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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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Marketing the medium

One thing that really upsets me is the way marketers view digital media. It really does. I don’t mean to go to negative-town, but I really need to explain it to those who just don’t get it.

If Philo T. Farnsworth , the inventor of television, were alive today, he would tell you about all of the hell David Sarnoff put him through.

I’ll let you research their story, but the point is, television and radio were made to be biased against interaction or control, whether intentional or not. Television without a remote control created an atmosphere where one would almost forcefully watch through commercial after commercial after commercial.

Unless one had a child (the hacker) at the set at all times to help you change the channel if an advertisement came on (trust me, this was my childhood job), your bottom line was set to unfortunately rely on corporate entertainment.

OK, so what’s done is done.

Interaction occurs. People can now fast-forward through those ads and forget about them entirely.

And, if product placement occurs, there are surely more places to find better entertainment for free (or, for goodness sake, play outside, even an outsider can do this as he/she now has easier access to find other outsiders to go to, let’s say, a renaissance faire).

The point is, I’m upset that marketers think that digital media is for them. It wasn’t set up to be. Sarnoff isn’t alive.

They can be part of the medium.  But, marketing the medium will surely hit the path of least resistance.

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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.

America: A new day, a new generation

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Nowhere else on earth will you find what has started today.  Superlative.  I know.  But, a right one indeed.

Today means something special to America, not just because of the context of Barack Obama‘s racial background, but because of his philosophy rooted in the 21st century.

I even heard from a news reporter that the millennium didn’t begin until today.

This is important to my generation for the following reasons:

  1. Yes.  We are multicultural, and we have a leader to show for that.  Often times, we like to segment ourselves by our ethnic background (especially in marketing).  However, this goes without saying that most Americans have many friends from different backgrounds.  And, this becomes part of us as well.  I don’t even think Latino covers entirely who I am today.
  2. Technology.  Wow.  President Barack Obama ushered in his presidency from the bottom-up and continues to do that today with the launch of a new WhiteHouse.gov website, an @TheWhiteHouse twitter account, and launching a  Inauguration 2009 tumblr today!
  3. Acceptance.  One of my favorite quotes from him is that we are a stronger America bound together more by our simlarities than our differences.  And, however cliché this sounds, it holds true.  It has actually made me change my attitude when intereacting with others that I don’t necessarily agree with.

I’ll leave you with the benediction given today by Rev. Joseph Lowery, aged 87, and leader in the Civil Rights movement.

Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get back, when brown can stick around — (laughter) — when yellow will be mellow — (laughter) — when the red man can get ahead, man — (laughter) — and when white will embrace what is right.

Amen.

Change is in the air

No kidding. Change is truly in the air.

Much to what everyone is blogging (which I’m about to pick up again here, trust me), I’ve been enlightened by my fellow peers and citizens of the world to carry on what began not only as a vote for an ideal that I believed in, but a refreshed state of mind and being.

I don’t even have to say a name. It’s in the air.

You can see it everywhere. In people’s eyes. In their spirit.

Not only will this hopefully carry over into the public service realm, but this will spill into our own personal lives and everything else that we touch (be it business, marketing, politics, music, art, etc.).

Yes. Change is in the air. Finally.

Stay tuned and you’ll see how it translates into this blog and my life