Saturday, October 24, 2009

Rights, Rituals, and Revenue

Who doesn't want culture to evolve?

The branding folks over at Black Coffee posted the "Remix Manifesto" a great documentary on sampling and intellectual property in the music/movie industry. At the core is the notion that while culture evolves by creating mashups and new rituals the old guard wants to prolong the status quo.

Aren't Orange County Choppers and Girl Talk doing the same thing? They both remix samples of existing products to extend our sense of culture with new icons. However, one gets a TV show and the other potentially gets sued. What's the difference?

Money flow.

It appears that the amount of fighting the incumbents do is directly related to their business model. Any industry whose revenue stream is based on residuals will fight anyone who changes what was originally produced. This explains the musvie industry's protracted fight for digital rights management as well as big pharma's support for extended patent protection. The mantra is simple: "Protect our revenue stream." This is why we can't sing Happy Birthday without paying royalties; but does allow us to take a Trek bike and make a single-speed.

Marketing sits at the intersection (in the cross-hairs) of cultural evolution. Our job is to satisfy two distinct masters. On the hand the consumer needs a solution that is culturally relevant. On the other is the business objective of earning as much from an investment over as long a time as possible. When these two objectives can't be resolved equitably, as with digital entertainment, culture goes underground and emerges again at the fringe where new rituals, and possibly business models, emerge.

While the law is always on the side of money; time is always on the side of culture.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Prisoners of Paradigms

Why is it so hard to change?

Just finished 'Management Rewired' by Charles Jacobs. This was the third book I've read recently on answering the question: Just how do we make decisions? This one focuses on management and leadership while Buyology and How We Decide led me to think about the "Biology of Branding".

It seems that rebranding, organizational change, and innovation are three sides of the same coin. We want people to see them as new and adapt them. We explain the logic using rational arguments and expect people to fall in line. It rarely works that way leading to the question: Why are they so hard?

They are all prisoners of paradigms.

The brain processes all inputs requiring each of us to filter the possibilities into a short list of things we need to pay attention to. We do that by forming expectations based on experience. Since we all have different experiences and each day brings new data to our mind, we need some tool to look at the big picture. It turns out that it is emotion or those parts of the brain associated with experiences and feelings that guide our course of action. These in turn create reinforced pathways - paradigms if you will - that create shortcuts to decisions and actions.

Without emotions I was never, ever be able to decide between Nikon and a Cannon based solely on a checklist of features because there is no referee. In the end, I chose Nikon because of I wanted one since high school. The desire to take emotions out of the RFP process, performance reviews, and 'balanced score cards' also explains why they rarely produce the desired results.

The implication is that there is not one universal cause and effect as in the physical world and this means:
  1. Newton's laws don't apply to people; so all those feeds and speeds brochures telling prospects why our product is better don't really help make the decision - they do help defend the decision. It also means pay for performance won't work either.
  2. There are multiple versions of the rational truth; while features and advantages maybe generalized benefits can not - they're personal. This is good for innovating at the fringe where people are actively seeking new solutions.
  3. Socrates was right and Aristotle was wrong; questioning and participative is a much better strategy than top down ordering. Maybe SoMed means Socratic Media?
Most of the time paradigms or mental shortcuts are good, as long as we want to perpetuate the status quo. But if we want to change our own, or others', minds we're in deep trouble.
  • Rebranding means creating a new pigeon hole in the mind for your company while simultaneously closing the old one down. Starting with "We want to rebrand, but don't want to piss off our core." will pretty much guarantee failure.
  • Organizational change means creating a new set of expected behaviors while eradicating the ones that got you to the point where you need change. Try adapting Henry V's style rather than Patton's when rallying the team.
  • Innovation means creating a new solution to an old problem (or at least a different way of satisfying a need.) Getting people to realize it doesn't have to be a certain way means severing pathways honed over time.
So how do we change people's minds? How do we institute change? Seems three things will help:
  1. Create cognitive dissonance - force the brain to say, "wait a minute this isn't what I expected." Make it process the information again (and again and again). We must be taught that coins have three sides, not two.
  2. Use an experience or physical act to demonstrate that things are different. A new logo is part of this as is moving the executive offices from the top floor to the main floor or even a new pricing model. (But by all means don't stop - these are simply symbols.)
  3. Paint a vision using a story. Brands, organizations, and innovations all succeed when surrounded by a culture formed by telling stories.
Paradigms are good when we're sitting on top of the hill we want to be on. However, they are serious obstacles when trying to get to the top of the hill.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Social Media is a Red Bike

Just what is social media?

To me it is a red bike, like my new cruiser.

The term isn't social-media or socialmedia; each would refer to mean a single concept. But rather, it is an adjective describing a noun.

Social media is a special type of media, just as my cruiser is a specific type of bike. As such we should look at the two terms distinctly as David Cushman described earlier in a post: Social + Media = Change. What does each mean? What does the combination mean?

Media, like bike, is a broad term covering a wide range of types. What is common is that all bikes and media do the same thing - they are vehicles for carrying something. Bikes carry people; media carry messages. It's only when we throw an adjective in front of bike or media do things get really interesting. This is when segments, skills, and best practices emerge.

I don't ride my road bike the same way or for the same reason as the red bike. The road bike is used for long, solo rides - think of mileage or speed as media tonnage or reach. The red bike is for the neighborhood where meet and greet is the objective - it's a conversation starter; it's social. The purpose, and thus tools, are very different.

So putting the concepts together:
  • Social Media: utilizing human interactions to convey a message
This requires a new way of doing business. If you're marketing is more like a peloton, time trial or gravity racing and you want to communicate then its time to get a red bike.