Car2Go

The rentership society

The classic American modus operandi: owning a car, a house with a white picket fence, and having 2.5 kids.

Renting: the Anti American Dream (no hyphen intended).

Or, is it?  Wired recently published an article asking its readers to abandon ownership for services such as Netflix and now the Kindle Lending Club, where Amazon users can lend their bought books to anyone for up to 14 days.

Interestingly, this isn’t just an online phenomenon.

Other noteworthy startups like SnapGoods and Zilok allow their users to rent their lawn mowers, blow torches, and even their XBox 360s, for timespans as short as a day.

I was also personally affected. After my wreck that totaled my car, I began to use a new service available in central Austin and Ulm, Germany, called car2go. Drivers in these cities could rent Smart Cars (provided by Daimler AG) by the minute, along with free gas, free parking in public spaces, and free insurance.

I admit, it helped me in the short term as I searched for a new car. That short term turned out to be 5 months.  Although I have a new Chevrolet Cruze (client), I still find value in using the little cars to go downtown and take a taxi back home.

I’m not going to bloviate the issue and say that ownership is going away completely into some misguided utopia (an oxymoron, if you ask me).

But, I will say there will be a mix of services and products that will curve and fluctuate based on the economy, availability of accessible public transportation, and scarcity. Just ask Blockbuster.

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An historical perspective on how to verb yourself

If you eat beef, then you’ll relate to this article.

Let me explain.  When one sits at the dinner table, we take the time to eat beef and not cow (or pork and not pig).

A little thing called history comes into play.  Back in the day, there was a lot of fighting.  And, I mean a lot of fighting.  Plundering, if you will.

With that, the victor was often left to rewrite history and culture.

Hence, cultures changed based on hierarchies.  Forced hierarchies.

Peasants who referred to cow as their meal were just that, peasants.  Whereas, people in higher classes such as the French, after they invaded England, were left to eat the same animal with a fancier name: beef (du boeuf).

Want another example?

The Arabs who were in Spain for over 800 years left their mark in politics (alcalde), science (algebra), and manufacturing (alfombra).

Why? Because with every forced takeover of a country, comes forced takeover of a language based on the expertise the victors bring.

The French won food and partying (RSVP, anyone?).  The Arabs were nerdy.  And, America won just about everything else.

Well, forced takeovers are still there.  But, far more powerful are the industries that have the influence.  This, in turn, leads to language transformation.  Google it.

Here are my tips on how to verb yourself:

  1. Don’t verb yourself!
  2. Give people a stake in what you do.
  3. Be innovative.  Coke did it. (In Texas, we ask for a coke. Then, the waitress asks, “What kind?”)
  4. Don’t verb yourself!

Full disclosure: I don’t eat beef and I still relate to this article.

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Why cool can’t be bought (or faked)

Ever been to a shindig and the popular, Nickelback-lovin’ rock ‘n roller dude walks in and tries to fit in with the cool kids, only to make himself look like a fool because his fashion is about 2 years old and probably got his coach to negotiate his grades?

Yeah, that guy.

I really don’t mean to sound pretentious, but hear me out.

Southwest Airlines and Virgin aren’t cool because it bought its way there.  They didn’t pay for a report to tell them “X percent of people enjoy listening to safety rules before a flight in a lighthearted fashion.”  At least I hope they didn’t.

And, being on Twitter and Facebook doesn’t make them cool.  Even if you coached your client on how to effectively use these tools, they could still hopelessly fail.

Why?

Because you can’t buy luv (I sure am giving SWA a lot of attention here, but I’m a huge fan) nor can you pay your way to experience purple trail lights.  Who wants statistics written about what is cool? I’d rather tell my clients how to enable “cool” and then let them figure it out themselves.

Here are some of my tips:

  1. Be an owner who knows your industry and is actually passionate about it.
  2. Innovation should be your business model. Not the type that comes from reports entirely (not discounting them), but the type that comes from the experts, your employees (yes, even on the assembly line) and your customers.
  3. Intuition.  If you know that hurting the environment is bad and your product is a contributor to this problem, then fix it! It’s as simple as that.  Sure, it costs money, but “in the long run” investments are now instantaneous thanks to the tools of transparency online.
  4. Design matters.
  5. And, lastly, have some fun. Life is too damn short to worry about TPS reports.

And, no, I wasn’t beat up by jocks growing up (in case you’re wondering).

(Updated to include Virgin Airlines)

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The hacker generation

In order to understand how we got here, we’ve got to understand where we’ve been.

While Generation X was the Slacker Generation, I’ve deemed ours the Hacker Generation

Below is a algebraic representation of how the controllers (the elite) beckoned new media capabilities to the masses.

Put simply, if all you could do is believe, then the controller (the God[s]), as it was dogmatically accepted, could only hear about the good, the bad, and the ugly happening below.

Once priests/monks knew how to read, then all the masses could do is listen. And so on…

Social control as a function of media

Social control as a function of media by Douglas Rushkoff

So, now we are at a point where we can (and have) become the programmers.

The Hacker Generation

With open APIs abundant in several applications, this is the new wave of business and entrepreneurship, on a highly localized level.

With a cooperative, collaborative model set to benefit applications and its community, business has changed from a top-down, scarce (closed) model to an bottom-up, open source (abundant) one. And, it benefits the whole.

This doesn’t just apply to online applications, offline hacking can occur too.

My advice to small businesses: allow all of your workers to learn every single part of your business (yes, even your janitors). But, the only way to achieve this is if there is an open incentive for them to do this (you can figure this out on your own). You want all of your employees to care about your organization.

Ideas are abundant, don’t let them be scarce.

Individualism is an out of touch PR term

It usually goes like this:

X&Y brand is bringing you the latest [insert contest or promotion here] for you to express your individualism and creativity.

I’ve been forced to write this false sense of a term in a press release before, even after I persistently fought against using it, especially because of the demographic.

First introduced by political economist Adam Smith, he argued the economy should be based on greed without much regard “to any overarching scheme of goodness or justice.

Rushkoff, on the Media Squat, even went so far as to say that Game Theory, and, in particular, the Prisoner’s Dilemma, is a misnomer and has been proven wrong. Human beings, he argues, are set apart by rational thought.

The digital age and its influence on business just goes to show that collaboration trumps this false sense of competition (and scarcity).

Nothing of me is original. I am the combined effort of everybody I’ve ever known. – Chuck Palahniuk

Success is only achieved by the purpose.

What is false scarcity?

Here are a few examples of false scarcity:

  • Pop music.  For as long as radio has been around, there has been little to no real distribution of music.  Why? Well, radio was (and still is) based on a top-down medium.  Crowdsourced services like Last.fm, Pandora, and, to an extent, MySpace, have proved success and have finally found real markets to serve.  For proof, check out Last.fm’s blog post of Most Unwanted Scrobbles. Talk about a false scarcity for music.
  • Energy.  Of course.  What is more top-down than the OPEC mafia? I really do not believe how they can set the prices they set for their markets.  It seems as if real-time supply and demand are at their fingertips, when it really isn’t. Furthermore, innovation for new sources of energy were stifled throughout much of the 20th century (ahem, car companies, et al.).
  • News.  I’m not talking about investigative journalism (which can be scarce at times), but the other 90% that occurs in our daily lives.
  • Currency.  Douglas Rushkoff (when can’t I not quote him in a blog post?), brings up great historical truths about economies of abundance that existed in the mythical “Dark Ages”.  It wasn’t until after the Aristocracy gave the merchant-class bourgeoisie titles to industries that currency became scarce…falsely.

There are more (diamonds, transportation, etc.), but thank goodness we have something that helps alleviate this problem left over from the Renaissance.  Collaboration will almost always trump any false economic models.

The way it was meant to be…

What media and corporations do not seem to figure out is that this is the way it was meant to be.

True scarcity. To an economist, the actual economy.

Information was meant to be shared, aggregated, and deciphered amongst the masses. Never before has this happened so easily, so freely, so unfiltered.

To the media, embrace it.  You will become again what you once were.

Investigative.

To the corporations, embrace it.  Set your products apart so that competition won’t even matter.

Innovation.

The way it was meant to be.

Blogs every marketer should follow

If you’re new to this whole bottom-up approach to media & marketing, you’re very behind the curve.  But, not to worry, there are plenty of ways to catch up.

Below are my recommended blogs that every marketer should follow:

Church of the Customer

Douglas Rushkoff

Seth Godin

  • Author and speaker who has called marketers liars and has asked people to join tribes and lead the way in markets.  This is truly daily inspiration.

PR 2.0

  • Brian Solís, founder of FutureWorks, a PR & new media agency, is a thought leader in the new media & technology realm.  He and Jess3 created the Conversation Prism, a beautiful graphic charting the social media space.

Groundswell

  • Charlene & Josh, authors of the book with the same title, come to us from Forrester Research.  They pioneered a new era combining data, research models, and new media.

There are many more, but these should give you a good start.  There’s much more to it than just tweeting, facebooking, and YouTubin’.  Standards exist.  Learn them and live them.

It’s the product, stupid!

This tweet (pardon the diction, but appreciate the sentiment) pretty much sums it up.

Reality check:  Products and services must realize that social media is just a tool for creating a connection with customers.  It is not the end-all, be-all.

My take:

  • Your innovative product or service is going to drive sales (and popularity), organically!  Social media just corroborates what you do.
  • Customer service is key.  Hear people out (here’s where social media is a tool - not the tool - to help you achieve this).
  • Buzz is not sustainable.
  • Offline connections are much stronger than online connections.
  • Do not cheat your way to the top; it’s superficial (like advertising).