Attracting and serving fans has been a past time of brands for the past few years on Facebook. To the point where the accumulation itself became the objective. And while I keep looking for the cracks to appear in Facebook it seems to be able to continue to grow despite its huge size. Maybe the barriers to exit the service are too high for consumers to leave? Maybe the FOMO and connectedness matters too much? But one thing I am sure of is how I feel about it personally, and from a marketing perspective.
It made sense at first: After the 50 years of the top down TV industrial complex – a period when we got told and sold, it was novel to have a direct connection with the brands. To be able to talk to the big brands in town felt good. For once our opinion was more than a letter or ‘non caring’ customer service 1800 agent. I mean they had to care, it was all on display for everyone to see. A poor response from any brand would result in a digital lynch mob attack. Finally we had the respect we deserved as the supporters of the brands. It was the connection we always wanted. It seemed to make sense for both parties. So we all connected in every way we could – and filled our digital dance card.
Then we discovered we didn’t have much in common: Both us and the brands struggled with our new found direct connection, our co-operative digital love affair. We’d read each others stuff, try and be loyal to each other and support the give and take element in this new world. We even designed new products together, made advertisements for each other and really embraced the new tools we were afforded. But it got kinda boring. I mean how many conversations can we have about breakfast cereal, tomato sauce and canned tuna? So the brands took their lessons and got wise. They realised that they had to live a layer outside of what they sold in order to create value beyond what they actually sold. They realised they had become a resource and knowledge bank in related realms to thrive in a social world. So cereal became about diet and health. Frozen meals became about a life well lived and what’s on in the city and dish washing liquid became about tricks and tips around the house. The campaigns and related brand pages sprouted like mushrooms And all this worked out pretty well…..for a while.
Until it became a spam fest: At first, we got useful information and respected and rewarded brands in the process. So brands did what brands do. More of what works, and copied those who did it first and best. The great likenomics battle of 2010 and beyond…. Until everyone’s feed was so full of junk – it became like the letter box we have no joy in opening – A letter box just filled with flyers, bills and credit card offers. The dance floor wss too full, the music was too loud. In a social media marketing sense it is the equivalent of 3am and we all just want to get some sleep already. We are over it. I don’t think I am exaggerating here, it is probably how most of us feel right now. And I haven’t even touched on all the people we said ‘yes’ to on facebook, who we haven’t seen since grade school. Like I said, it was interesting and novel at the start, but it is very difficult to care for the babies of someone you have seen in decades.
So now I’m done: Yes, there are some brands I love. Some whose products and services really matter to me. But it is certain that none of these brands ever find their way into my shopping trolly, are my finance provider or power my home. Yes, non of them are boring products from the industrial era. The only brands I play with and want to converse with are those I spend my spare time with. That’s my current definition of where I draw the line on being ‘friends’ with a corporation. And I really think it’s over for most brands trying to make their way in the social sphere – even though the numbers and analysis on brand engagement on social forums probably don’t show it yet.
Yes, brands need social: It is foolish to think that brands shouldn’t be in social media, or use the tools. It is the first place we’ll go to find them – their facebook page, or find their twitter handle. And you can be certain we’ll want an answer within seconds. It is the new call centre and probably alot of other things as well. What it isn’t, and wont ever be, is part of peoples social life. I’m betting people will gravitate back to saving that for other humans.
It’s in our make up: There only so many relationships we can have in life. Whether they are people or personified brands, we are genetically programmed to only be able to manage so many interactions. Dunbars number is the simplest way to explain this phenomenon. It’s a basic safety mechanism that ensures stability and safety, and it’s what will drive us back to a limited number of social interactions (physical & virtual).
Brands need to know where they belong: The key element to all this is knowing where we belong in peoples lives. I’m far more likely to interact with a brand that I invest my spare time with. The brands that play in my passion space. The other brands I am happy to purchase, need to understand that they are associates, micro interactions, whom I do not have time for or want dealings with outside of what they thing they actually deliver.
It’s time everyone (brands & people) realised where they belong, and took a human approach to our connections. If everyone tries to maximise social connections simply because the gates have been opened, we’ll end up with closed doors and reduced potential for trust with the connections we actually want to have.
I happened upon this TED talk just yesterday from the ever clever Kevin Kelly. It is approximately 3 years old but it really blew me away. In fact, the thing that it does best is demystify technology. It reminds us that we are all technologist, that we all create different forms of technology as humans and that we all benefit from it.
A great little piece I took from it was my favourite invention from the last 50,000 years – Grand Parents. You’ll see what I mean once you watch it. Enjoy!
I had the good fortune this week to meet the inventor of the world wide web Sir Tim Berners Lee. He is currently touring Australia and after he gave a public lecture at Melbourne University, I was lucky enough to attend a private session thanks to the AUDA and meet him personally.
Firstly, I’d like to say he was a total gentleman, who is very humble for all that he has given us. Over drinks I asked him what seemed like the first non techie question he’d been asked all night, and his answer I found totally inspiring. The dialogue is below:
Me: “Tell me how it feels to have created something everyone loves and uses every day…. How do you cope with all the attention and adulation?“
Tim: “Well, I’m just Tim, a normal guy around campus. But, it is interesting you asked that, because I made a conscious decision to avoid the public sphere for the first 10 years after I created it. I didn’t do any interviews or make any public appearances. Mainly so it wouldn’t interfere with my family. About 10 years into the web I received a letter telling me that I was to receive the Millenium Prize in Finland. It turned out that the ceremony happened to be on my son’s birthday. So I wrote back to them saying that I couldn’t make it on that day as it was my son’s birthday. That I could come if they changed the date. They then wrote back to me saying something like… ‘You don’t understand Tim, this is like a really big thing, and the dates can’t be changed….’ And then I wrote back saying, ‘No, you don’t understand, nothing gets in the way of my family, I’m very honoured, but you’ll have to give it to someone else.’ Well – in the end they were determined that I come and suggested they fly our entire family over so that we could still celebrate his birthday as a family, and so that I could still get the prize, and that they would pay respect to my sons birthday at all the ceremony. So I asked my son Ben and he was ok with it. In fact, he really enjoyed his birthday as entire auditoriums sang him happy birthday and he had something like 5 birthday cakes while we were there.”
I thought this was cool and grounded. In fact, it’s a terrific thing when someone you respect greatly, gives you more reasons to respect them after you’ve actually met.
(A photo with Tim – He said ‘Send me a copy of the photo!‘ – but I’m sure he says that to every fan boy who asks for a picture.)
I was recently watching this documentary about break dancing and its evolution in the Bronx of New York. You may remember from previous posts that I was very much into the activity, before the main stream media and taste makers decided it was over. They pulled the albums from the shelves, stopped showing it on TV (I had 3 channels to chose from) and let it evaporate into history as a fad we can all look back on.
What you probably don’t know about break dancing is that it was around for about 10 years before it hit the mainstream. In fact, it was pretty much developed on a single housing block in the South Bronx. It didn’t move from this single location for the best part of a decade. The 3 tenants of Hip Hip: the break dancing, the Music (DJ’s & MC’s) and the aerosol art – all thrived and evolved in one physical space over a large number of years without any external influence or involvement. A small community lead by people like Kool Herc, Fab Five Freddy and Afrika Bambaataa added layers to their micro culture into a form of self bootstrapped art and entertainment. The period of development was iterative, local and very long before it blossomed into something amazing and beautiful. Hip Hop cultural was the veritable flower growing through a crack in the pavement. It didn’t appear in discotheques of Manhattan until it had fully developed. Only when this flower began to germinate and turn into an garden of undiscovered originality and urban culture – did any taste makers and marketers start to take notice. Only when it was fully developed could it turn into a global phenomenon where big dollars got made via the TV Industrial Complex.
I don’t think that this could happen today. The connected world just wouldn’t allow it. And while, I’m a technology evangelist, it’s true that all technology has some negative outcomes. The lack of isolation is one of these technology negatives. Certain things need the condition of isolation in order to develop to their true potential. To develop in a single environment without external influence. The exact kind of environment that Hip Hop culture both needed and thrived in. It’s why it was so pure and so real. It had to find its way with limited resources. The reason the 3 tenants of Hip Hop are what they are is because the founders were poor. They couldn’t afford instruments – so they used record players and microphones as an instruments. They used spray cans and train sides as their canvas. They took the only nutrients their environment of urban decay provided.
Today the entire connected world is looking for something interesting to blog about, to tweet about, to post on their youtube channel and start a tumblr page on. Anything that looks remotely interesting gets posted about, mashed up, promoted, storied, and presented to the world before it has even taken its own shape. The original community of anything different and interesting can’t own it and nurture it like they could pre-web. And I’m starting to think that we might be missing out on some of the cultural benefits which evolve from simple unadulterated time to develop. If the first blossom of a new species is picked, re-planted or re-purposed will we ever really see what that species might have turned into?
While we are urged to promote and share all that we do and find, maybe it is time to consider the opposite. To cocoon our idea in development until it has evolved into something worthy. The let the startup actually ‘start’, and find its place and take its own shape before others start to re-shape it on our behalf. Maybe it’s time for us to step back and let some things be, before we interrupt them.
The key to the success of all technology, is knowing when not to use it.
Every now and again a cyber punk film comes along which is futuristic, yet plausible. That’s when I get excited. And I’m very excited about the short film Sight. Based on the simple idea of living a fully connected life, yet the execution is pure genius. Think smart phone, think geo-locating, think facial recognition, think the Google glass project…. think all this and more. I very much dig the fact that this was a graduation project from an Arts School – more proof that the tools are in everyones hands today, and that creativity is greater than resources.
In the end we always build what we imagine first… and we imagine things which are within the realm of our reality.
As far as I can tell – this is inevitable, that time just hasn’t elapsed yet. Enjoy!
I came across 3 really good pieces in the past week that I really think are worth sharing.
- The first of the these was a blog post from Jason Calcanis on the topic of how moderate success is the enemy of breakout success. Something I spoke about earlier this year. But this post is totally insightful and potentially direction changing. While we all espouse staying the course – maybe the course isn’t to stick to a particular idea, but to stick to being in startup land. Instead we should pivot quickly and frequently until we find the right path. His contention being that when we are on the right track, we’ll know within a few short months. Read it here.
- The second is two important pieces from Seth Godin. This first is a video where he is very candid about his previous failures, which for me was important because he talks so often about the power of failure and for once we hear more about it – some of his past ventures where pretty out there. It was a great video interview – watch it here. Another post of his stood out to me as his best of the year. It was about confusing being good with being lucky. The post explains itself very clearly – the lesson to take is not to be alarmed if you haven’t been lucky ‘yet’. While others, even revered Silicon Valley wiz kids may well have just been lucky. In fact, some get so lucky we may never find out if they are actually any good. Read it here.
- The last is a story about startups by Sriram Krishnan that were told they couldn’t succeed and were ‘Not Fundable‘. What I love about this post is how convincing the negative arguments are. They are indisputable – but you’ll know what happened to these ideas… More proof that anything can happen during a technology revolution. Read it here.
I’d be keen to hear about any links you’ve happened upon which provide some poignant end of year lessons for us to consider over the holidays.
I was discussing with a colleague the inevitability of supermarket retailers being disrupted the same way department stores have been . I contended that in a few short years the technology will arrive that allows a supermarket shopping experience on line that is cheaper and better in every way than entering a store – not even considering the time saved. Their retort I found to be an interesting one….
They claimed it was too difficult logistically. That the shift would even need to involve some kind of one way cupboard and or refrigerator being installed at the door of every house to take delivery of the goods. They even made reference to the fact that the goods would need to be segmented into different delivery boxes based on their temperature storage requirements. Besides the fact that this person had terrific ‘solutions’ within their proposed issues scope – it made me think about how the places we live in have already changed significantly based on technology, social and commercial innovations. Innovations which have been pushed into homes based on an entrepreneurial imperative.
The simplest example is the driveway. Something that no home in the history of man had before the nineteenth century. A simple yet expensive convenience all new homes were built with after WW2. Based the desire of home owners to have the convenience of a private transport device, adjacent industries responded with solutions. In fact, a large part of the Henry Ford strategy was to convince government to pave the roads of America and accommodate his burgeoning industry. So it isn’t silly to believe that the impending upheaval in the supermarket industry will involve a great deal coalescing from the ‘new supply chain’ and home designers and builders. Through history this has happened in both large and small ways. But to jog your memory, here’s a few more examples of technology placed into homes to assist homeowners and new industries:
- the letter box
- the kitchen
- the inside bathroom
- the inside toilet
- telephone cables
- internal plumbing & gas fitting
- internal electricity
- heating & cooling systems
- wifi systems
In fact we could probably add everything under the roof that doesn’t involve the primary idea of housing – providing shelter.
The insight for startups is two fold: Firstly, we can inspire and believe that the infrastructure will arrive to support an innovation which makes life better for people. And secondly, we can be the provider of that infrastructure to make the next growth industry possible.
New startup idea for free – One way in home front door fridges!
While Wikipedia doesn’t run any adverting on it’s, it sure knows how to write a copy line to sell it’s fundraising. If you’re like me, Wikipedia has become an indispensable life resource for self learning and contribution to society. So giving something back is dame fine idea for a non-profit like Wikipedia, but like all things it does take something to get us across the line from intention to action. This was the line that inspired me to take action.
….”If everyone reading this gave $5, our fundraiser would be done within an hour.”….
To me this line is close to perfect. It tells us so much with so few words. A small amount from it’s readers in a ‘moment of time’ would do it. It’s a clear indication that it’s part of the fabric of our everyday existence, and that all it takes is a little from many. It was enough for me to tip in the paltry sum of $30. And the additional message from Jimmy Wales is also some great copy writing. Seen below.
If something is delivering us great value, then it’s worth us giving back so it doesn’t change its shape into something less attractive.
I’ve been a big fan of Chris Anderson for a long time. And he’s done it again. While I haven’t read his new tome “Makers – the new industrial revolution” – if this talk is any indication of the content, it will be mind blowing. Not only is Chris one of the most insightful technology visionaries, he also has a knowing way to explain his ideas with simplicity and conviction.
I’d recommend this talk to anyone who is interested in the future – it might just be the best hour we invest before the end of the year. And this talk ensures we know what’s coming, whiling helping us realise the gravitas what’s already happened. Enjoy!