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April 2007

Posts from March 2007

May You Live in Exponential Times

This is a great video looking at the rate of change in the world today. Things are changing faster than ever before, which makes for fascinating viewing for those of us lucky enough to be alive now.

The vid describes this as Exponential Times. The transhumanist movement posits that this will ultimately lead to a singularity - some point in the future when technological change becomes so rapid that we cannot even imagine what things might be like from our point of view today.

[At this point we all become Posthhuman, a scenario explored in the rather wonderful Down and Out in the Magic Kingdon by Cory "Boing Boing" Doctorow.]

When fiber optics get really clever and bandwidth becomes near enough infinite, you will be able to access all the accumulated knowledge of the world in seconds. With the semantic web, those data will self organise and make their own connections. When everyone is connected, we might find out what the killer app for mankind is.

Sounds grandiose, I suppose. 

Termites aren't very bright. But collectively they learn - the hive has an emergent property akin to consciousness - older termite colonies behave more cautiously than younger ones, even though all the individual termites that make it up will be new - the life cycle of a colony is far, far longer than the lifespan of an individual. [See the fantastic Emergence by Stephen Johnson for more on this]

I wonder what the emergent properties of humanity might be.

Amara's Law: "We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run." By Roy Amara, past president of The Institute for the Future.

BeerSphere II


Hello. Well the last one was fun so I thought we should have another.

So, next Wednesday, April 4th, I'll be in the Commercial Tavern, on Commercial St. E1. from 7pm.

Since so many lovely people came last time I'm feeling a bit braver and may even try to reserve a table or something.

Come one, come all, drink and be merry, for tomorrow there's work.

The first rule of BeerSphere is that you are more than welcome to talk about BeerSphere, should you want to.

Marketing as Product Experience

The Nine Inch Nails have been brewing something very interesting indeed. Trent Reznor has always been an interesting chap and the upcoming album is being launched via a remarkably complex  mystery.

It's been covered well elsewhere, but if you've not come across it yet it began with a mysterious slogan on a tour t-shirt - iamtryingtobelieve - that led to a website that began an interactive narrative for the fans.

And it is for the fans - elements of the story have been left on USB sticks in the bathrooms of NIN concerts, containing Mp3s and clues, leading to phone numbers and websites and conspiracy. It requires high levels of involvement - the more engaged you are with NIN the more you will get out of it.

I could go on to claim this as an excellent transmedia campaign - because, well, it is - and show how it's driving the formation of specific knowledge / brand communities around it, pulling people together and giving them something to do.

It's also clearly tapping in to recombinant culture: on the album website you can download GarageBand files of tracks so you can remix them yourself.

But I thought I'd focus on another aspect of this campaign. Perhaps the most interesting thing I've read about it comes from the mouth of Reznor:

‘The term 'marketing' sure is a frustrating one for me at the moment. What you are now starting to experience IS 'Year Zero'. It's not some kind of gimmick to get you to buy a record - it IS the art form... and we're just getting started. Hope you enjoy the ride.’

It strikes me that this is a very interesting idea. Leland has already written a brilliant post about advertising as product.

But it occurs to me that there are two intersecting trends here and that they feed into a different role for marketing.

Firstly, the man at the end of the tube will soon have complete control over the content he consumes. It follows therefore, that if brand communicators wish to compete for attention, the content brands develop has to be as interesting as entertainment content - art forms like the Year Zero experience.

Secondly, there has been a cultural shift in value away from objects to experiences - gigs, festivals, travelling are at an all time high and part of the identity construction that used to be the domain of what clothes you wore is now enabled by what experiences you choose to take part in.

So then, what if marketing was an experiential extension of the product you buy. Not some kind of gimmick to get you to buy the product, but part of the product experience itself. The beginning of an experience that will be deepened, made richer and more interesting, when you buy the product.

Then the people you want to communicate with - your fans or people in the market for what you sell - will actively seek out your communication, not avoid it.

Digitourists and Digitravellers

My mate Sarah Morning has written an excellent paper about The Digital Consumer that she's kindly allowed me to [re]publish - you can download it at the bottom of the post.

It's an expansive look at the current digital marketing landscape but, like any good planning document, it comes at it from the view of the users, not the technology.

The dominant metaphor for the Internet is that of space. Whereas once we had the information superhighway, now we have uncharted media landscapes and virtual worlds that we Explore or Navigate.

From here the paper makes a brilliant leap - as in the 'real' world, there are different kinds of explorers of the digital landscape and this provides the foundation for a bimodal segmentation of the digital consumer.

Firstly there are Digitourists:

Digitourists essentially look for embassies in the virtual world. They look for sites or brands that act as guides. Digitourists, like any tourists, know exactly what they want to see and what they want to find - whether it be a product or a piece of information.

And then there are the Digitravellers:

Digitravellers are different to Digitourists - no less or no more technologically able in many cases, they want however to explore things for themselves. They want to navigate their own way around the wilderness of information and stories of the internet, roughing it unguided through the digital landscape. Their interest lies not so much in arriving at a piece of information or a particular site, as the Digitourist’s does, but instead on the journey itself. For the Digitraveller it is all about the people they meet and the unexpected, undiscovered places they stumble across along the way.

“A good traveller has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.”
Lao Tzu

The paper goes on to demonstrate how marketing to these different types of digital consumers has to be very different. So much digital display advertising is a translocation of broadcast interruption online, which only makes sense when targeting the Passive Massive in their Digitourist form.

However, if you want to communicate with active Digitravellers, who want to control their experience, then you need to engage not interrupt and this poses a much greater creative challenge, which the paper explores in depth with dozens of great examples.

Sarah's contact details are on the document if you want to get in touch.

Travelling with Moving: The Digital Consumer.

The New Quid Pro Quo


My mate Ben and I have an article in this week's Adweek in the USA, in which we quote Bill Hicks' famous exhortation to marketers.

It grew out of the win - win communication or branded utility idea, where marketing delivers some value to earn the attention of the brand's desired audience.

Today, in response to an aversion to advertising, some of the world’s leading brands have begun to craft an entirely new model for communications to help them earn the right to talk to consumers. They’re doing this by making their marketing valuable, developing brand communications that deliver a genuine service value to consumers, free and with no strings attached.

To build a successful value-added campaign, companies need to identify something that is both useful to consumers and relevant to their brand. Most important, there must be an equitable value transfer. Consumers must enjoy a genuine utility in return for consuming the communication. At their best, brands can create a win-win marketing model whereby consumers get a useful service and the brand builds engagement with its targets.

You can read the whole thing here or download the pdf here, if you want.

PS3 Launch: A Transmedia Campaign

The PS3 launch campaign has broken and it has the hallmarks of a transmedia narrative in the offing.

Obscure, high production LaChappelle-esque film on television and cinema leads the curious to

This place holder site gives nothing away but asks you sign up for updates, insisting on another layer of involvement and permission, the first of which I received today and you can see here.

The email introduces you to Bubba, who appears to be our guide. You can watch him dance here and this guy is another character. Apart from that nothing else is very clear - the narrative looks to be gearing up to begin in earnest and has the look and feel of Wild Palms, which is remarkably appropriate.

PS3 is a perfect client to put transmedia planning ideas into action for. Its audience is exactly the type of active media consumer that wants to get involved with with complex ideas and meshed media narratives: a generation brought up on gaming that wants worlds to explore,  challenges to be rewarded by and an intrinsically participatory relationship with ideas.

As the Passive Massive slowly cease to be the mass and the youth of today become the mainstream of tomorrow, these sort of ideas will become dominant vehicles for brand communication.

Are you Lost?


My mate Rachel found Lost and sent it my way. wants to sign up 7 million players to become the "largest online game ever" and it all started with a URL left on a napkin in a cafe in Oxford.

It works like a kind of social pyramid scheme - you find an invite and then join the game. Once you join you then invite people yourself - the more people that join via your invitation - a unique URL - the more points you get.

It's an interesting experiment - challenging individuals to find ways to actively spread the idea, which has led to urls being scrawled in the sand on beaches in Puerto Rico, written on balloons released over Chicago and slightly disturbing pictures like the one above.

It taps into the transmedia strand we're calling propagation planning - creating ideas that contain their own mechanism for peer to peer transmission. Its creator says  "it is not about content but about spreading an idea" which, when married to Heath's new thinking on the impact of message content being negligible, begins to suggest how brand communication might successfully utilise the power of peer transmission.

As Jenkins has pointed out, you don't need to control the conversation to reap the benefits of the exposure.

I've signed up so if you want to have a look feel free to use this invite:

If I get loads of points and win the grand prize of $5000 I'll buy the drinks at BeerSphere until the money runs out.

Plannersphere Social Network


In my ongoing quest to get people to hang out more and that, I've set up a Ning for the Plannersphere - a social network thing for planners and plannery types. And anyone else who wants to hang out with us.

I have to confess that part of the motivation is the fact that I got to take the url

I'm not sure if this is a good idea or necessary but I thought it might work as a social analogue of the plannersphere wiki and that it might provide people who don't want to blog an easy, relevant online footprint in the Plannersphere.

I guess we'll see. If it takes off I might do fun things like announce BeerSphere on there and stuff. Maybe we can have one at Interesting 07

Russell - can we get a beer sponsor?

Next regular BeerSphere will probably be in the first week of April.