How To Stand Out Today

Hat tip to Piers Fawkes for featuring this video in today's PSFK. As he points out, the ultra-sanitized, hyper-digitized world of today gives rise to messages and images that seem too polished.

By returning to a true art form -- stop-motion animation -- Tobias Stretch makes a distinct statement. An authentic expression which rendered one of my colleagues (a fine artist in his own right) "speechless."

It is refreshing to know that other than the software required to stitch together the stills, this video was created by hand.

The authenticity expressed in this piece can teach us lessons about the ways the brands we represent can be recognized. Being honest, pure and raw in expression will set you apart from the digitalia everywhere else.

Radiohead - Weird Fishes - by Tobias Stretch


Socio-political Networking?

Gareth Kay pointed this out in his most recent post. You should really make a quick visit to the transition web site because it is a case study in progress and something we could all learn from.

Regardless of ideology, this is a true example of a solid narrative arc.

FDR figured out radio.

Kennedy harnessed TV.

Obama is shaping political communications for the next generation (is it "socio-political networking?").


Chicken Coops and Campaigns

Photo via flickr (http://flickr.com/photos/brandonchalk/)

Umair Haque has a post at Harvard Business on the seven lessons learned from the Obama campaign. It's very thoughtful, clear and insightful.

There is always someone who can say it better. I knew there would be. I would definitely suggest you read it.

I've recently come across Umair's writings and find them fascinating. His words got me thinking about how these lessons overlap nicely with the notion of interconnectedness or selfless altrusim.

As crazy as it sounds, I even think the passage of laws regulating treatment of feed animals in California could be evidence that a higher purpose is evolving in our country and our world. Does enlarging chicken coops indicate a larger ideal for treatment of all citizens of the globe? Or, is it simply giving the birds more room to breathe?

Did the world cross the threshold this week? Like Umair says, are we seeing the 21st century evolution of business organization and strategy?

In the 21st century, there is nothing more asymmetrical - more disruptive, more revolutionary, or more innovative -- than the world-changing power of an ideal.


What's The One Thing?

I've always considered myself a competent writer. Generally speaking, the process of stringing together coherent thoughts has never been something that has given me great difficulty. Heck, I've got a degree in journalism and have been writing over the course of my entire professional career.

But today, I'm stuck.

I've found it absolutely impossible to adequately reflect on the results of the presidential election from a societal, cultural or political perspective. There are many more people who will address the 2008 election more eloquently and insightfully than I could ever dream to, so I won't even attempt it.

Suffice it to say, I am proud of my country for many reasons, and last night amplified my hope for the future. But the lens I will use as I try to cobble together my thoughts is one focused on ideas, communications and business.

To me, last night was the manifestation of Web 2.0.

The power of the collective one.

The collapse of the Berlin Wall and communism both occurred during my adult life, but I didn't feel personally attached to these world events. Don't get me wrong, I remember processing the significance of the pictures on my television, but there remained a disconnect.

Right or wrong, as far as I was concerned, these seismic shifts in world order happened because of government intervention and global pressures. Big entities clashing. The movement of the many, reacting to pressure from the top down. (Glossing over subtleties? Without question. But, that was my state of mind in the early 90s.)

Last night, as the tide of history washed in to shore, and the pictures of both celebrations and concessions came in from around the world, I was struck by how personally involved I felt.

This was not just the movement of many.

It was the power of the collective one.

How could a moment of initial curiosity about this first-term Senator from Illinois move from an innocent Google search to the perception that I made a difference? Not only was I witnessing the epic event in Grant Park, but I was also sharing the success of a candidate with whom I had developed a multi-faceted relationship.

A seemingly insignificant donation, made in response to an email request, became enveloped in emotion. Like a child bringing a box of coins to Sunday school with wide-eyed hope, mine was a contribution that, in campaigns past, would have not even been felt (or sought) by political elders.

Certainly he received contributions from many wealthy donors giving large sums, but by building and nurturing relationships on an individual level -- something unattainable or untried in the last couple of national elections -- Obama was the first that I know of to authentically harness the power of citizens to act.

A clear, compelling position, communicated across media, that started contextually relevant conversations. It demanded participation and collaboration. It allowed me to have a unique relationship with a concept and to see the importance of my story in that of the masses.

I am but one voice. Yet I feel it has risen above the din. I don't believe there is a more powerful example of the way to make a brand work in the world today.


Is it Interconnectedness or Selfish Altruism?

Image via: www.flickr.com/photos/blaugra/211233265

Adrian Ho at Zeus Jones has raised some interesting questions in the past. Lately, he has posited a hypothesis for this decade's "theme."

His excellent post today on interconnectedness as the motivator for this decade makes a lot of sense. As he points out, there are countless examples of the ways in which we are more overtly relying on one another. From media to motor vehicles, society seems to be moving in the direction acknowledging our mutual and infinite connections to one another.

This movement certainly gives me hope for my family and our place on the planet, but is this a new development or simply the wave from a ripple created long ago?

Interestingly, last night, at a dinner-table discussion with my 86-year-old grandmother, we touched on this exact topic. We talked of her experiences growing up during the depression in a small West Texas town. One of the takeaways from that conversation was the notion that people made do with less and banded together to ensure they all survived.

In addition, I recall a Bill Moyers interview with author Richard Rodriguez, which suggested the United States has a fundamental cultural contradiction. To poorly paraphrase Mr. Rodriguez, we have a "pronoun conflict" -- "we" celebrate the "I."

The collective right to be self-determining.

The unity of individualism.

Rodriguez fears that this lack of tribal/communal support structures will cause continued conflict in the world. As I recall, this interview also contained a sense of hope for the future. The belief that this philosophy will change and the balance will shift back to a reliance on the "we."

Finally, in comments on the ZJ site, I echoed some remarks I heard at the AAAA Account Planning Conference this summer. Alex Castellanos, a Republican campaign strategist, predicted that the world would move toward an era of selfish altruism. He cited the works of Ayn Rand and made the example of barn raising in the early days of western expansion in this country. Castellanos felt that we would help each other in the expectation that assistance would be reciprocated. I'll help you raise this barn because I'm going to need help in a few weeks, too. Clearly a market-driven take on this movement.

So, is this enough evidence to confirm the trend? Is it a return to a bygone era? Selfish altruism?

Or, is interconnectedness the best description?

I don't know. Whatever it is, I find it inspiring (and much better than thinking about the financial markets).

Quote of the Day

"If Apple went to a party, it would turn up last and leave with the hottest girl there."



Phone Phorm and Phunction

While I'm a proud iPhone owner and a lifelong Mac fan, I really respect what I keep seeing coming from the design team at Nokia.

PSFK pointed out a cross-cultural, international study that Nokia conducted recently about how we carry our phones. It also qualitatively measured the differences in the different ways we "carry" other essentials.

One of the key insights for me is the notion that there are three primary things we all carry:

• keys
• money
• phone

Keys and money connect us to safety, security and sustenance. A phone allows us to "transcend space and time."

For my b2b clients, my non-profit clients and my healthcare clients -- are there similar "essentials?" What are they and how can we create experiences that complement these artifacts?

As I continue to navigate these personally uncharted waters, I continue to be amazed at what I have yet to learn. So many questions to answer.

Check out the slideshow that Nokia prepared. Let me know if you find other insights worth mining. I'd love to discuss them.


Molecular Musings

So, according to this article in today's New York Times, molecular microprocessors have been a concept for some time. Not to bury the lead, but HP has finally found a way (at least applied for a patent to stake the claim) to make this concept a reality. Where does this intersect with marketing and the marketing function as a service? Will we be able to embed these organic processors into product designs that change the makeup of the product based on decisions made? Will they allow us to create perpetually regenerating products that reduce waste? How will people become even closer to brands with these nano-processors? Or, will they just enhance what we've already got to allow more efficient design, energy consumption, etc.?

image: Atom Tat by edgeplot via Flickr

As technology shrinks in size and expands in capacity, it seems that we become ever more reliant on human contact. The closer the mechanism gets to the nucleus of the atom, the more embedded technology becomes in our lives and the more it allows us to connect with those of like mind to us.

I'm wandering here, but I'm also wondering.