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.

cdling: what’s the next big thing

I have been continuing to have conversations around this idea of using a prediction market to assist in seed stage investment decisions.

What's the next big thing?

I just read this post by Fred Wilson, one of New York’s hottest VCs.  It looks like they are exploring the predictive power of crowd sourcing and platforms for harvesting this insight.

USV is in the midst of raising a new fund.  It’s their third.  They have been pointed to as a model for new sized venture capital, raising relatively smaller funds.  Investing smaller amounts, etc.   Now there is speculation that they will raise a much bigger fund and if this breaks their more intimate, boutique model.  Whether they do a bigger fund or not is another issue.  In any event, Fred and his partners are bumping into the same problem of scale described below.  I.e. how to keep your finger on the pulse of more than 25 companies?

UPDATE, Jan. 29, 2011: Yuri Milner and Ron Conway’s SV Angel give us more evidence of the trend towards investors doing more, smaller deals with their commitment to lend all 40 2011 Y Combinator companies $150,000 in convertible debt. With no cap and no discount.   Like investors everywhere, Y Combinator and SV Angel need to make choices about which companies to fund much earlier and then they need better ways to track bigger portfolios full of higher risk companies.  In this case, 40 this year and if they stay the course, 80 next year and so on …

Ron & SV Angel have already invested in more than 228 companies since 2005!

UPDATE, Feb. 4, 2011: Jason Calacanis has a good round up of reaction to Milner & Conway’s announcement in “Here’s What Insiders Have to Say …”

At the end of the day, the execution may not conform exactly to a prediction market model but I am still advocating that we explore employing collective intelligence to make better bets on seed stage companies and to monitor their progress.

Crowdsourcing.  Smaller start up costs.  Trends toward integration of social analytics and predictive models.

Why can’t we lead on these fronts from Canada?

Prediction markets have been applied successfully in many ways. Most famously in horse racing (though these are strictly speaking not prediction markets) but more recently to everything from politics to Hollywood box offices. And of course there are many corporations using them internally like Best Buy, HP, Motorola, most recently announced Ford and others.

There are a few problems and opportunities in the venture capital market that make me believe that it could use a shot of innovation, particularly locally.

1. VCs complain about a lack of quality deal flow, i.e. companies that have successfully past the seed stage of development and are ready for a $5-15 million venture round.

2. Start ups are essential to the success of the local venture capitalist but they can not find seed investors.

3. Tech start up and investing sometimes suffers because it is subject to the influence of small, tightly bound networks of people and this can make it difficult to identify, embrace and take risks on game changing innovations.

4. Recent changes in tax law make it a lot easier for US VCs to invest in Canadian companies.  This creates a couple of problems for these US VCs. We represent 10% of the North America market.  The opening up of opportunities here calls for a re-balancing of large investment portfolios to increase exposure to Canada. How then do US VCs develop, screen and manage deals?  Set up an office in Canada or some other resource intensive method like a partnership? Perhaps collaborating in a seed fund that employs collective intelligence offers an attractive alternative approach (cheaper, faster, better results?).

5. In general, it costs a lot less money to start up a potentially game changing web or mobile business than a few years ago. Micro-VCs have emerged, with some success, to take advantage of this.  They have small funds ($10-20 million) and make high touch investments in more than a dozen companies. How do you scale this?  How does a $50 or $100-million fund make investment decisions and manage more than 25 companies?  Actually, big funds like Andreessen Horowitz are also running into these issues and exploring new methods to cope.

6. While we often think that these problems are unique to Toronto, many places have the same dynamics due to the structure of innovation and the venture capital investment model.  If a venture investing model could be developed that only led to 2 out of 10 deals being very successful rather than the current anticipated rate of 1 in 10, it would change everything.  Prediction markets have proven to be accurate when used properly.  For example, Google has been using them internally for more than five years.

So I am putting my money where my mouth is.  I have incorporated Cdling Capital Services Inc. and we are:

  • Working to determine exactly how a prediction market or alternative collective intelligence model can be applied to assist decision making and monitoring of seed stage companies.
  • Working with Redesign, Inc., Peter Jones’ firm to develop the concept and UI.  Peter is Faculty at OCADU’s Master’s in Design, Strategic Futures and Innovation program and he has been able to help me introduce some great minds to this effort.
  • Working with Dr. Wendy Cukier, Associate Dean (Academic) of the Ted Rogers School of Management, Ryerson University (updated May 15, 2011 – Dr. Cukier has been appointed VP, Research and Innovation for all of Ryerson University, congratulations!) and co-investigator Dr. Charles Davis, Edward S. Rogers Sr. Research Chair in Media Management & Entrepreneurship, also with TRSM@Ryerson. Together we have scoped a study to map the Ontario Cross-Border Technology Innovation Ecosystem (OCTIE).  Details on that are available at the OCTIE Study Blog.
  • Working with DFAIT. Cdling has been invited into the Canadian Accelerator Program, established by the Canadian Trade Service and the Canadian Canadian Consulate General of San Francisco and Palo Alto.
  • Working with some great Advisors, like Olav Sorenson who teaches venture capital at the Yale School of Management and has studied extensively the relationship between networks, distance investing and venture success.

I am convinced that there is better way.  I have arrived at this point of view through a series of related experiences.  For example, designing the market (i.e. the valuable IP, in my opinion) would require many of the considerations that we routinely employed while I was VP of ClickIQ.com where we delivered a platform for providing crowd sourced marketing research through a six figure subscription model for companies like Best Buy, Gateway and Johnson & Johnson.

Though not necessary for the model to work, if we could establish a real money prediction market for these purposes in Ontario, it could be the analytical equivalent of permitting stem cell research while our neighbors choose polarization of opinion versus methods to embrace complexity.

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 …

Twitter Matters #2: Memetic Logos, the Twishes Case

I like this little project.

Frank Tentler is scanning for the word “wish” in twitter streams and then he retweets the wish from the http://twitter.com/twishes profile.

This is Frank Tentlers memetic logo!  It is a great little way to position Frank at the intersection of media, aspirations, communications/technology, etc.

I wish I had the code for a little widget that would display the latest tweets from twishes.  I would embed it in this post and a few other places.

Update! Ask & you shall receive … Thanks Frank! (Note: Frank originally provided a widget but it stopped working and Twitter now makes it easy to grab & embedded a twitter stream.)


UPDATE: Another good example from Jacquelyn Cyr.

UPDATE 2 @ Nov.3, 2008 –

I have since come to think of some of the work that conferences are doing to assert their identities along these same lines.

Many now ask Twitterers at the conference to tag all of their related tweets consistently so that they can be viewed via Twitter Search and Twemes as one discussion thread.  #Mesh was the first that I noticed and SoCap08 retweeted all related tweets during the conference.

It looks like defrag08 is doing the retweet thing too.

Update 4@ Nov.17, 2008: Extending Mad Men into Twitter. Make sure that you follow the links in Paul’s post.

UPDATE 3@ Nov.4, 2008:

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 #3: Escalopter

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”

The dog experiment

Last night I made a post over at Memetic Brand’s sister blog, Social Capital Value Add, called “What’s with the dog?“.

Social Capital Value Add is an inherently complex concept. It is based upon lots of simple ideas that everyone gets right away:

– in 2004 broadband changed the game,

– there is a “new” word of mouth power out there that brands are vulnerable to,

– brand loyalty matters,

– etc, etc, etc.

The point of developing SCVA is that there is a lot more about all of this that we do not understand at the moment, than there are simple things to grab onto. How do you get across that complexity when people are time starved and operating with attention deficits (or what McLuhan would call “narcotic numbness“)?

Symbols matter. They signal something. They are the tip of the ice berg. But, we are developing the idea here at Memetic Brand that the symbol itself is a lot less important than traditional brand management has (rightfully, within the broadcast paradigm) us believing.

I am not betting on the dog. The dog is cute. I hope the dog gets your attention. I hope that the dog signals to you that SCVA is an idea worth passing on. I hope you scratch the dog a little (go ahead he likes that) and discover the Wizard of Oz metaphor that encompasses for me the difference between symbolic brand and memetic branding.

I hope that we discover together that if we make the kinds of investments that SCVA points us towards, we will all become “clever enough wizards” to quickly transform from Great Oz into leadership of great courage, heart and brains.
Playing a role in personal identity formation by recognizing our social network connections with certifications (the Scarecrow’s diploma), testimonials (the Tin Man’s ticking heart) and medals of honour (the Lion’s courage) will be familiar aspects of our strategy and tactics.

Memetic Brand 1.1.1.1.1

the fifth

Memetic Brand 1.1.1.1

the fourth

Memetic Brand 1.1.1

the third