Spreading a Globally Oriented Innovation Meme in Ontario: A Prediction Market?

UPDATE, January 2016: Hmm … I think we maybe on to something. In this experiment we switched focus from working with one investor and trying to push dozens of startups through the platform, to working with one startup who posted a cash prize for the winner of their LAB. Around this one startup we had 19 experts join the platform and we received 17 forecasts for the startup.

UPDATE, September 2015: This month sees another updated release of the Cdling platform in the lead up to our office hours with Sequoia. It also sees a full “easter egg” release of Cdling Scores.

UPDATE, October 2014: This month, we have finally launched an updated version of Cdling.com, working with a world class team of computer scientists in Italy and Advisors in Toronto, Silicon Valley and New York. We now have about 1800 users from 80 cities on the platform. It has been great to be recognized early by folks like the President of CrunchBase as part of a new class of startups.

UPDATE, November 29th, 2010:  Although I have not been actively pitching, a lot of people that I talk to have a point of view on the state of the venture capital industry and innovation in Ontario, so I end up sharing mine too (i.e. the ideas below).

Most provide feedback that VCs won’t invest in a start up to do what I have described below.  The VC model is based upon the notion that two or a few guys sit around a table making decisions with the belief (in cases, validated by success that has my utmost respect) that they are smarter than the market or at least ahead of it.  I agree with this feedback.  In fact the ideas below are based in part on observations of these kinds of structural challenges to innovation.

In any event, I have registered the domain www.cdling.com and tried to put a finer point on the ideas below.

UPDATE, April 2010 – I recently had an exchange about the idea below with John Delaney, CEO of Intrade and Russ Thomson founder of Meritology.  I have published that on this post.

UPDATE, Mar 2010 – This idea could easily be applied across Canada, in Silicon Valley … globally. I trust that readers can envision the edits that would be required below to adjust.

UPDATE, Nov. 19, 2009:  It seems that something like the idea below is being tested in an executive program at Singularity University in Silicon Valley.  Crowdcast points out that there are fundamental flaws with an idea market but it seems that they go on to explain how a prediction market may work for the application that I have described below.

UPDATE 2, Jan. 2, 2010: Was just introduced to Jed Christiansen’s Mercury Blog on prediction markets and innovation and found his simple introductory video.  I would love to have Jed’s comments on the post below.

Original Post:

Quite a while back I wrote a couple of posts over at www.socialcapitalvalueadd.com that provided some observations on the dangers of tightly knit social networks in Ontario’s business community and a request to the Ontario Government to focus any investment to bail out the troubled venture capital industry in this province on building global connections.

A year later the meat of these posts became a cocktail conversation at NetChange Week at MaRs.  The cultural irony in the air was noteworthy, having boot strapping social entrepreneurs gathered, talking about self starting, market driven enterprise while a concentration of Canadian establishment digital media execs and politicians were assembled in Stratford “defining Canada’s digital future” with a $10-million cheque, a declaration and the idea of a government led national digital media action plan.

Is it safe to say at this point that Ontario needs a change in culture to continue to enjoy the privileged position it has held in Canada and globally?  I think so.  There is a lot of quality conversation (like Research Capital’s effort & the exchange at StartUpNorth) and some money being thrown at the problem (by the Ontario & Federal Governments).

That cocktail conversation led to an email exchange that I have been meaning to dump into a blog post all summer.  I hope that you put this into the mix of quality conversation.  Perhaps if it drums up some interest, we can evolve the thoughts here from a rough set of cut and pastes into a viable plan?

While we think we suffer unique hardship in Ontario, with power and money being concentrated in Toronto and Ottawa, while innovation is often highly distributed at the edges – disconnected from power, money & each other – it occurs to me that this is a well recognized pattern once you understand social networks.  Innovation – a new combination of information, insight & resources – often takes place when weak ties bring together the previously unassociated.  So we need solutions designed to improve these loose connections, not reinforce the status quo.

If you talk to local angel organisations you will learn that they are seeing more then 200 seed stage companies a year.  About 25 are getting funded at this stage.

VCs say that they need at least 50 quality deals to get through initial start up to have a funnel of activity that will produce enough home runs to float the domestic industry.

Both VCs & angels will tell you that one of the problems in Ontario is that they are not seeing enough quality deals.

Seed stage companies are full of risk.  So far Ontario doesn’t seem to have a Yossi Vardi who can successfully invest in 50 to 80 hungry entrepreneurs that he can believe in.

Most agree that companies that survive and thrive do so because of the PEOPLE!  I can not believe that there are not 40 or 50 promising people to back in business in Ontario each year.  Once you get going with a business relationship among good people, you might change the business model, you might change key players, go after different customers, etc but you are way more likely to come out with a growing business then if you take this crazy view that quality deals are divined by Angels. That is sort of the point.  World class Angels & VCs work with great people through the good, the bad and the ugly and still come up with a return on investment that keeps institutional investors coming back to the table.

So can we agree that Ontario would be much further ahead on the innovation file if we were seeding great business people?  So the question is … how do we seed 40 to 50 promising startups in Ontario every year? (i.e. funding under $500K).

Some thoughts to steer around (or through) …

– we don’t need to start something like MaRs that is GREAT, but money is needed in startups not institutions,
– we don’t want to give money to the same people (i.e. Ontario VCs, Ontario bankers) to solve this problem, they have their own problems to solve, pre-revenue startups are not an ideal focus for them and besides … startups are going to save Canada’s Venture Capital industry.
– we don’t want to put any team of experts (more people to pay instead of funding start ups), a bureaucracy or government in the position of trying to pick winners from losers in the start up world, too risky, too slow, too much same old “who you know” thing in Ontario.

So how about setting up a prediction market to select the companies that will get seeded?

I am told that if you are going to sit down with government, you should have some sort of ask in mind.

My ask would be this –

Use some dough out of the Ontario Venture Capital Fund and the Emerging Technologies Fund (since hardly any of this money has hit the street yet) or find new money to set up an Ontario Seedling Prediction Market.  Get Ontario VCs to partially fund or make some sort of commitment to this initiative since this is helping solve the quality deal flow problem that they complain about. Make the Prediction Market open and global but the companies vying on the market must be Ontario based.

Set up a standard corporate structure so that these seedlings are ready to scale and (if their promise warrants) take on a $10-million B round (keep founders in, but be big enough and compete with US early stage venture companies).

Get commitments from government and globally based investors (to bring competition and connections for later rounds) to provide the $20-million a year needed to seed 40 companies.

A couple of other upsides from a prediction market approach that come to mind …

a) A prediction market would orient seed companies toward a global market rather than a local closed network.  We all know how the Bell Fund, the NRC programs and other government programs (ACOA comes to mind) skew companies away from global business focus and turn their attention towards the special “screening”, applications and procedures required to win government favour.  Look out!  Here come a bunch of new consultants that local capital ends up paying to get their companies through the hoops (money that should be going into start ups!).  The relationships required to get funding from an Ontario government program are not aligned with the attention & relationships required to make it through a globally competitive B round (i.e. around $10-million).

b) A prediction market positions the Ontario government to champion the cause of early stage companies with global investors in an consistent, long term, sustainable way.  If the Ontario government hires a bunch of “experts” to pick winners (i.e. the typical role of partners in a VC firm or Angels or managers of a pension fund) they become accountable for the picks.  They will get evaluated based upon the performance of these investments.  Just ask local VCs and Angels how difficult it is to achieve positive returns by picking winners.  Have any of them achieved this yet?  The success of a prediction market would be a function of the kind of attention & engagement that it obtained from global, diverse markets.  The Ontario government could lead targeted programs designed to capture the attention of investors in Silicon Valley, New York, Boston, Hong Kong, Singapore, London, etc … all based upon the premise that obtaining the attention of these investors makes the prediction market function better and showcases Ontario innovation rather than a limited portfolio of companies caught in time by the rear view mirror of a few connected locals.

Here’s a pretty good FAQ from an open prediction market platform called Inkling: http://inklingmarkets.com/homes/faq

Here is a NYT article about Crowdcast another start up in the prediction market space:  http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/06/25/start-ups-software-crowdsources-company-forecasts/ Google, HP, Warner Bros., GM and companies in media and pharma all trying out some variation of prediction markets.

In Ontario we really need government to take a lead on something like this because most of our companies are too small to take advantage of these new abilities to tap into emergence and make better decisions on innovation.

GE & Motorola use Consensus Point Software to manage internal prediction markets …

http://www.consensuspoint.com/prediction-markets-blog/

Take a look at The Industry Standard’s prediction market …

http://www.thestandard.com/predictions

Another thought to keep in mind, domestically, encouraging companies across the province to list on the prediction market would create broad awareness of government leadership on the innovation file and awaken Ontario companies to the need to oriented towards globally competitive innovation.  The prediction market would create a cross promotional effect (with no crazy spends on wasteful the kinds of broadcast advertising often use to raise awareness of government efforts).  As companies oriented themselves towards it, work towards announcing key customers, great products, highlighting great teams, all of their activities would demonstrate to their peers in Ontario what it takes to hatch globally competitive innovation.

A prediction market would cross industries better then common place business plan competitions and pitch  forums for start ups.

As some of you know, I have some recent experience with this.  My Social Capital Value Add method of linking social media to corporate value was a finalist among over 320 entries from 48 countries in a business plan contest held at the University of Miami by WeMedia in February. (part shameless plug, but this experience definitely pushed me beyond the idea of “democratizing” into learning more about prediction markets which deal with unequal distribution of information better).

Offering prize money only works when you are damn sure the kind of innovation that you want to incent.  For example, you could not spur innovation in cleantech and Web 2.0 with the same prize, although once you put a structure in place you could duplicate it in various areas of interest.

Most importantly, while prize money would crowd source desirable innovation, unlike a prediction market, it would not achieve the most important provincial goals which are to wake up all Ontarians to the need for an economy led by globally competitive innovation nor would it orient domestic companies towards global markets instead of a local prize while giving the Ontario government something that they can confidently promote to forge links with foreign markets that are critical to commercialization, marketing success and next rounds of finance.

By the way, a prediction market would not get in the way of Angels or VCs boot strapping early stage seed financing in Ontario.  They would be free to go after the same deals, co-invest, etc.  We agree that there are more then 20 or so quality groups of hungry, crazy people to invest in.  The current ETF approach makes the government a follow on investor, essentially giving this money to existing early stage (not seed) investors, relieving them of the responsibility of earning returns that attract institutional investors.  It is relief to existing early stage investors not start ups.

Feel free to read more about prediction markets:

IDC and The Industry Standard Announce Strategic Prediction Market Partnership

http://www.overcomingbias.com/2009/09/prediction-markets-as-collective-inteligence.html

The Farmetrics(R) Prediction Market https://www.farmetrics.com/
http://mashable.com/2009/08/31/pretweeting/

Did Intrade Predict the Resignation of "Green Jobs Czar" Van Jones?

http://www.daily-chuck.com/2009/09/did-intrade-predict-resignation-of.html

http://www.consensuspoint.com/resources/academic-research/Harvard_Consensus_Point_Prediction_Markets.pdf

Natural Selection in network emergence

I have also posted this with some comments over at www.socialcapitalvalueadd.com because it is a great discussion of how network thinking is emerging as a dominant form in the 21st century.

From about the 3:38 point in the video to 7:30 Barabási and Fowler have a focused discussion on the differences between social & tech networks and the role of natural selection in the formation & structure of social networks.

These are four highly recommended minutes for anyone working towards the understanding of memetic brand.

Hat tip to Valdis Krebs for sharing this item and these related links:

The genes in your congeniality:  Researchers identify genetic influence in social networks.

The PDF of the full paper.


Seedmagazine.com The Seed Salon

The transcript is here.

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.

Twitter Matters #6: Twitter Love Song

Hat tip to Dallas Knight (perhaps an alias? UPDATE: not an alias, what memetically gifted parents!) also known as starpath for turning us on to this great video (being promoted) by fellow Canuck Michelle Hoyle aka Eingang.

UPDATE: Note from Martin’s comment below, who’s blog is called Ed techie, as in education techie: Actually it’s mine (see http://nogoodreason.typepad.co.uk/no_good_reason/2008/10/a-twitter-love-song.html), not Michelle’s, she’s probably been plugging it for me though, and I used a lot of her tweets in the vid. Thx for the plug, I’d happily settle for 10,000!)

What do you think are the highlights or new insights from the video? Please jot them in the comments below and I will move them up into this post to flesh it out.

As I publish this, the video on YouTube has only been viewed 264 times.  I predict 10,000 views by next Monday time that I look.

Check out the rest of the Why Twitter Matters series that I have been putting together:

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

Why Twitter Matters #2: Memetic Logos

Why Twitter Matters #3: Escalopter

Why Twitter Matters #4: social capital discussion evolving

Why Twitter Matters #5: Twitter and Social Capital

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

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”

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.

Looking for Leadership? Invest in Your Networks

by Michael Cayley & Jonathan Salem Baskin

Lincoln and Roosevelt are heralded as great American leaders in times of crisis, and their vision and fortitude are recognized as drivers of their historic accomplishments. However, we think their greatness had far more to do with their abilities to be catalysts for network effects.

If we’re right, it reveals a very different interpretation of the calls we’re hearing for “leadership” to restore confidence in our economic system. In fact, there’s a good chance that no government policy gesture or announcement will mollify the worries of businesses and consumers, let alone stabilize the markets.

Confidence must emerge from the networks in which we all participate. We need to lead ourselves.

This raises intriguing issues and opportunities for corporate marketers looking to craft a way forward.

“In times of uncertainty consumers rely more on trusted relationships when making purchasing decisions,” says Dr. Brent Simpson, an expert at the University of South Carolina who specializes in understanding how social order is formed.

Stanford University’s Matt Jackson, a leading social network theorist, adds: “People’s friends and trusted social relationships are important in influencing their behavior, and people learn from and emulate their friends. Attitude certainly can play into that, especially in turbulent times.”

So what does this mean for businesses directly impacted by the financial crisis, like banks, brokerages, and insurance companies, as well as any consumer business facing the prospect of declining (or less profitable) sales?

First and foremost, you can’t brand your way out of it. You can’t rely spin doctors to declare your path through the crisis; your customers must see and verify it. While your hired guns are hatching ads and press releases to statically “position” the situation, your networks are trading information and defining it in real-time.

And that information, whether accurate or not, has absolutely nothing to do with how the brand has been envisioned, promised, or promoted. Every network is founded upon the tangible realities of action and reaction, just as the mechanism of their function is cause and effect.

How do you empower these networks to step up and lead?

* Know your networks. Invest in software to map connections between people and content.

* Move your enterprise closer to customers, employees, partners and investors. In the past we talked about flattening hierarchies; now it is time to integrate internal & external sources of value.

* Trust opportunities that emerge from the exchange (don’t just talk, and certainly don’t lecture).

* Make information a utility as ubiquitous as electrical light. If what you share isn’t affirmed and forwarded, don’t repeat it…instead, recast or reimagine it, and find new ways to prove it to your networks.

* Demand feedback and ideas.

* Stop looking for ‘home runs’ and play ‘singles and doubles’ by finding small wins, frequent trials. Make constant adjustments. Allocate resources towinners and abandon losers without blame.

The larger revelation of today’s various crises is that the era of symbolic branding is waning, if not over. The woes of the financial institutions have graphically illustrated to us why.

It was always untenable for lenders to ignore the details of weak/bad relationships and to expect instead that homes or property (i.e. commodities) would appreciate in value with no accord to the strength of home owners (i.e. the source of value that differentiated the commodity). Instead of accessing and fostering the relationship to make the loan a better product, the banker chooses to focus on the derivatives.

All businesses face similar risks. From toothpaste to software services, consumer brands invite significant downside threats when they focus on manufactured identify and perception, and not on the drivers of true business strength: connection, interaction, involvement, collaboration, consumption and the other aspects of human behavior.

There are no brands, or businesses, without the networks of people who make them real. It is in, and through, the behaviors of these networks that the Lincolns and Roosevelts for our business and social communities will ultimately arise.

Jonathan Salem Baskin and Michael Cayley met through the concurrent release of their manifestos in the 50th issue of ChangeThis.

Jonathan Salem Baskin recently released the book Branding Only Works on Cattle. This post also appears on Jonathan’s blog at http://dimbulb.typepad.com.

Memetic Political Campaigns: Where’s Jack?

The Obama campaign has released an application for the iPhone that cleverly sorts your address book, prioritizing which friends you should call to convince them to vote Obama …. see the whole post at Social Capital Blog.

I see that Matt Ingram thinks this is cool too.

Can you believe that McCain has never used email or the internet?  Why isn’t that a debate question?

High broadband penetration rates.  Facebook crazy.  Geographic challenges to overcome.  A need to mobilize the youth vote.  The desirability of being associated with innovation.  The potential to shape broadcast media reporting.  There are lots of reasons why social media should be a big part of Canadian politics.

Apparently the threat of social media may be scaring off quality candidates, there are lots of fundraising appeals and I think www.wheresjack.ca is a good example of the potential to roll national discontent into a local campaign, but is it making a difference?

Do we have such a small population that we feel embarrassed scaling up our personal politics for fear of offending our neighbors?

What do you think?

Is Palin a Kitten-Eater?

I picked up a hard copy of the March 2008 New York Time Magazine at my sister’s place on the west coast at the beginning of August.  At various times it has been on the floor of my rental car, on the beach, in a hotel room in Chicago, in the pile to go out for recycling, in the rack in the bathroom and sitting on the corner of my desk (is that more information than you need to know?).

The serious effects that the addition of Sarah Palin to the equation is having in US politics reminds me … I have been carting this around because I have been meaning to blog about a one page article in it by Farhad Manjoo called Rumor’s Reason

In the article Farhad traces the Obama as “Muslim Manchurian candidate” idea back to a summer 2004 press release by Andy Martin.  With no factual proof, the story was ignored by the “objective” traditional media at first.  But the idea that Obama is Muslim persisted, showing up on the net, breaking through to broadcast media from time to time, to the point where one poll showed 8% believing it.

Farhad goes on to report on the social psychology of why a blatantly false idea can persist.  He highlights “how our brains suss out truth from fiction.  To determine the veracity of a given statement, we often look to society’s collective assessment of it.  But it is difficult to measure social consensus very precisely, and our brains rely, instead, upon a sensation of familiarity with an idea.  You use a rule of thumb: if something seems familiar, you must have heard it before, and if you’ve heard it before, it must be true.”

Understanding these structural factors behind why an idea is accepted and spreads is what we are trying to do at www.memeticbrand.com.  The cognitive factors covered by Farhad are only part of  the story. 

In Social Capital Value Add, I take a deep dive on external structural factors enabling ideas that are inherent in the social web that has emerged in the last few years.  By mashing up a Stanford study by Jonah Berger and Chip Heath (co-author of last year’s best selling business book, Made to Stick) and a Pew Internet & American Life analysis, Buzz, Blogs & Beyond: The Internet and the National Discourse in the Fall of 2004, I tried to illustrated what Dunan Watts might call a global information cascade. (Hey – any crack illustrators want to take a run at Fig. 6 in the eBook? Talent needed!)

These structural factors are often behind overall or turning point dynamics of modern elections.  They matter and they mean that democracy is at work, long before the day comes for you to cast your ballot.  Your contribution to online forums, blogs and the like help charge real world social networks with scales of implicit content not previously achievable. 

“Objective” mainstream media don’t rely on releases from campaigns or blog posts from so-called “influentials”, they use a rule of thumb: if a story “breaks” away from the implicit content milieu it must be a story worth reporting, it has “legs”.

The Pew study tracked the spread of eight ideas during the 2004 election.  Each one of them, in a different context, could have triggered a change of momentum in another election. 

The point is that in the relatively new context where online media has become a fully integrated component of the national discourse, most of those eight ideas were neutralized by competing voices before they spread far enough to change the course of the election.  They remained in the milieu.

The way people use broadband internet takes the milieu out of the cognitive and limited physical word of mouth space and brings it forth as our most intense form of media, incorporating word of mouth, text, audio, photographs and video. 

Ideas “break” when they mutate.  “Obama is a muslum” became an email over the course of two years.  Farhad notes that one version of the email contains a line, “I checked this out on Snopes (a fact checking website), and it’s true”. 

I can tell you one thing.  I would have written this blog post a lot sooner if a friend had sent me Farhad’s piece electronically instead of it being stuck on a bit of dead tree, kicking around in meatspace.  Heck, maybe folks will even stick around long enough to figure out the new spin-doctors’ talents if we que this piece up with something hilarious!


 

“Obama offered a clear, point-by-point rebuttal to every argument in the chain e-mail, and he provided an important alternative story – “dirty tricks”.  His single voice and one counter story did not kill the story.  To neutralize a negative idea about your brand you need what Seth Godin refers to as a Tribe.  Endless volunteers, amplifying your voice.  Getting your messages out through mutations and offerring the right alternative story to the right audience at the right time.  There are also underlying structural factors that you need to take under management.  Both are involved in memetic brand management.  Traditional central campaign methods are not designed for this.

It was not until 2004 that broadband internet overtook dialup connections, and the correlating behaviour of people and network effects entirely changed the game. 

The spin doctors’ craft has traditionally been more creative than calculation.  In 2003, there was a moment during an Ontario provincial election campaign when the ruling conservative party issued a press release calling the liberal opponent an “evil, reptilian kitten-eater from another planet“.  Many commentators at the time believed that the resulting turn in fortunes against the conservatives was due to voter resentment of negative campaigning.  I speculate that the combination of environmental cues that existed had created for voters uncertainty about the liberal leaders’ leadership qualities.  The kitten-eater moment, filled the void with a tough, vivid image that finally materialized the liberal leader as a force to be reckoned with. 

Over the last six months I have seen demonstrations of real time online social media monitoring systems that dramatically reduce the guesswork involved in exploring what key concepts are churning in the milieu of implicit content. 

Investing in this kind of know how.  Securing corporate reputations in this context.  Making the corporation more accountable to social forces and society more aware of corporate capabilities is the motive here. 

Now let’s test those key words again … “hockey mom”, “ordinary American”, “small town”, “Washington outsider”, “beauty queen” … truth.

A Worthy Request: Signal of Altruistic Type

Check out this post by Collin please. You should do this because he is a great guy and his sister is doing something cool.

From a memetic branding stand point, you might want to think about how altruism is important to everthing that you do in this new era that we live in.

“Economic theory suggests at least three mechanisms which induce the decision-maker to treat the partner more generously when there is a prospect of future interaction. First, the decision-maker can grant favors because she expects the partner to repay these in the future (enforced reciprocity)… Second, the possibility of future interaction gives incentives for the decision-maker to signal her altruistic type to the partner (Benabou and Tirole 2006). Third, psychological game theory has modeled preference-based reciprocity where decision-makers behave generously because they expect the partner to behave kindly towards them in some future interaction, and because they derive utility from rewarding kind behavior (Rabin 1993, Dufwenberg and Kirchsteiger 2004)” (Leider, Stephen, Mobius, Markus, Rosenblat, Tanya and Do, Quoc-Anh, “How Much is a Friend Worth? Directed Altruism and Enforced Reciprocity in Social Networks” p.1, October 2007)

The definition of social surplus that most “iPod killer” strategies employ is greater “utility.” They seek to beat iPod by building a better mousetrap with better product features and better design. Rebate strategies and typical loyalty programs (earning points for rewards) are also widely tried methods.

It is a social surplus defined as greater signal of altruistic type that may be the most interesting to study further as the link between social capital and corporate earnings comes to be accepted. There is some evidence that social Causes are the kind of maxim behind which business may align their activities as they develop memetic brands. For example just the top 5 causes on the Causes application on Facebook reach about 7.5 million people.

It brings with it the possibility of new motives for corporate social responsibility. Not only will the corporation be asked to be more accountable for its actions, perhaps the corporation can be encouraged to invest in ways for its social connections – consumers, suppliers, employees, investors, owners, analysts and value added resellers – to move beyond feel-good CSR tactics towards a relationship in which the opportunity is seized by each forging identities based upon greater social contribution.

UPDATE: More on memetic branding & altruism … Memetic Pepsi.

Please check out the cross-post over at www.socialcapitalvalueadd.com for the corporate implications beyond memetic branding of this thinking.
Add to FacebookAdd to NewsvineAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to Ma.gnoliaAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Furl