Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Remix culture: Carl Sagan's Music Video

By the looks of it, Carl Sagan was way ahead of his time by producing this weird little music video. It seems he fancied himself a rock star, of sorts. Why not? Sagan was prolific, media-genic and loved mash-ups before there was such a term. This music video doesn't push the envelope, it tears it. LOL!

highly successful popularizer of astronomy, astrophysics and other natural sciences.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Experimental Life

Marci Alboher writes about work life. Her book, One Person, Multiple Careers, is about the many hats we all wear to fashion together a career. She's knows what she's talking about, having studied to be a lawyer and then shifting gears to become a journalist and author. Can you imagine explaining that to your parents? Telling them, Hey look, I know we all invested a lot in my being a lawyer, but I'm moving to Manhattan to be a writer.

I first met Marci at the New York Times headquarters. She was warm and bright. I've continued to follow her work and her transitions. Having written and blogged for the NY Times, Marci didn't survive the last round of lay-offs. Still, she keeps putting out really useful tweets and blog posts for people swirling in the career tsunami of this economy.

Marci's message, as she writes it and lives it, is that we won't manage one career. We'll juggle several simultaneously. This presents a plethora of opportunities, not to mention challenges, as we morph our lives to meet the demands of a surprise-a-minute economy. With that in mind, one's attitude becomes critical. Best to see it all as an experiment rather than vertical climb to the top.

Like many of us, Marci is living an experimental life. It's what the times demand as we simultaneously shed one culture and build a new one. It requires that a person be fluid. Try new things. Adapt. So, it was a pleasure to see she'd found a loving lab partner with whom she can share her experimental life. A few weeks ago, Marci got married. And from the sound of things, they are ace-ing chemistry!

My very best wishes.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Auto Industry, Meet Twitter: Ford Re-Launches Fiesta

Like many Chicago residents, I grew up somewhere else. After graduating from college in the early 1980s, I was unable to find meaningful work in my hometown of Detroit. Frustrated, I crammed my clothes, record albums and a howling cat into my Ford Fiesta and split for Chicago. Years later, I'm fully assimilated, save one thing. I've never shaken my insane love for cars -- a telltale vestige of my Motor City roots.

I took notice when I saw that Ford is re-launching the Fiesta. Sporty and fuel efficient, it's a ray of hope. Ford Motor is bringing back the snappy compact to generate excitement and drive sales among the Millennials -- children of Boomers. Little did I know the Fiesta re-launch would reveal an important lesson for traditional businesses struggling to stay relevant in a digital world. Namely, that for people working in deep-decline sectors such as auto manufacturing, success means not only innovating, but changing the culture of your industry while you're at it.

It's Sam De La Garza's job to re-launch the Fiesta. In a post-advertising age, and in an industry driven by assembly-line thinking, De La Garza is a revolutionary who is re-writing the rule book for how to market a vehicle. Consider that two years before the Fiesta...read the full article at Huffington Post.

Flickr image courtesy of Gardenfork.tv

Photo: Sam De La Garza tweets during a test drive with a For Fiesta fan.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Top 15 Reasons People Join Volunteer Boards

In today's tough sponsorship market, many organizations find sponsors by networking among their Board members. These key volunteers can provide warm leads, or tap their own marketing budgets. They can't, however, sell your deal for you. Unlike traditional philanthropy where volunteers do the asking, sponsorship is still a deal you'll have to cut yourself. But an empowered, well connected Board member can significantly shorten your sales cycle by opening the right doors.

It's important to understand why people join Boards and committees, in order to know what it will take to motivate and maintain members who are committed to the organization. The top 15 reasons why people become involved on Boards and committees include:

1. To use professional and personal knowledge, skills and talents

2. To develop new knowledge and skills

3. To be involved in purposeful and meaningful work

4. To play an active role in decision-making

5. To help an organization, a program or cause

6. To learn about an organization, program or cause

7. To meet people

8. To gain recognition and skills

9. To have a title or add to a résumé

10. To increase one’s profile in the community in order to advance political aspirations

11. To feel useful and needed

12. To contribute to social change

13. To use leisure time productively

14. To have fun

15. To work with people who have similar beliefs, values or interests

The combination of motives vary with different individuals. Understanding each member's motives will improve teamwork between Board and staff.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Beyond "Knowledge is Power"

Thought leaders have an edge during tough times because they have the power to attract customers with useful content. Trouble is, creating good content is hard work. Time consuming though it may be, the value gained from transferring knowledge has never been greater. I'm not talking about information, but content that transforms the customer. It teaches a new skill or empowers customers to take educated risks.

The emotional payoff to learning something useful is that it empowers the customer to feel more competent--which fosters confidence. Research shows that confident people are also more expressive, as Malcolm Gladwell so deftly illustrates in The Tipping Point. They are more likely to be mavens and share what they've learned and from whom they learned it--YOU!

In the past few years, I've watched with fascination the steady commitment American Express Open is making toward small business by sharing knowledge. I was honored when they quoted from my book The RenGen in a recent edition of Open Forum. Full article here.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Virgin Fest Gets Real, Wins Sponsors

After three years of staging the Virgin Mobile Festival at Pimlico Race Course near Baltimore, factors including the tanking economy caused organizers to consider a different sponsorship model. Organizers embraced the bad news realities and offered sponsors opportunities to help people get on their feet. One of the between-stage attractions was the Kyocera-sponsored “Lucky Layoff Lounge,” for example. There was also the “Pink Slip Piñata” contest for a chance to pick up a free Virgin cell phone.
“It was an experiment that we wanted to do,” said Virgin Mobile USA’s Ron Faris, senior director of brand marketing and innovation. “We were all fed up with the bad news. Every time you turn on the TV there’s nothing but bad news. It was the recession, layoffs, swine flu, all this crap that was just sucking the energy out of everybody."

The Virgin Mobile FreeFest was, of course, free for some 35,000 fans thanks to the support of more than a dozen major sponsors. But it was a success because of the integration of those sponsorships in a way that not only didn’t feel oppressive to concertgoers but gave them a chance to interact.

“It was a challenge,” Faris said. “We had a person dedicated on our team whose sole responsibility was to make sure that all our partnerships were organic, so nothing really stuck out like a sore logo. We made sure we helped those sponsors integrate their experiences seamlessly with the vibe. A lot of press has reported that there were a lot of sponsors but there weren’t a lot of complaints of those sponsors there."

“Some types of experiences can become like these branded-logo festivals and it’s really not endemic of the venue or what we’re trying to do. When you get to the reality of how to do this event, it’s easy for people to think 'Oh, Richard (Branson) cut a check.’ But he didn’t cut a check. This is a Virgin Mobile initiative. He’s always been a bit of a spiritual leader for us, for lack of a better word, but at the end of the day it’s always been Virgin Mobile and their sponsors that really brought this experience.”

Getting real. Sponsors and sponsees who get real about helping people solve or assuage the difficulties of dire times, rather than glossing over them, will win hearts and minds. (Not to mention media mentions).

Click here for full story.

Flickr image courtesy of Virgin.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Mad Men's Online Lesson: Poke Fun At Yourself

This fall, Mad Men relaunched to a flurry of positive press. Even Frank Rich found a way to work it into his usual, scalding column for the New York Times. The resounding refrain is that Mad Men has more social relevance and more cultural clout than it does viewers. Okay fine, if you're not trying to sell advertising. If you are...and they are!...then you need to expand your audience. So what's a brand to do? Build out it's digital footprint, that's what. Especially if the show edges toward cult status, has a rigid leading man, dramatic undertones, and a pre-1968 script as Mad Men does. The conversational possibilities with social media dimensionalize the show's content.

Mad Men is winning on the Web because it refuses to take itself too seriously. It was one of the first TV shows to set up Twitter accounts for it's main characters. By assuming a tongue-in cheek attitude, Mad Men swings open the door for peeps to pile in. Take it's new avatar app. I did. See.

Many traditional brands can learn a lesson from Mad Men's joie de vivre attitude. If you want to:
• engage an audience
• get people to participate
• help people express themselves

Then you must accept the mess that follows. Why not design for it? By embracing a devil-may-care attitude online a brand can have more fun--throw a party, even. Martini anyone?

Hat tip Marci Alboher.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Internet's Hoover Dam: Harnessing the Power of Collective Creativity

Clay Shirky makes a powerful point in his recent TED talk. He says our generation is experiencing "The largest increase in expressive capability in human history." No one can argue that the force of this massive outpouring of creative expression is fueling radical change. The evidence of it is all around us.

This Sunday in the NYTimes, Rob Walker's article about Quirky.com talks about collective creativity. Quirky.com is a site where members post and collaborate on product ideas. The goal is to hone a concept, bring it to market, and share proceeds among the inventor and collaborators.

What Shirky's remarks and Quirky.com have in common is the idea that creativity can be harnessed as a collective force.

Our capability to collectivize our creative powers is not what fascinates me. It's what's driving us to do it. My last book RenGen argues that we are becoming collectively creative because we are in the process of creating a new culture. It's a big job that requires many minds. These two authors point out that it's happening. And it's making all sorts of social and commercial innovations possible. These aren't just hopeful signs, they are guideposts to the future. And they prove the point that the ways we live, work, and play--in essence our culture--is being re-organized around collaborative principles, not competitive ones.

I wonder. What kind of person will succeed in such a world? Who will be the dominant Alpha's in the collaborative, creative new order?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Why Purple Cow Still Has Legs

Last month, a man walked up to me after a talk I gave and asked me about my being a Purple Cow. I was flattered. It's been several years since Seth Godin selected my agency to be a Purple Cow--firms that "make their clients remarkable."
The Purple Cow brand celebrates pioneers who take their people and clients down roads less traveled. When we learned we were chosen, I remember popping for a purply sushi feast and more wine than was prudent. We felt validated.

Truth be told, being a Purple Cow can be exhausting. Clients chicken out. Employees need constant bucking up. You walk away from certain kinds of business, despite the panicky looks from your bookkeeper. You’re always trading comfort for creativity. The upside? Freedom, peace of mind, pride of workmanship. Much, much more.

The Purple Cow designation has proven to be a classic. It still has legs. Who knew?

Back in 2003, Seth Godin wasn't Seth Godin. Sure, he was an important business author. Today, he's a mega-watt luminary and heir apparent to
Tom Peters' pulpit. I'd like to argue that the Purple Cow brand was an enduring hit for reasons other than it's inventor's celebrity. That's because the concept has two main ingredients--something old and something new.

Old: A symbol. Symbols are visual and have been used to communicate meaning as far back as cave drawings. Imagery is engaging shorthand. It immediately conjures a picture in our minds. And it's translatable; symbols make impact with a picture. Any graphic designer worth their salt will tell you that animal imagery is especially useful since it’s open-ended and comic: AFLAC duck, Energizer bunny, GEICO gecko.

New: Collaborative format. In the emerging culture, collaboration is how we’ll work. Almost every aspect of the Purple Cow brand has been a collaboration. The Big Moo, published in 2005 as a follow up to the first Purple Cow book, was a collaboration of 33 of the world’s best business minds. In similar fashion, I remember our team having to apply for Purple Cow consideration online. We took it very seriously. We haiku-ed the application's 50 word limit like a pack of Scrabble nerds. Collaboration is what makes participation platforms so powerful, fun even. And it ensures a "pimp your peeps" dynamic whereby the collaborators bring their micro-audiences with them.

The old + new remix is hot. People want to cling to what's familiar. Now more than ever. But they fear they'll miss the boat as things transform. So, they want what's now. Give 'em both.
I never saw a purple cow,
I never hope to see one,
But I can tell you any how,
I'd rather be than see one.


photo by Linda Cronin

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Social Entrepreneurs Sponsor Pizza Farm

Last week, Project M hosted Pizza Farm, a collaborative effort between designers and farmers in Connecticut. The event showcased a lush local harvest by arraying it artfully on pizza. All the ingredients, from the flour for the crust to the vegetables and meats were donated by local farmers. Everyone ate free.

Pizza Farm was sponsored by Winterhouse Institute, which focuses on non-profit, self-initiated projects that support design education and social and political initiatives. In January 2009, the Institute began a two-year project, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation with a $1.5 million grant, to develop collective action and collaboration for social impact across the design industry.

Winterhouse and Project M's students mounted the event in just two weeks. They got the farmers' cooperation, prepped the food, secured a venue in Canaan, Conn., and promoted it with a snappy marketing blitz: smartly designed tees, ads and signs, Facebook, Flickr and buzz.

This spirit of social enterprise is catalytic. The road ahead may be perilous for some time now as we weather a dire economy. But examples like these, where young social entrepreneurs make things happen, have the power to change the tone of life to one of hope. And who wouldn't find that a delicious prospect?

Hat tip Steven Heller