Last week I had a great conversation with Hugh Macleod and Mark Earls (author of Welcome to the Creative Age and, more recently, Herd.) We talked about lots of stuff loosley related to Marketing 2.0, especially social objects and how the old idea of branding is looking a bit unconvincing. We managed to weave in metaphors about banana, celery sticks, the Wizard of Oz and village life, as well as what can be learnt from sweeties, Rizla cigarette papers and lots more besides. Enjoy.
Download the Podcast – 49m – MP3 (17.2 MB)
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Here are the show notes with my usual health warning: Timings are approximate and this is my paraphrasing of what was said. Don’t take them it too literally.
0.00 We decide we’re going to look at social objects in marketing and how they connect to the notion of a “purpose idea”, coined by Mark in his first book. Hugh explains what that means in English. Example of Body Shop/Anita Roddick. Refers to folks in Brooks Brothers and fake Chanel suits going, “what does the brand mean?”
1.40 Mark on the game of branding and choosing your vegetable analogy for your brand and “a vast army of logo police” – a way to avoid the task of making products or services interesting enough for people to bother with.
2.50 Johnnie gets Mark to recount his encounter with a branded, plastic boxed-banana (“this most terrible of artifacts”) and how it changed his life. Bascially, it captured all that was wrong with the idea of branding as generally practiced.
7.25 Johnnie says the boxed banana is a metaphor for wider trends in organisations of taking something natural that works and then imposing an unnecessary process designed to make it happen supposedly more efficiently.
8.10 Hugh: isn’t a lot of this is ego-driven? Remembers when advertising was the sexy end of command and control – and then you get sick of meetings about banana snacks. Blogging was an escape route for people fed up with that.
9.45 Hugh: the notion of making business more human and personal.
10.15 Mark: the big bad wolf now is marketing and management science, pretending to be full of insight but soulless and very partial.
10.50 Hugh: mass production and mass media arrived at the same time, leading to a hundred year riff of factory and advertising – that’s how we organised the commercial world. But now we live in an era where you don’t need factory and you don’t need advertising to be successful.
12.00 Mark: I’m not sure you ever needed advertising; it was an excuse for products that weren’t interesting enough. Hugh recalls the days when television actually did capture people’s attention and packaged goods had a wow factor they don’t now.
13.15 Mark: Marketing folks mistake what they see through a particular media channel for what is happening in the real world. Real people have always bought stuff without advertising.
14.05 Hugh talks about his favourite sweets and Rizla cigarette papers. Simple products that work. Goes on to describe how advertising is often not really addressing customers but a way to get buyers at Walmart/Tesco to stock your product.
17:00 Mark talks about the mistaken assumption that there’s a lever to be pulled, out of which will flow store traffic. An underlying picture of business as a machine with levers and buttons. Assumes an amount of control that isn’t really there.
17.45 Johnnie: how conversations about “organisational change” are often really about control. Change isn’t a problem, being in control of change is a problem. Going for “leverage” is trying to take on more power and responsibility than we actually have.
19.10 Hugh: ok, we’ve covered our malcontents. What are we going to do about it? Prompts Mark to talk about “purpose idea”.
19.25 Mark: purpose idea is based on a more human idea of what business is for and our desire for a sense of purpose in our lives. Hugh: it’s partly about how you engage with whatever trade your in, not whether it’s glamorous or not.
21.50 Mark talks about the importance of belief and Hugh’s line – the market for something to believe in is infinite.. The importance of belonging and social connection. Hugh: everybody wants to have something to be excited about.
25.10 Hugh to Mark: What are you trying to say in Herd that you didn’t say in your previous book? Mark answers. How the description of human beings you might get from a marketing or mangagement expert would be like a description of aliens and wouldn’t correlate with the real world. Misses our herd or social nature.
26.50 Hugh on The Grateful Dead as pioneers of Marketing 2.0. Bootleg tapes as social objects. How music allows people to interact.
28.10 Johnnie: interesting that as humans we are massively social but have cognitive biases that exaggerate the individual rather than the group.
29.50 Hugh: a human predisposition to see things as linear rather than complicated/chaotic.
30.15 Mark on lessons of behavioural economics. How our minds our lazy and highly tuned to social interaction. We’re brilliant social creatures. Dunbar’s numbers.
32.40 Hugh on living in a small village and how it creates a different dynamic from big cities. Why he likes Asterix books.
34.00 Mark: we will organise ourselves and change organisations, sometimes a little bit every day, sometimes rapidly.. but efforts to bring big change through powerful levers leads to all sorts of problems.
34.40 Johnnie on dangers of pseudo-compliance and the Hewlett Packard nod.
35.10 Hugh: pitfalls of politieness and mission statements.
35.40 Hugh: ok so the world’s changing. And we have this new marketing. It kinda works in Silicon Valley, where else does it work? For instance very few Fortune 500 companies are blogging…
36:30 Johnnie on difference between the companies and the people who work for them; the difference between the official and unofficial networks. How Web.20 has made visible informal networks that weren’t seen before. In biology at school, the teacher stuck celary in a pot of ink and we watched it rise through the celery through capilliary action. That’s a bit like how Web 2.0 makes things visible.
37.50 Mark: Web 2.0 is pulling the curtain back. We’ll never quite believe in the Wizard again. The lie of command-and-control is revealed. Describes an improv game that looks at how we think about working with each other. Johnnie: what if we see change as something that is already happening and I make a choice whether to be part of it or not.. an emergent process to be present to.
40.35 Mark’s looking at how behaviours cascade through populations and we do we work with them or subvert them. Hugh: companies don’t like to work with random.
41.35 Hugh: what’s worked for me is to get away from the idea of message and think instead of social gesture. How this works for Stormhoek.
43.05 Johnnie: Social ob
jects are incidental to the fundamental process of relating. The brand is secondary to the process and branding goes wrong when it tries to make the product the star. Hugh: paying more attention to the conversations that are happening rather than creating a message.
45.10 Johnnie: grandiosity was great for Marketing 1.0. Marketing 2.0 might be more about humility. Mark: humanity and humility. Hugh on VW ads from the 60s that acknowledged humanity.
46.10 Mark: we are experts in other people. If there were a quiz show for species, then human beings’ specialist subject would be other people. We see objects made by other people and we see people in them.
47.00 Closing thoughts from Hugh and Mark then Johnnie.