Thursday, December 22, 2011

merry christmas from never get out of the boat

This will most likely be the last message posted here this side of Christmas, so thanks to everyone who's read, shared, commented, tweeted, liked and +1-d throughout the year.

And also thanks to all the rest of the blogosphere and twitterati who's links and thoughts I've waded through and magpied the nuggets.

Three special shout-outs for services beyond the call go to..

Marcus Brown
Mark Earls
Johnnie Mooore

I was tempted to post The Fountains of Wayne's 'I want an Alien for Christmas' in honour of the impending 2012 paradigm shift and the mass awakening - all at once - of the entire human race, however that would be a bit too cheerful so I've stuck with tradition and gone with The Fall...

Thanks again for your eyeballs in 2011, see you after the jump.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

the case for real customer insight

Tweet of the week, and possibly the season itself.

This sums up exactly the problem facing Australian retailers.

The problem being that the vast majority don't even have a scooby what their customers problems really are.

They, in fact, don't have it all wrapped up.

Full marks to The Garden Doctor for the wit in retort, but it should have come from Myer or Jones, if they were listening.

Imagine the rich pickings for companies that listened properly for customer problems that they were in a unique spot to fix?

the myth of the 'influencers'

Here’s the thing.

This keeps coming up, so just to be clear on what is and isn’t correct it’s worth considering this.

There's a lot of false assumption and BS that tends to fly about ‘seeding’ and ‘bloggers’ and ‘online pr’ etc with regards to the 'influence' this supposedly has on behaviour.

The alleged ‘influencers’, or ‘the few’ if you’ve read The Tipping Point are documented as consisting of, at most, 10-15% of any given population.
These 'influencers' are the so-called opinion-leaders in any given category or sphere.

These ‘influencers’ are thought to initiate up to, and at most, 25-30% of the conversations about brands in any category or sphere.

While these people do have some influence, granted, it's a danger to overestimate that influence. The web has thrown up a large number of self-annointed influentials, with large twitter followings or blog readership.

This really the equivalent of celebrity endorsements.

Or like broadcast advertising, and conventional PR (ie 'publicity').

It's useful up to a point, in as much as it can help with 'branding' the thing and contributes to generating awareness and other such high level brand measures.

However, it's the people not recognized as ‘influencers’ - ie the ‘nobodies’ - who will still account for starting 70-80% of the conversations which contain brands. Because the effects of influence only reveal themselves after-the-fact then 'nobodies' can quickly appear to be influencers. Which they are, of course, it's just their influence is nearly impossible to predict in advance.

And a massive chunk of that happens offline, by the way...

So, that 70-80% of conversation that actually has real influence in terms of decision making and adoption of behaviour is originating with us, the ‘nobodies’ and happens with the people we go home to, or work with or socialize with.

Instead of looking to the idea of ‘uber-influencers’ to help our ideas spread we should focus activating small connected groups of close relationships that are connected to the idea in some form, from the outset.

The people who actually influence our behavior are usually the people who are closest to us., both emotionally and by simple geographic proximity.

We’re also know via the sensible end of neuroscience and behavioural/social science that most decisions are made unconsciously, without critical thinking (even though we think we are thinking).

So even getting celebrity tweeters, or mommy bloggers to publish facts or product information en mass would still have limited value.

Don't confuse influence with popularity.

What we need is stories that will spread though small interconnected groups.

If you want a one-two-three in marketing terms, this is about distributing emotional cues as the triggers (orchestrating) and then engaging in the resulting situations (as direct agents) to draw others (spectators) in to become participants.

- See last weeks post on Hurricane Bawbag, for how this works for real.

We 'do' then 'think'.

In reality we are all influencers.

And 'nobodies' are the new 'somebodies', as Guy Kawasaki puts it.

The myth of the uber influencer whom everyone looks up to and follows is just that.
A myth.

For more on this stuff check what KellerFay, the Word of Mouth Research and Consulting Firm, say.
It's well worth having a dig about in here for the nuggets.

And also ask Santa to pop 'Grouped' - by ex-Googler and now Facebook Social Researcher, Paul Adams - into your stocking.
The principle hypothesis of Grouped being that the web is being rebuilt around people, and from which I've pulled one or two stats and notes for this post.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

natural selection and social learning

It's worth spending the 30mins or so with this talk by Mark Pagel, Professor of Evolutionary Biology and Head of the Evolution Laboratory at the University of Reading.

He has a number of hypotheses around the notion of natural selection in genetics as it sits alongside social learning - the peculiarly human trait.

Pagel points to direct comparison between social learning as driving idea evolution - we copy people that we see as being successful in some way, we copy ideas that seem to be good, and adapt and improve upon them - and then natural selection, having driven genetic evolution in a more random fashion.

This is of course, pretty interesting for the advertiser and marketer in understanding how we make decisions, and also adds another angle to the post-idea world notion we discussed just the other week.

Here's an excerpt from Pagels diatribe.

'Do we know the answers to the most important questions in our lives? Should you buy a particular house? What mortgage product should you have? Should you buy a particular car? Who should you marry? What sort of job should you take? What kind of activities should you do? What kind of holidays should you take? We don't know the answers to most of those things. And if we really were the deeply intelligent and imaginative and innovative species that we thought we were, we might know the answers to those things...

And if we ask ourselves how it is we come across the answers, or acquire the answers to many of those questions, most of us realize that we do what everybody else is doing....

...our capacity for social learning, which is responsible for all of our cumulative cultural adaptation, all of the things we see around us in our everyday lives, has actually promoted a species that isn't so good at innovation...maybe we're not as creative and as imaginative and as innovative as we thought we were, but extraordinarily good at copying and following.'

There's no embed code for the video so jump over to for the full video and transcript.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

social influence and hurricane bawbag

What a delight to comment on a textbook classic case of the spread of a 'viral' idea principally via social learning/influence, shared cultural context and the fact that the carrier of the idea was the 'product' itself, if you like.

That it originates from Scotland makes it a double bonus.

I'm talking, naturellement, about Hurricane Bawbag.

Bawbag, is the label afforded to the particularly bad storm in Scotland, that peaked on the 8th December, who's 160mph winds closed schools and businesses and caused havok across the country.

For those from a sheltered upbringing Bawbag is West of Scotland slang for scrotum.

The nuts and bolts have been well documented elsewhere so I'll not dwell, but suffice to say the hashtag #hurricanebawbag was reported as trending globally on Twitter, while in the UK the shorter #bawbag also (more pragmatically) trended.

Even local government were in, Stirling council wrote on their twitter feed, “All Libraries are closing up at 1 o’clock – see Stirling Council Website for details #scotstorm #HurricaneBawbag”- though the tweet seems to have now been removed from the stream.

The national Scottish newspaper The Scotsman were also happy to join in, tweeting..

(Note: I just wanted to test the 'embed tweet' thing on the new twitter)

Within hours t-shirts bearing slogans like 'We beat Hurricane Bawbag' appeared for sale online, along with a dedicated Twitter account and Facebook 'fan' pages, alongside the almost obligatory twitter meme #ReplaceSongNamesWithBawbag ('Don't you wish your bawbag was hot like me!')

At their King Tuts gig in Glasgow on 13th December 2011, the band 100 Monkeys asked their audience to suggest a song title and they would make it up as they went along.
The audience replied in unison 'Hurricane Bawbag'.

Bawbag can help us remember a few key lessons on why an idea spreads.

- Firstly, viral is an effect or outcome not a ‘thing’ (most important rule).

- Everyone is an influencer (2nd most important rule)- this idea spread through small, tightly connected groups gaining momentum and scaling exponentially with each new connection, through it's own steam it became so big that mainstream media had to notice it.

- An idea will be spread principally because the spreaders want it to spread.There's value for the spreaders.

- There's room in the idea for people to add their own bit to the story.

- The idea resonates or represents something that's already in the culture.

- Some people are in, some are out.
(hearing an English newsreader unwittingly say 'bawbag' on the 9 o'clock news would, of course be the comedy moment of the year).

Perhaps my favourite anecdote, and the one which best demonstrates the point, on how and why things spread comes courtesy of The First Post, who report the following conversation on a tube train in London, in which a daughter was trying to convince her mother that the storm was indeed called 'Bawbag.

“Why would they call it that?” asked the mother.

The daughter showed her video on her phone and the front page of The Metro free newspaper and replies...

“If everyone starts calling it that, you have to call it that.”

Friday, December 09, 2011

i am not a consumer: part 2276

Here's another gratuitous and completely unnecessary use of the c-word.

This time Mumbrella, reporting on the otherwise smart Steal A Banksy situation devised by Naked for The Art Hotel chain.

'The Steal Banksy challenge will see consumers attempt to get their hands on a signed print of the subversive British graffiti artist’s No Ball Games.'

Watch your thoughts because they become your words.

Why are hotel guests here labelled 'consumers'?

What's wrong with 'hotel guests'.

Yours sincerely,
P. Dant.

a spectre haunts the creative imagination part 2

We've talked about Beaudrillard here before, the brittleness of systems.

'Systems are inherently brittle and retain authority only as long as we treat them as having authority', he said. 'But once you lose the fear of systems, or conventions, the status quo, they lose the hold they have over you.'

In other words existing models do not represent reality; they are simply our constructs.

Not surprising when we understand how our unconscious brain observes, soaks up what's going on around and gives cues to the rational brain, fills in the gaps and tells us what we think.

Hence the notion that we don't think, nearly as much as we think, we think.

The vast majority of what we think is thinking, is actually stories made up by the non-conscious part of the mind.

And of course, the stories we believe most are the ones we tell ourselves.

But that's ok. This is where ideas come from. Great ideas.

Someone sent me this article from The New York Times, in which academic Neal Gabler laments the dearth of 'big ideas' in contemporary culture.

He has some points but spoils it with some fairly standard Luddite internet-bashing schlock.

'Social networking sites are the primary form of communication among young people, and they are supplanting print, which is where ideas have typically gestated'.

This is plainly incorrect, as demonstrated one of the most interesting and powerful ideas emerging in recent times being the notion of the Gutenberg Parenthesesis.

In which digital/social/mobile culture - in a way - is a return to an uncontained, non-linearity that was core to human societies in the ages before industrialization, mass production and, in particular, the invention, by Gutenberg, of the printing press.

Gabler's fear is a 'post-idea world — a world in which big, thought-provoking ideas that can’t instantly be monetized are of so little intrinsic value that fewer people are generating them and fewer outlets are disseminating them.'

I'm more optimistic than that.

'Marx pointed out the relationship between the means of production and our social and political systems.
Freud taught us to explore our minds as a way of understanding our emotions and behaviors.
Einstein rewrote physics.
More recently, McLuhan theorized about the nature of modern communication and its effect on modern life.
These ideas enabled us to get our minds around our existence and attempt to answer the big, daunting questions of our lives.'

However, I do concurr with the notion that 'there is a vast difference between profit-making inventions and intellectually challenging thoughts'.

As there is a difference between creativity and simply wacky or gimmicky ideas.
The difference is in the value they create rather than the value they extract.

So the social media experts who point at Farmville's multi million turnover as the great success story are missing the point.

On that note, there is clearly something awry with a culture that- in all seriousness- produces things like this without the slightest hint of irony.

For dummies, you say?

'Farmville for Dummies' found via @umairh


There's an inevitable-ness about this service that is both wonderful in it's inventiveness and yet frightening in as much as 'has-it-really-come-to-this'.


'Rewriting the rules of customer support.'

Connect directly to real people who have worked in big companies and are willing to help when the company can't or won't.

They say “We started INSIDR because we feel helpless when we have to call customer support. We decided to find a better way – that relies on real people and not company politics – to solve the problem.”

Not only that, the potential to lift the lid on customer services practices that we all suspect to be true , yet have no proof, can only be a good thing.

In the office the other day, we discussed the one whereby an customer service person says 'thanks, I'll add a note to your account about that' followed by some typing noises.

Are they really adding a note to my account?

Or just tapping the keyboard?

If indeed they are adding a note, what does it say?

I never get to see the note, anyway.

Does the note say 'annoying douchebag, get rid of him as quickly as possible.'?

What kind of flakey data is being generated about me, that I will never see?

Story via Techcrunch.

And thx to ProjectVRM mailing list.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

connect with fans #783 G+ edition

I'm becoming more convinced that the jewel in Google+'s crown is the Hangout functionality.

In fact the more that sections of the geek-o-sphere proclaim the imminent death of Google+ the more I'm convinced that there's a long, long way to go yet.

Here's two ways musicians have used Hangout's creatively to connect with fans.

Check out Black Eyed Peas before, during (on stage, behind the band, looking at the crowd in Central Park and the NYC skyline) and after the show.

And to demonstrate that it works small as well as big, singer-songwriter Daria Musk has built up a sizeable following from a grass roots level by being an early mover in the space.

Like Bill Drummond said...

The technology comes first, then artists mess with it - in ways the engineers never imagined - and new things come out the other end.

It goes wide and goes deep.

BEP HT to Tommy.