If I had the capacity, I’d stop everything I’m doing and focus solely on The Bucket Brigade and getting involved with COMMON & FearLess. These are the things that excite me most and I want to kill ‘em.
“Here’s the paradox: to be desired by the networks is to have your tastes commodified. On the one hand, to be commodified expands a group’s cultural visibility. Those groups that have no recognized economic value get ignored. That said, commodification is also a form of exploitation. Those groups that are commodified find themselves targeted more aggressively by marketers and often feel they have lost control over their own culture, since it is mass produced and mass…”—
I’m a part of The Bucket Brigade. It’s one of the most interesting project that I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of. Bud’s asked the editorial board to help spread the word, so that’s exactly what I’m doing. He’s just finished writing a great post about the project and I wanted to share it with all of you on Tumblr. You can view the original post here. Enjoy!
I’m nervous. And when I’m nervous, it’s hard to push the words out, they bottle-neck in the back of my skull and tremble down to my fingers like marbles inside a drain pipe. I’m nervous because this feels like the most important post I’ve written here. Which, to be fair, the most important post of a fairly unimportant blog can’t be that important, but still. The nervousness. I should probably explain …
If you’ve been following the blog lately, you know that I’ve taken some time off to be with someone I love during a particularly difficult time in her life. And since I’ve been here, besides the odd freelance gig, I’ve been focusing on writing the book that over 200 people helped fund through the awesome invention of Kickstarter. If I hadn’t taken the time off, if I was still working in an office 10 hours a day, focusing on clients, office politics, and shiny new technology, the mission of the book would probably still be the same as it was when I first pitched the idea: a list of advertising/marketing best practices. But since I’ve had the time to ruminate, to read more books in 3 months than I’ve probably read in the last 3 years, and to dwell over my last 5 years in this business, the vision behind the book project has grown.
I met advertising at a very strange time in its life. As I came to know it, it seemed on the verge of self-destruction in order to remake itself, to realize the promise of technology, to tap networks of interconnected consumers, and to graft itself across the various organs of its clients. More than ever before, it wants to do more, to be more, and to mean more. And the people within the industry crave a greater understanding of how to change the world. It’s cliche, but it’s true: it’s a remarkable time to be in advertising and marketing. And we shouldn’t confuse frustration with cynicism – people are frustrated, change never seems to come quick enough, but its a productive frustration that permeates our community – consider the amount of creativity, experimentation, and innovation that’s being unleashed day-to-day.
With the opportunity to seek perspective has come a realization: moments like this are rare. Even beyond our industry, the sheer amount of creative power in the world today is unprecedented. As the powers-that-were stumble in this new environment, individuals feel empowered, and with that sense of empowerment has come something truly remarkable: they’re not afraid to care. People care about changing the world. But failure breeds apathy. If we want to sustain this moment, if we want to build a real movement, we have to help people translate their energy into action.
There’s an opportunity here.
In the future, I see a global network of 21st century problem solvers with the understanding and know-how to solve the most massively complex problems; challenges that face corporations, governments, and citizens. These individuals work together to unleash their passion and creativity towards ambitious objectives and tangible change. They undertake projects such as: increasing family retirement investing, ensuring the welfare of the poor, identifying new energy sources, protecting the world from terrorism, and making consumption more conscious – challenges that must be confronted, but have always been too complex for any single corporation, government, or voting block. And each objective, because of its complexity, results in a handful of simultaneous clients benefitting from the thinking and creating of this group (how or if this network charges for its work is a decision to be made by the group at a later date). This may seem like a fantasy today, but it’s nearer to our grasp than you realize.
I’m inspired by the collaborative experiments I see in our industry today:
Ben Kaufman’s Quirky, which brings product ideas to life
… and many many others
These experiments prove the potential for collaborative problem solving, the market demand for new thinking, and the will of the creative class to participate. I’m also inspired by Alex Bogusky’s and Rob Schuham‘s new initiative, FEARLESS, and its ambition to turn advertising into a force for consumer advocacy. In addition, I’ve paid special attention to Umair Haque’s call for a meaning-driven organization and Michael E. Porter’s vision of corporations creating shared value with the members of their local community. If you combine all of these existing ideas, you get something like what I envision for the future of the Bucket Brigade.
Of course, to ever achieve this grand ambition and vision for the future, there are baby steps to be made. First and foremost, to solve the most massively complex problems, participants in this network will need a foundational understanding of complexity itself. The challenges I mentioned above cannot be subdivided to be solved. We need an understanding of the interrelationships, patterns, and dynamics of the systems that produce those behaviors. For an example, you need look no further than the collapse of 2008 – every day we seem to be learning more about the systemic nature of that crisis. We need the tools to connect those dots, and to monitor fluid and dynamic environments. With a greater understanding of the system as a whole, we can select leverage points – the most important triggers on which to focus our attention. And with that attention well-placed, we can work together to generate an abundance of potential products and messages to impact the problem. The most effective solution for a complex problem is rarely ever a single solution, and this network will be able to swarm the challenge with elegant responses. Establishing this foundational understanding is the mission of the book now. The book, title still tentative, will establish a common understanding of complex systems for the reader – a vocabulary, mental models, tangible tools, and relevant case studies of confronting complex challenges. The goal of the book is to be a stepping stone for readers to join our network of complex problem solvers. Of course, if you simply want the knowledge and not the network, that’s your choice – but the value of that knowledge when connected with the experience and expertise of others seems, to me, to be too good to turn down.
So maybe now you understand my anxiety. I’m not hiding or hoarding any bit of this vision. I’m putting it out there, warts and all, for you to review, criticize, and/or to embrace. I can do this because I believe in this idea, I see myself, regardless of how many or how few of you join me, embracing the goal of helping people solve their most complex problems long after the book is finished. But admittedly, to fulfill the full vision I’ll need help – publishing the book, spreading the thinking inside of it, establishing an online presence with the tools for collaboration, and partnering with existing problem solving networks to assemble a truly interdisciplinary force. I want to see this network come to fruition, but I don’t have any obsession with owning or controlling every aspect of it. So if you’re reading this, can help, and feel inspired, think about connecting.
So what do you think? Of course, drop your opinions in the comments. ALSO, if you’re keen to learn more and stay in the loop, I urge you to visit this form and submit your information. I’ll think of submissions to the form as votes for the idea. Also, if you have feedback specifically about the book, what should go in it, someone to interview, or a case to study, there’s a form for that, too.
Wish me luck.
P.S. I want to extend my deep gratitude to the founding members of the Bucket Brigade, the editorial board, who have not only supported the project with their dollars, but have offered invaluable advice and guidance throughout the process.
In no particular order, thank you to: Neerav Bhatt, Ana Andjelic, Stephen Walker, James Sherrett, Mark Pollard, Dino Demopoulos, Ian Lyons, Carl Panczak, Phil Gillman, James Denman, Eugene Chung, Mark Gallagher, Mike Arauz, Matt Creamer, Helen Klein Ross, Casey Flanagan, Dave Daines, Faris Yakob, Balind Sieber, Dan Weingrod, Mark Avnet, Mark DiCristina, Michael Monello, Anjali Ramachandran, Bo Damgaard, Neil Perkin, Graeme Wood, Patrick Syms, Jason Oke, Andy Sandoz, Brian Jeremy, Matt Jones, Gareth Kay, Eva Hasson, Gavin Becker, Regan Meador, Johnny Vulkan, Josh Ehart, Fi Bendall, Mel Exon, Josh Boston, Brent Dixon, Laura Chavoen, William Shunn, Duane Brown, Patrick Berry, Ian Alexander, Darrell Whitelaw, Sarah Blue, Derrick Bradley, Tobias Wacker, Robin Grant, Mike Zeederberg, Adam Corney, James Robertson, John Sumser, Patrick Simkins, Jamie Wilkinson, Anne-Mette Jensen, Scott Bullard, Heather LeFevre, Erin Dorr, Tim Leake, Stephen Cox, Hugh Weber, Kimberly Carroll, Tobias Peggs, Sara Williams, Matthew Don, Carmel Hagen, Jane Friedman, Jabe Bloom, Sara Ashton, Johannes Kleske, Stuart Eccles, Utku Can, Robin Wong, Sean M Aaron, C.C. Chapman, Len Kendall, Terence Reis, Adam Wohl, Richard Nevins, Heather Ann Snodgrass, matt gierhart, Stuart Foster, Shaun Abrahamson, Ted Sink, Tim Malbon, Gavin Heaton, Cameron Maddux, Jurandir Craveiro, Jonathan Hopkins, John V Willshire, Mark Earls, Gabriel Puerto, Avin Narasimhan, Dave Castelletti, Mark MacSmith, Ben Abramowitz, Greg Christman, Ben Kaufman, APFIND, Gerrie Smits, Michael Ferdman, Arthur Alston, Rufus Winchester, Marisa Zupan, Gary Ellis, Ian Fitzpatrick, Chris Stephenson, Grant McCracken, James Cooper, Darryl King, Sabrina Caluori, Michael Kantrow, Tom Kelshaw, Emma Jenkins, and Ryan Jacoby
I tracked every mention of the word “Halloween” on Twitter for all of October 31st using a little app I built that takes advantage of Twitter’s Search API. The result? 147 301 tweets had the word Halloween in them.
Viral is a thing that happens, not a thing that is
I recently received an email asking me to help a Facebook campaign go viral. I promptly explained to them that you can’t choose for a campaign to be viral. Viral isn’t an option on a checklist.
Anyhow, the email reminded me of a post Faris Yakob made a while back explaining his stance on the term viral. I agree with every bit of it.
Viral is a thing that happens, not a thing that is.
If people pass your communication on, it’s viral. If they don’t, it’s not. Sometimes I get calls saying this viral isn’t performing very well - what’s the problem? We’ve seeded it to all the right places, it’s on youtube and everything - where’s our traffic? The problem is usually that they’ve made an ad that contains nothing people consider worth showing to their friends.
Unless you would be willing to send whatever it is to your mates - it’s not viral!
I remain in agreement with myself on this.
My brother, who is an awesome epidemiological modeler [among other things] would point out to me that the ‘viral’ metaphor is flawed - ideas do not propagate through populations like diseases - so using the word like I do above protests against something that the signifier belies.
This metaphor is very seductive and very hard to get rid of. It lets us think we understand. And specificaly, it re-affirms the structure of control. It implies all you need to do is create something that is ‘viral’ enough and it spreads through populations like, well, a virus - it self-propagates.
This is simply untrue.
What we mean when something goes ‘viral’ is that LOTS OF PEOPLE CHOOSE TO PROPAGATE IT. It requires people to do something. Voluntarily. For their own reasons. It is not simply a new way to broadcast our messages through populations. It suggests we push, when in fact they pull.
This is a complete inversion of the viral model.
As Watts has pointed out, the structure of the network is perhaps more important in predicting the spread of content than the nature of the content - the same thing can succeed or fail depending on network structure.
But saying something is viral, we focus entirely on the content itself and not on the needs of the people that we are asking to spread ideas.
Genius Crowds is a crowdsourcing initiative that’s asking students, particularly those who live in a dorm, to submit their own product ideas that relate to improving dorm life. It’s a worth while initiative that has accumulated 120+ active members, 68 product ideas, and 362 comments within its first 11 days of being open to the public.
What’s making this work?
By my own observation, the majority of the crowd is both amiable and expressive. These qualities, by their very nature, deter the all too frequent disruptive force that is often found in crowdsourcing initiatives: the tragedy of the commons. Not only is the make up of the crowd keeping this disruption at bay, but the way the system has been designed is, too.
They’ve been careful not to undermine the reason students –or anyone for that matter– are coming to the site in the first place; that is, in my opinion, to namely flex their creative muscles. Yes, they’ve embedded financial incentives such as $25 iTunes Gift Cards and $50 Amazon Gift Cards for participating in meaningful ways along the way. And yes, the members who’s ideas are ultimately chosen will go on to receive royalties for their product idea. However, I don’t feel as though that’s what’s enticing or motivating people to participate; it’s certainly not the reason I joined.
For me, it’s about participating within an environment that fosters creativity and co-creation. Whether that be by voting, commenting, or submitting my own product ideas. It’s just fun to be a part of a system like Genius Crowds. The barrier to entry is low and the creativity generated is high. The financial rewards for your product being chosen is secondary.
Other things like the social and game-like properties Genius Crowds has developed helps to make the site more enjoyable to participate in. Similar to Foursquare, you can earn badges for completing various activities. You can also follow other members who’s ideas you like so their activity becomes aggregated on your dashboard and so on. What I like about both of these concepts is that they don’t feel like afterthought layers to the system. They’re inherent. Have been given careful thought. And work. It’s the system that’s enabling competent product ideas to come to fruition.
There’s Room For Improvement
While I like the fact that they haven’t treated social as a layer, there are some obvious social features that Genius Crowds isn’t currently taking advantage of. There’s no way to “Like” a product and share it with my friends on Facebook. Nor can I “Like” a particular topic under which many products fall, or a member themselves. This is a missed opportunity. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg recently reported that 10 000 websites integrate with Facebook in this capacity every day. People are doing it for a reason. I’d love to a see that “Like” button right where you vote up the product submission to help encourage people to click on it. If they’re voting up the idea, they’re likely to press that “Like” button, too.
The social features they do have, like posting a message to your Facebook wall or Twitter feed are underdeveloped. You’d think when you’re on a submitted product page, the Share on Twitter button would link you to that page. Instead, you see this:
There is a Genius in all of us. Share your brilliant ideas at Genius Crowds. - http://bit.ly/9ZwXwV #geniuscrowds
This is a blanket message designed to encourage people to sign up for Genius Crowds, right? Nope. Clicking on that bit.ly URI will ship you to the product submission page instead. Huh. I’d make the effort to integrate the title of the product submission into the tweet as well as the members Twitter handle (if they have one) to give them props for the idea.
The other thing I noticed is that you have to hunt to even find the “Share on Twitter” button along with the other shareable buttons. It’s not right in your face, which is should be. This may not be obvious to those who designed it, but it took me far too long to even realize I could Digg a product submission from the page itself. They need tighter social integration with existing platforms.
There are other things I’d change too, but overall Genius Crowds is doing a good job of getting people excited about submitting product ideas to help improve dorm life.
If you’re a student and have an interest in product development, I’d encourage you to go check it out for yourself.
By my count, Tumblr does a terrible job of helping you find other Tumblr blogs you might be interested in. Here’s a trick I use that some of you might find useful. Head over to Google and type this into the search fied:
site:tumblr.com “about me” (digital or “social media”) strategist
You’d of course switch the (digital or “social media”) strategist bit with whatever you’re interested in. When in doubt, utilize the power of basic query language!
I'm Receiving The Founders' Award Today from Royal Roads University
Today I’m being honoured with The Founder’s Award from Royal Roads University. An award presented to one student in each graduating cohort of a degree program for recognition of having exemplified the qualities of leadership, sustainability and personal development.
I’m still not clear on why I was chosen. I can think of two other people in my cohort who are more deserving; however, it’s nice to be recognized.
I was on Quora tonight reading questions people had about Instagram and stumbled upon this great response by Mark Hendrickson on what makes Instagram cool.
It taps partly into our desire to feel creative, but I think that more importantly it taps into our desire to appear creative to others. Snapping a photo with Instagram and applying a filter suddenly makes that photo seem inspired, even though the original subject matter was probably rather boring and the original shot poorly taken. When you hit the button to share with friends, there’s a satisfying feeling of anticipation that others will be impressed by your little creation.
It also provides others with a lens into your life that makes that life look cooler than it probably was at the moment. Others might get a little jealous that they weren’t there to join you for it.
This is all to say that Instagram successfully feeds our Hipsteresque vanity. Similar things can be said about Foursquare, Gowalla and the like, but Instagram recognizes the fact that we’re visually curious creatures.
For anyone who is clueless about the digital era, download and read this free ebook written by Leif Abraham and Christian Behrendt. Absorb their brilliance, please.
Here’s what they have to say about the book on their website:
A lot of things have happened during the past few years. New media have become far more than just toys for nerds; they now have an impact on everybody’s life to a greater extent than ever before – from the cell phone in your pocket and industries fighting to survive down to your old high-school friend you block on Facebook to prevent him from bothering you every time you’re online.
We’re currently experiencing a time of change – a change during which a whole generation is evolving; this generation is growing up with an entirely new media behavior. It can’t imagine a world without new media.
Now, also, the marketing industry must adapt, since you can hardly reach this generation using means and methods from the past.
This book helps traditional advertising and marketing people master the step into the digital era, providing tools to create campaigns that reach the people of today.
It was not written by a CMO giving expensive seminars and presenting big theories with no solutions, but by a creative team dealing with and living the changes in media every day.
The team, Innovative Thunder, specializes in innovative marketing and has gathered experience by working with three of the world’s leading marketing agencies - Jung von Matt, Crispin Porter + Bogusky, as well as currently, R/GA, New York.
Edmonton's Most Active Political Candidates on Twitter
Before we get to the statistics, it’s worth noting that the wide majority of candidates running in Edmonton’s 2010 municipal election did a less than satisfactory job using Twitter and other social platforms. It’s clear to me that many candidates didn’t take even a second to think about why they were choosing to sign up for Twitter or how they planned on utilizing it. And it showed through. Badly.
Some were so bad that I took the time to explain to each of them why they should shut down pieces of their online presence. At first, they were hesitant to follow my advice, but within a couple weeks, I received emails thanking me for going out of my way to to help them.
Others, relative to the dismal ones, did a great job. Mandel is a good example of this. He maintained an active presence on Twitter, Facebook and setup a website that acted as a decent content repository and hub to his other online presences. He even dipped his toes into Youtube and managed to accumulate 902 channel views and 2960 upload views within a month.
Anyhow, without any further adue, here are the most active candidates on Twitter that took part in Edmonton’s 2010 municipal election.
Activity is calculated by the number of mentions, replies, and retweets a candidate received starting on September 20, 2010 and ending at midnight on the day of the election, October 18, 2010. These statistics, in no way, should be used to indicate the quality of the Twitter account itself.
The statistics I find most interesting are on the far left. It amazes me that 41% of the total retweets from the 47 candidates on Twitter (based on @mastermaq’s Twitter list) come from only three candidates: Don Iveson, Stephen Mandel, and Daryl Bonar. What are all the other candidates doing?
By and large it’s great to see candidates reaching out to Edmontonians on Twitter. I just wish they’d take the time to do it properly.
Responding to Malcolm Gladwell, the co-founder and Creative Director of Twitter discusses how social media can affect real change.
People who lived through this time repeatedly referred to feeling a “fever” to participate. Gladwell says this fever is better described as “a military campaign,” adding that “Martin Luther King, Jr., was the unquestioned authority.” Gladwell tells us that, “the center of the movement was the black church,” and makes a strong argument that the status quo can only be truly challenged and changed by a hierarchical, militarily-like organization. Gladwell is wrong. Big change can come in small packages too.
Orange in the UK are the latest brand to follow Old Spice’s lead with quick content replies to tweets by creating singing tweetagrams from your tweets. By adding #singingtweetagrams at the end of a tweet, Orange will pick their favourites and have rockabilly trio, The Rockabellas, sing your tweet within a matter of hours.
While I like this in theory, listening to the “tweetagrams”, 140 characters feels a little short to bother with this. It feels like most of the songs get cut off just as they are getting started. Honestly, I’m not really a fan, especially when some of the magic being sung include messages like “@mrjrcallahan What shall we have for dinner tonight? Do we have any of that chicken thing left?” Really? That’s the best they had?
A nod to Orange for again trying something new and while I’m sure participation rates will be great, this one might be better suited for the ‘better luck next time’ pile.
It’s tweets like the one above that urged me to write this post.
A contact form? For a question such as this? Actually? After sifting through the list of candidates@mastermaq put together on Twitter, It would appear as though many of the candidates are using this same method for Q&A. I can appreciate that people have questions or comments that they’d like to remain private, but many aren’t.
I’m confident that Edmontonians have plenty of questions for the candidates that are currently running in the 2010 Edmonton Election and that the candidates would love to respond to all of their questions as efficiently as possible. I’m equally confident that sharing the answers to the questions being asked through these contact forms with the rest of world, would be advantageous.
This is where I think Formspring can come in handy. It consolidates all of the questions and answers being asked and answered and makes them available to the public for consumption across its on platform, Twitter, Facebook, RSS feeds, and so on.
Here’s a quick rundown on the core functionally of Formspring.me from TechCrunch:
The site’s core functionality is incredibly simple. You invite people to ask you any question they want (they can opt either to leave the question anonymously or leave their user info). Then, the next time you log into the site, you’re shown a list of pending questions in your inbox. You select which questions you want to answer and delete the ones you don’t. Your answers can be a word long, or you can write a few paragraphs if you want to.
The result is a stream of questions and answers that let your friends and fans learn about you — think of it as an ongoing interview, where you get to act as both the interview’s subject and moderator. The site makes it easy to connect your Formspring.me account to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Blogger, allowing you to immediately publish your answers as you write them.
This is a far more concrete and efficient way to produce and consume relevant content regarding a candidate. For example, candidates could promote a 1hr live Q&A session twice a week over their current social presence and dedicate that time to answering questions on Formspring. The questions and answers could then be aggregated on their blog or sent to other platforms like Twitter and Facebook, where most of the candidates are living online already. Formspring also provides widgets that candidates could embed on their websites to encourage discussion.
For candidates, if used properly, Formspring can be a great place to connect with Edmontonians. It has that high level of engagement and immediacy that we as a collective seem to enjoy.
If you’re a candidate and would like help getting Formspring setup or have questions about how you might go about using it, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com.
I took part in the #cmgrchat today (September 15, 2010) on Twitter and decided afterwards that I’d compile some of the usage stats into a quick infographic.
If anyone who took part in the chat wants to do something with the data, let me know and I’ll send it your way. Or, if there’s something you’d like to see that isn’t here this around, let me know and I’ll add it in for next time.
Oh, and if you’re a graphic designer and took part in the discussion AND you’d like to make this infographic look *way* more interesting, let me know.
I watched Steve Bendt talk about data-driven creativity earlier, or the lack thereof, this morning and wanted to share a few points about his presentation with you all. I’ve included the live stream if you’d like to watch the entire presentation, which I’d recommend.
In no particular order and with a few of my thoughts spliced in between:
You have to build customized, contextual, personal experiments. This is what he means by n = 1 — where n is a person and 1 is the brand. That is, serving one customer at a time.
Briefs don’t have customer problems identified; they have business problems identified instead.
A lot of today’s marketing is indistinguishable from garbage. It’s business driven as opposed to user driven, which leads to diluted campaigns that don’t have anything contextual to offer its audience.
Companies are sitting on piles of data. Data that tells a story and can help drive contextual experiences for the end-user or customer. Most are choosing to do nothing about it.
Most company decision making processes are influenced solely by business driven objectives, instead of solving real customer problems.
Any given brand cannot believably solve every customer problem.
Steve talks about Best Buy thinking about opening data like return rates on products as well as store inventory to help the consumer make a better choice.
Distribute data for others to build on your behalf.
Here’s what this means: no two people will see the same web. Once a single search would do the trick - and everyone saw the same results. That’s what made search engine optimization work. Now, with this, everyone is going to start tweaking their searches in real-time. The reason this is a game changer is feedback. When you get feedback, you change your behaviors. Think about it. When you push a door and it doesn’t open quickly, you push harder. When you try to drive a car up a hill and it doesn’t go as fast as you would like, you step on the gas. Feedback changes your behavior. Google Instant means no one will see the same web anymore, making optimizing it virtually impossible. Real-time feedback changes people’s behaviors.
Sorry, but I don’t agree at all. This isn’t personalization. Instead it’s: 1) Increasing the number of queries people do, 2) increasing the number of terms per query, 3) reducing the amount of time people spend looking at queries with poor results.
I think it’s a fantastic improvement and will help people sniff out the “right” search terms faster. But to say it’s personalization is stupid link baiting. Google does do personalization (taking into account your past searches, social graph, etc), and this isn’t it.
Tweeting about UNIQLO products lowers their prices.
I’m pretty impressed by the Lucky Counter campaign. Its rules are simple: tweet about a UNIQLO product of your choice, according to a set of rules on their website, and the price of that product will drop.
It’s an insanely great way to amass brand awareness and reputation quickly. It’s easy, fun, exciting, engaging, and clearly worth while. Every tweet that goes out about a given piece of apparel has measurable utility to it. That’s pretty cool. It’s much better than the more standard Twitter promotions going around that sound something like “RT this, follow us, and maybe you’ll get something”.
The prices obviously have floors, but they’re pretty low. Check out the screenshots below. You can get their Merino cashmere sweater down to £0.99.
UNIQLO notes that the discounted price will be available at the UK UNIQLO online store starting at 9:00 am on September 9th.