we realize that they are being shunned by Minnie mouse! My son is embarrassed that we should have been more socially aware. Sydney makes the decision that the line up is not worth it. https://plus.google.com/u/1/photos/111927785652617267633/albums/58538080096…

And finally, Walt Disney believed in a big canvass! Shaping hundreds of acres, materials and our common perception to his vision. He changed the world. I hope that you find it refreshing to realize that there is always a bigger canvass.

Context for this shot, we are stuffing our faces with ice cream, in a mecca of consumerism that is Downtown Disney: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/destinations/downtown-disney/. Veal calves.

The big brand bonanza, including LEGO land, is “disrupted” –

https://plus.google.com/u/1/photos/111927785652617267633/albums/58538080096…

Have a great weekend everyone!

Why fairy tales are immortal. Jack Zipes.

How do you tell your fairy tale?

“A vibrant fairy tale has the power to attract listeners and readers, to latch on to their brains and become a living force in cultural evolution.

Certain fairy tales resemble memes, a term coined by Richard Dawkins to represent the cultural evolution and dissemination of ideas and practices.. These tales form and inform us about human conflicts that continue to challenge us: Cinderella (abusive treatment of a stepchild), Little Red Riding Hood (rape), Bluebeard (serial killer), Hansel and Gretel (child abandonment), Donkey Skin (incest). In fact, the memetic classical tales and many others have enabled us – metaphorically – to focus on crucial human issues, to create – and recreate – possibilities for change.”

Read the full piece on the Globe and Mail site.

Or sit back and enjoy this discussion involving Jack Zipes, Maria Tatar, Roger Rahtz, Donna Jo Napoli, Mark Lamos and Ann Cattaneco.

List of things to buy Michael for Christmas …

Why Fairy Tales Stick (2006) by Jack Zipes.

Built to Fade: zero is the new black

Perhaps, if you are motivated, we will create something meaningful together?

For about 19 months I have been wondering how and what to think about John Dumbrille’s ChangeThis Manifesto entitled, Built To Fade: The Advent of the Biodegradable Brand.

It is highly recommended reading for:

– everyone in marketing or corporate leadership,

– political leaders and advisers,

– anyone who is part of the environmental movement, or,

– everyone remotely interested in thriving in the new economic model.

IMHO, John didn’t really need to invite Naomi Klein’s No Logo or Seth Godin’s quip that “zero is the new black” into his manifesto.  He is a former Greenpeace activist and has chosen to live his life on Bowen Island.  Go there.  I don’t think Bowen is formally part of the Gulf Islands, but you can consider it a gateway to beginning your journey into a part of the world where the Celestine Prophesy can seem a lot more believable than the Invisible Hand. I have not met John but I trust that he lives his philosophy.  As he points out, it is his immediate reality that gives him unquestionable credibility. (Now try to achieve that effect with your toothpaste and you will get where this is going.)

I find Built to Fade so challenging to consider because John has brought into focus the essential conundrum of traditional broadcast branding.  He notes, “The success of conventional branding has been measured by the persistence of the literal and graphic associations that it forges.”  While John is specific in alerting us to the cynicism that green branding can quickly give away to, how can any communicator or marketer walk away unscathed when John points out that “The diversion of attention into a me-brand-good pseudo experience, the holy grail of brand building, is actually part of the problem.”?

space junk

By calling out the roots of Green brand building as a flawed experiment, Dumbrille relegates the entire traditional brand establishment to the status of space junk.

John hits his readers intimately – right in the morning coffee …

“When green brands manage to nurture egocentric self-cherishing among its users through packaging and advertising, a fundamental, environmental disjoin has taken place.  Huddled with my coffee, whether it’s fair trade certified or otherwise, I am indulged in an intimate branded moment. I rise above the pedestrian concerns of the depressed, middle-aged woman as she walks past the café. Later, I take a sip of my organic chai latte, place it in the drink holder and accelerate through a busy intersection. My “green” brand consciousness is anything but that. The phenomenon of being wrapped up in a brand idea is displacing my attention and connection to the environment that surrounds me right now.” (strike outs added by me)

Jeepers John!  Don’t wake me up while I am enjoying my coffee for chrisssake!  Do you want to start a riot?

Even remedial memetic branding can not pass the inspection …

“Mass media is in decline, and with it, conventional branding that pays the bills. For brand builders, a line of response has been to line Internet corridors with viral gadgets. These gadgets are intended to encourage people to assemble a memorable, and hopefully positive, image of the brand. Examples include sponsored YouTube videos and camouflaged blogs and comments. But, as we get better at filtering and as alternative, less commercial media abound, these hacks become serious irritants and the brand is often correctly implicated in the negative experience.”

The new marketing koan: How do you brand zero?

I dunno …

But at the risk of looking like a hijacked ant waiting for a fluke (see this Dan Dennett Ted Talk for the inside joke), let me throw out some fodder for you to respond to.

My first thought is the simple hope that Less is More.

Here is an example: Just last week I was turned on to this global fundraiser for autism through a tweet by Andrew Jenkins. Click through on the links to catch the 1 min vid if you want the full description.  In this case, the approach has a special meaning but perhaps the thesis of the campaign needs broader application?  Supporters were asked to practice a communication shutdown.  The idea is that attention to the cause would be raised through the absence on Twitter, Facebook and other communication channels of the participants or by their notes announcing such.  Okay – I think it works on this campaign.

UPDATE: Andrew Jenkins just brought another “going silent” option from the NYT to our attention.

Built to Fade?

Simple Green & Green Works (by Clorox) side by side

I asked John for an example of the new “alternatives—products with straightforward labeling and claims that don’t present an image designed to eclipse immediate reality.  He suggested that I take a look at www.simplegreen.com.  For a moment I felt elated.  I checked under my sink and low and behold, I had a me-brand-good experience!

This is was immediately surpassed, as John warns, by a feeling of trust lost and confusion when I discovered a similarly labeled product right next to my Simple Green made by the familiar CPG giant Clorox.  How can Clorox satisfy my need to be socially conscience with my cleaning products?  Aren’t they the same folks who have been selling me bleach and Ajax and SOS pads all these years?  Loreal just bought the Body Shop again right there in front of my eyes.

Maybe Clorox is a leader in delivering authentically green products?  Maybe Wal-Mart is on the right track?  Maybe Dove & the Body Shop are doing great things?  The point here is that fundamental disconnect that John predicts is not only sitting right under my sink, I bet every marketer out there understands that nagging gap that has emerged between consumers and even our best intentions to meet their higher order demands.

As I look around my house which was built in about 1919, I am reminded of the simple Shaker influence that was present in the original design and our efforts to maintain that consistency when we renovated before moving in. Much to my surprise, according to Wikipedia, the Shaker movement only attracted over 20,000 converts and even at its peak the group reached a maximum size of about 6,000.  Actually, I am really just reminded of that Dan Dennett vid about dangerous memes because he talks about the Shakers in it for a minute and half (from 9:00 to 10:30).  Feel free to take the time to listen to him.  Dennett concludes that the meme for Shakerdom was essentially a sterilizing parasite that ultimately led to the Shakers’ extinction.  Part of the creed of Shakerdom is that everyone should be celibate.

Making less noise than the irresponsible or keeping it simple out of principal can seem like a risky long term strategy.

Perhaps John is pushing us to consider brands that are more like waves than permanent things?  I know this post is too long already but I dare you to stick with it and follow that link to Richard Dawkin’s related Ted Talk.  The money quote comes at the 10:50 mark when Dawkins highlights Steve Grand’s observation that, “matter flows from place to place and momentarily comes together to be you” … or a brand????  As a new, twitter connection and self described transhumanist Zachary Moser pointed out, “It is interesting to see such a fundamental materialist (Dawkins) speak with such mystical overtones.”

Does the materialist answer John’s call for a new marketing koan?

It is not that far fetched.

Check out the New YorkTimes Magazine coverage of social product development platform Quirky.com. Or consider the possibilities of employing a prediction market to manage innovation? Or Dell’s idea storm.

UPDATE, Dec. 1, 2010: Or check out Calgary’s Chaordix and their great Crowdsourcing: Who’s Doing It? list.

Do you want to tap growth?

Do you want to tap growth?

With these kinds of model’s the sustainable value of the enterprise is derived through the networks that it is able to mobilize for a purpose.  Altruism can be an essential strategy, completely aligned with the corporate motive of growing margins and profits.

Maybe these kinds of enterprises are by nature smaller?  But then again why so?  They operate more virtually and can have a more just-in-time model for talent, capital, materials and geography.  In any event, when facing the imperatives of emerging China, India and the rest of the developing world, are you really interested in prolonging the game of mass?

As we come to understand that traditional brand is less accountable for our corporate valuations, I think we are going to need a way to manage and compare these new corporate assets of social capital laden networks.

Memetic Sponder

Maybe just a sketch to you, but as I mentioned while we were talking – this kind of personal media, in terms of how it pervaded our time together and was so intimately intertwined with identity (both yours and mine) has a completely different fidelity than a vid or photo.

And the terms of how you live your life with several persona or channels open (i.e. web analyst and artist at once) seems inevitable to me, but very unevenly distributed … so … comfortably uncommon.

It gives Marshall Sponder memetic qualities.

Quality time. Thanks.

M. Cayley by Marshall Sponder

We are more like waves than permanent things …

Oh, oh …

At many levels I wish this had not happened. I remembered seeing something interesting in this Richard Dawkins’ video a few months ago and have finally had time to take a closer look & listen to it.

The interesting bit was the invitation from Steve Grand shared by Dawkins, to consider what we are. Now I have to try to comprehend the mind of Steve Grand. Pass the nuts.

If you don’t have enough time for the whole 20 minutes (all highly recommended), pick it up at 8:49 mark until you hear the words, “if that doesn’t make the hair stand up on the back of your neck then read it again, because it is important”.

Another interesting bit can be picked up at the 19:53 mark … “in short” to “millions of deluded people” … an interesting observation on why we personify things or in other words, brand them.

Dawkins observes we are social beings, swimming through connections with people. We have therefore highly evolved models for simulating the world that we need to navigate based upon social signals, so we end up applying that successful model to inanimate objects, personifying them even while being aware that this is the wrong model to solve our problem. For example, when we swear at a broken down car or dare I say the words … “BP”.

Darwin’s Marketing Evolution by Balázs L. Szekf

Balázs L. Szekf June 10 at 6:38pm Report

Hello Michael, how are you? I like your memetic branding blog a lot. I am also teaching social media in a university here in Budapest. MC>> I LOVE Budapest.  Have a best story of my life there.
You mention a ppt about memetic branding but the URL is a 404 now.. if you still have the ppt I would love to take a look at it…  MC>> It is a slide show by @BenMack, I can’t find it now.

you can see our take on this at:
http://www.slideshare.net/szekfu/darwins-marketing-evolution
best
Laz

I can learn a lot from these guys …

Following Robin Teigland … Fad or Future: Second Life & Virtual Worlds

I just started following Dr. Robin Teigland on Twitter.  Get ready to be blown away … check out her slide share presentations.

She is an Associate Professor at the Center for Strategy and Competitiveness at the Stockholm School of Economics (SSE) in Sweden.  For more than ten years, she has researched and lectured on social networks and their relationship with strategy and performance.

This presentation seems spot on to me.

I just posted her presentation of Leveraging Social Networks for Results over at www.socialcapitalvalueadd.com.  It is even better.

Memetic Brand & Social Capital Value Add start socializing

Is this like dating?  I have some well planned and thought through moves that I have played over a million times in my mind but it is all a bit different when you are out there playing the field.  Will private moments be reconciled with public pronouncements? Will we score?

Now that Tim Kitchin & I have decided to take our chats at the intersection of social capital and brands public, I think that I am starting to have some insight into how Whuffie expert Tara Hunt and open source leader Chris Messina felt during their online adventure.

Where will this lead?

Where will this lead?

Maybe I am a bit like Chandler Bing?  Leading with some boyish humour.  Just trying to make the nitty gritty of connecting social media to corporate value a lot more entertaining than it really is.

In any event, what is certain is that while I am full of wonder about where this tangent will lead and can’t promise what “we will” do, I am confident that Tim is a credible thought leader on brands.  I am honoured that he is interested in having these public chats.  Even if I throw in some high jinks, Social Capital Value Add and memetic brand will be better from this exchange.  Along the way there will be something of interest to provoke your thinking or at least a smile.

“Towards Social Branding”, Tim’s post to open this series, starts out with some discussion about brand valuation and the merits of stock values correlating to underlying values.  During this time of financial turmoil it may be popular to throw the corporation as a form of organisation under the bus along with the functioning of capital markets, but at the risk of attracting the ire of the double bottom line set, I am convinced that like it or not, the corporation is a very resilient idea and markets suss out efficiency.

You can spend time questioning markets and trying to impose motives beyond profit on the corporation like arbitrarily selected social “good”.  Social Capital Value Add is not preoccupied with this. As a farmer’s son, I begin from the basis that I can not change nature.  Self interest is undeniable, people trade and, faster than most individuals, the corporation is adapting to new forms of making meaning that have emerged since broadband overtook slower forms of connection.  The corporation will be around, purely motivated by profit, long after I am dust.

Brand valuation was developed to try to bring insight into part of the sources of stable future earnings of the corporation.  That is why it is, and will continue to be, an important part of the haggling over what a corporation (or a product line) is worth to buyers and seller.

Brand valuation is product centric.  It is designed to get a handle on any enduring difference between what a product costs to produce and the price it may command from buyers.  There are many sources (not just brand) of the ability to maintain margins.  They add up to: the buyers’ perception of the product value is greater than the cost of delivering it (including cost of capital).

Broadcast media – from packaging to television – emerged as the dominate method for the corporation and its agents to shape common perception (in the pursuit of profit).  Impact on perception was unbalanced by the articulation of most insiders and virtually all outsiders (the little guys) because broadcast media required lots of capital to emit and has traditionally out scaled (drowned out) alternative interpretations.  In this context attributing intangible value to an idea like brand, i.e. a form of broadcast media, makes sense.

The problem is that brand has become a golden hammer of corporate management.  There is no shortage of conversation about what brands “do”.  Stories, cues, symbols all remain vital parts of value creation.  But when Tim starts talking about brand loyalty or another fellow I respect, Stephen Byrne asks me about participant marketing or brand advocacy, I start to worry that we might be getting off the point.

Do brands invent?

I think there is a point when the term brand gets applied too widely.  Everything looks pink through rose coloured glasses.

We have entered an era where broadcast’s ability to dominate perception is quickly eroding. (Update, Dec. 3: Tom O’Brien makes this point in a very practical way.) To have insight into stable future earnings in an era where common perception is formed by millions of competing channels (i.e. broadband empowered people) I think we will uncover new keys to productivity and value defense and creation if we open up an equally vital examination of the structural factors that underlie the content layer.

Why confuse the examination of a new media form that is a product of connection by attempting to contort the notion of brand, which is rooted in broadcast?

Lots of smart people like Nan Lin, Olav Sorenson, Brian Uzzi, Barry Wellman, Tom Snijders, Martin Van Der Gaag and Matt Jackson have established ways to describe and analyze connections between people also known as social networks.  Social capital describes the resources that reside in these networks and I think social media are artifacts of a new scaled up form of it.

If, in the new context of the networked era we are looking for new competitive advantage as we consider the content layer, then I have found the established work of Richard Dawkins, Susan Blackmore and Ben Mack (who used the term memetic brand first in a powerpoint presentation that I can no longer find online) and other replicators of memetic theories to encompass the content layer but also provoke new insight into the structural factors that cause ideas to spread.

Let’s give the brand establishment the day off.  Sorry Tim, Social Capital Value Add is not “a prescription for the measurement of brand value”.  I have not proposed it to compete with or replace brand valuation, I think it is a useful compliment to brand valuation.  It is proposed to measure scaled up forms of social capital that are an important corporate asset distinct from brand.  For example, if I pick up a great idea or contact like Kim Patrick Kobza at Verna Allee & John Maloney’s value networks LinkedIn group, why should we use “brand” to describe that transaction?

Having said all of this, Tim is bang on in noting “a fundamental change in the way that brands drive value” due to the emergence of scaled up forms of social capital.  I think bouncing these related concepts back and forth will help all of us understand them.

Tim & I are committed to this effort over a series of posts ahead.  We hope our opening two posts are received as an invitation to others to link up their thinking.  In addition to the many esteemed thinkers referred to above, Chris Brogan and Julian Smith have a related manifesto and book in the works. Maybe they already have this Whuffie thing figured out in Cory Doctorow’s Magic Kingdom? Tim O’Reilly has been tweeting it up about social capital lately.   Jonathan Salem Baskin says Branding Only Works on Cattle.

Feel free to add a tweet or post and please use “SoCap&Brand” as a tag.  For example, I hope that Tom Chapman &/or his peeps over at www.socialmediatoday.com add the SoCap&Brand tag to this related post:

Social Capital and building a quality social graph. (I hate registering to leave comments by the way!)

What are the boundaries between social capital management and brand management?

Tim?

Twitter Matters #3: Escalopter (escalator + helicopter)

Now that I have used Twitter for a while, I am more convinced than when I started that it is an example, along with activity feeds & other microblogging platforms, of a new medium that is particularly suited for memetic branding purposes.  It is involved in the genesis of shared perception.

Picked up on twitter …

MarkusvonRoder: Demonstrating the memetic trigger “Violation of viewing habits” – the Escalopter (escalator + helicopter)

Update:

I have turned my evolving reflections about twitter into a series of posts.  Catch the other thoughts:

Why Twitter Matters #1: Follow me, Follow You on Twitter

Why Twitter Matters #2: Memetic Logos

Why Twitter Matters #4: social capital discussion evolving

Comment, Kim Patrick Kobza, CEO, Neighborhood America: cognitive outliers, real time group cognition

Why Twitter Matters #5: Twitter and Social Capital

Why Twitter Matters #6: Twitter Love Song

Twitter Matters #7: Twitter Bot Auto-Debate

UPDATE@Nov.4, 2008 – an overview of StockTwits from Stowe Boyd.

UPDATE@Dec.1, 2008 – Tim O’Reilly “Why I Love Twitter”

Memetic Pepsi: Somewhere between Mintos & A Cure for Cancer

UPDATE, April 2010:  Could it be?  Is Pepsi listening?  What do you think of Pepsi foregoing the traditional Superbowl ad and stepping up with its REFRESH program?  For details on REFRESH catch this series by a group of my HumberPR students.  Kudos to Pepsi and Weber Shandwick.

ORIGINAL POST:

Hot selling book authors Seth Godin & Jonathan Salem Baskin, who both released manifestos in ChangeThis’ 50th issue (I was fortunate to have my manifesto released @ along with theirs), have picked up on Pepsi’s recent announcement that they are going to “pour some $1.2 billion over three years into a push that will include sweeping changes to its brands“.

Seth’s “punchline is: take the time and money and effort you’d put into an expensive logo and put them into creating a product and experience and story that people remember instead.”   He has a corner on the whole idea of making products remarkable that is well worth following.

Jonathan finds it “stunning that nobody is asking these businesses why they aren’t focusing on making cola relevant again.”  It is a great post.  Check it out. The bit that really got me noodling was:

“Use or need cases are used in technology development to identify the places and times  people might require a software product or widget.  That approach to the mechanics of consumption is based on actual experience, not imagined desires or emotional associations, so the strategy doesn’t start with brand…but certainly impacts it.”

Can we use this notion of memetic brand to get more prescriptive if we are sitting in boardrooms with folks like Pepsi?

The money quote from Introducing Social Capital Value Add would probably be a bad place to start:

“Social capital means far more to Coca-Cola than Coca-Cola means to social capital.”

Ah, that might just get you the door before you had a chance to get the account!  So perhaps it would be good to start with a little illustration of the difference between being “viral” and “memetic”.

I bet the traditional brand folks over a Coke have been counting all that “free advertising” they have been racking up since someone discovered what happens when you drop a mintos into a bottle of diet coke.  That is, after they took weeks to stop hand-wringing about what such an image does to “the brand”.

Now that is entertainment! I love it! Millions of views. Probably billions now that dudes like me are clipping it into web pages all over the internet. But is it selling Diet Coke? Hmmm …. maybe a little bit. That awareness and repetition is not likely hurting any. But I am pretty sure that this isn’t the stuff that is going to effect market share, or share of stomach or any of the other fun ways to measure soda pop.

So how about something that can be remarkable, address needs and mobilize the entire Pepsi ecosystem towards something amazing?

I am certain that there are many memetic approaches and I would very much appreciate it if you could jot down your thoughts below.  I admit it.  I am a bit stuck on this idea of a relationship between altruism and corporate motivations.

I think that I would like to present the folks at Pepsi with some case studies and trend analysis of approaches like the one the folks at TripAdvisor are taking.  I have some criticism of the execution and if TripAdvisor is still burning VC money, god bless ’em.  The trick is to go beyond feel good CSR tactics and tie this into your mission and maybe even your business model if possible.

Then maybe we could get some serious new thinking about how to change the game with Pepsi.  How about a crazy idea like committing Pepsi to being a cure for cancer?  That just popped into my head as something provocative to help reboot thinking and then, as I sifted though my reader while procrastinating on writing this post I picked up this link from June Avila on the MaRs Innovation & Commercialization Blog:

Better Beer: College Team Creating Anticancer Brew

Yes.  Still seems off the wall, but somewhere between mintos & the cure for cancer there is a better way.