Can Contradictory Approaches Co-Exist?

There’s been some nipping at Google’s reigning advertising heels lately. Players like Adify, and Skyrider are all attempting to reinvent the game by making sure which ads show up where and giving up the controls of that to both buyers and sellers of advertising to work that out. Personally, I think that’s a positive step towards democratizing the practice of advertising itself, but then what about Videos and Social Media?

Although the monetization thinking is emerging in to models like MetaCafe and BrightCove, the predominantly open and inviting environment of social spaces puts the traditional contextual ad model in question. Social spaces work because of shared connections and interests. When advertising tries to guess what that context means, it is generally mistaken and thus gets largely ignored. The potential to be relevant is obviously huge, but is contextual advertising” that was never asked for really the answer? Are social networks themselves the answer to real contextual relevance? Or is it something else like entirely different like the co-browsing applications such as Medium and Flock?

The Giga OM blog had a very interesting perspective on this, and it got me thinking. Just as the telephone started out wanting be what the radio ultimately became, there’s a need and room for both solutions. Similarly, I don’t believe advertising relevance is about one approach vs. another. Things are only contradictory or opposing when you can’t see the whole picture. Maybe contextual placements to recommendations is the Yin to the Yang the ad industry desperately needs. Nature co-exists with contradiction, how would an interconnected market ecosystem be any different?

Is Spin Still “In”?

For those in the know, this PR effort on behalf of the cable industry is obviously BS but will the subscribers to their services know any different? The same kind of infoganda that keeps certain powers that be and certain issues like renewable energy distorted within the public perception is very much in charge of our perceptions. Why?

If markets are indeed conversations a-la the Cluetrain, and openness was supposed to make us more responsible (thus truthful) then why do people still buy into the hype? I sure don’t have all the answers, but I can offer a question to you that may be revealing:

Is it easier to have the “truth” delivered than to work for it?

Right now, the Internet savvy like us who dig for info, and quest for meaning are few. Most people next door, even if they use the Internets do "The Google" or "The eMail" or check "The AOL" and have no clue about mashups, diggs,, technorati and the like. Until that changes, I think “Spin” has a nice pad with a beach front view in the mediascape, don’t you?

Are Album Cover Mashups Just the beginning?

With the recent "napsterization" of YouTube, copyright owners are screaming bloody murder on more than one occasion as indicated here. However, as I'd mentioned in an earlier post, I believe this is the beginning of the ultimate media power shift : The Audience is the Media.

It's just a matter of time before innovative business models allow users to mashup copyrighted content and use them to create recommendation engines that put traditional ad models like adwords to shame. The numbers don't mean much now anyway...

After all, what’s really the difference between the CBS fall lineup and your YouTube playlist other than scale and access to professional content? Think you might be amongst those who might create such things? We should talk...

Who Do You Connect To?

I hear the same complaints about vendors, partners, friends, colleagues, employees and bosses from the same people all too often. In fact, I’ve even done it myself enough times to finally ask WHY? Amazingly, when you ask the right questions, the right answer just comes along:

Our relationships both in business and in life are nothing more than mirrors of ourselves.

The choices we make have nothing to do with inevitability, but everything to do with who we feel we are when we make them.

We are continuously authoring a story of who we are by the choices we make. We seek what we feel we don’t have enough of, we admire the qualities we think we need more of, and we despise the qualities we don’t like in ourselves...all to create the ideal version of ourselves. So why all the complaints? René Magritte's "False Mirror" image above might be a big clue!

Maybe you don’t know yourself as well as you might think!

If you can look at your choices (friends, associates, vendors, partners, etc.) objectively, you might just have all the answers to all your complaints. What you choose to do about them is another matter altogether...

Is Design Really Strategy?

Design is obviously important to business, but despite the success of Apple, Target, Ikea, Philips, BMW and other design-centric organizations, so many business leaders still view design and design thinking as “decorative” or “aesthetic styling” after the “strategy” has already has been worked out.

Of course guys like me (and Fast Company) can make a case for why design IS strategy, simply by the fact that strategy is nothing more than clarity of vision for next actions. When it comes to deciding what to do next, what leaves no room for ambiguity?

But is design really strategy or is this "Design IS Strategy" another business philosophy du jour to sell more design and design-thinking books?

Most business leaders might argue its strictly about numbers. Even though I can still make the case that numbers not only can be misleading, they don’t create customers (more specifically woo your customers into falling in love with your brand). If the sole purpose of business is to create a customer as the late Peter Drucker made evident, then shouldn't the core factor be given more importance?

The reality is that this is a loaded question because nothing specific (unlike originality) can be strategy. In a unpredictable marketplace with situational variables, strategy, or the deciding of what's next (to do, to go, etc.) is largely dependent on the current cultural, political and technological context. That said, DESIGN infused into your brand experience not only doesn't hurt, it is a real advantage.

For one, design thinking is about possibilities realized. I can talk or write about about fusing the colors of your imagination all day long, but none of it is going to inspire you or your customers to feel anything like what your see here and the Sony Bravia Ad here.

Design is good. It should be integrated into strategy, and thinking like designers (possibility vs probability-based thinking) can only help in today's hyper-competitive markets with fickle customers searching for the next thing they "might" miss out on. Design makes them stop and notice. That's definitely a solid strategic move in my books.

Is Leadership Really Natural?

This popular video of seeming order amidst the chaos better know as “Indian traffic” may be a case in point of how we collectively make decisions. This may also be a model for the nature of distributed communications that is The Internet.

See, ‘till date organizations have taken cues from what I believe is an incomplete observation of nature. In nature there are “alpha” leaders of packs of wolves, deer and the like, but as soon as the 51st percentile of the population decide on an action like which way to go, the “alpha” leader is left to catch up with the pack. We see this with flocks of birds to ant colonies and beehives, yet our focus still seems to be on the individual that “seem” to call the shots.

If you’ve ever observed our modern day leaders like politicians and CEOs, you will quickly find this same “chaotic democracy” in action. The most influential leaders don’t really drive others to their own agendas, they find ideological groups already in agreement with where their agenda’s fit. In other words, the 51% leaning already existed before the “leader” showed up and capitalized on it!

Does that mean leadership is unnecessary, and we can self govern based on "true democracy"? We all know that's not the case! I think its more of how "democracy" is branded. Democracy in the modern sense sorta works because everyone participating within it believe that they are all "equals". In reality, EQUALITY never plays a role in true progress (in art, science, or politics), but the "belief" in equality is important for leaders to motivate action.

The traffic in India video above is a situation that works there (I know, I've seen it 1st hand many times), because everyone is concerned about managing their path within chaos and they automatically self-regulate. However, the rules of conduct (some unspoken) have already been determined (that's where the leadership piece fits).

Think about it. Not because I’m asking you to, but because thought leadership is real leadership. Especially when we live in a connected world where the participation of it’s citizen’s are already mimicking biological systems. Seeing the nature of chaos has advantages in your market ecosystem like never before! There’s a reason that “servant leader” buzzword came around...maybe Indian traffic and flocks of geese can really put it into perspective.

Originality IS Strategy

YouTube clones like the ones here, here and here, Flickr clones (like the one shown), and Google clones are abundant these days in cyberspace. How far can these guys actually hope to go?

Back when I wrote The Business Model IS the Brand or when my Global Brand Network colleague Dr. Dan Herman observed that the Brand IS the Strategy, our instincts were on the money but the bigger pattern eluded us (or at least me, I can’t speak for Dan).

Since then, being on the road to following my own entrepreneurial dreams and actively innovating for other emerging brands, it finally became crystal clear! The only real advantage in today’s hyper-competitive marketplace has nothing to do with “best practices” or “market share” but reinventing the market to follow ones one unique path. In other words, it actually is this simple:

Originality IS Strategy!

Think about all the great brands that have prospered and endured in today’s hyper-competitive world. How many of them are “me too” companies, and how many of them behave like their perceived competitor? If you know Virgin, ING, U2, Apple, Cirque or any of the other one-of-a-kind institutions you can already see it. They move to their own pulse and make decisions based on their own world views.

In the age of trackable behaviors and measurable metrics (made up premise or not), it’s easy to get sucked in to performing what you believe the market wants you to do, but that’s only on the surface.

Copying is never cool, no matter what the stats tell you. We can smell lame a mile away like in the case of the feds trying to be YouTube here.

In the age of chaos, the true market gems are the ones that follow their own rules (here's another cool example).

I always feel like somebody’s tracking me?

The intent of this eye-tracker video at was about usability (and the utter uselessness of placing "contextual" advertising was just a bonus discovery). The fact remains though, that no one in the ad insertion game seems to be letting up. The recent BusinessWeek article on click fraud should have been a wake up call to innovate towards a better WOM (word of mouth) solution, but instead, it seems to form groups to babysit the growing problem of click accountability.

When you have billions of dollars worth of turf to protect, you really don’t have the luxury of game changing ideas. Growth is already doing a number on the innovation potential of your organization and now its just about maintainance.

So if ad placements don’t really register, then why keep doing it and why build revenue projections based on them? I think it comes down to the sperm analogy I made sometime back, and it really comes down to the cost of managing that "hit or miss" approach. If the costs are manageable, and we can invent the metrics to prove it (at least for this quarter), so be it!

As for the feeling of somebody tracking me (to push useless ads in my path), here are some things you can do. If that fails, then maybe advertising ourselves with huge banner ads will have the same effect of obscurity as the ad in the Etre example did :)

10 Things that Kill the Cool Online:

In my last post I bitched and rambled on about the lunacy of commercializing previously “cool” spaces online. It just occurred to me that the signs are pretty simple if you just take the time to look. Here’re my top ten reasons why “cool” dies an untimely death:

10. The owners of the site1 notice the activity and start making plans to cash in.

9. Outside “experts” come in and advise the founders of site1 on what they should do next.

8. The site1 owners make deals with advertisers and technology partners and the mainstream PR machine unleashes and goes rampant.

7. The people that never “got it” before suddenly show up at site1.

6. These “new people” start asking the existing site1 members about what they missed or interrupt them with other irrelevant questions.

5. The new people start spewing buzzwords and promoting their new Internet real estate businesses.

4. The site1 owners ignore the conversations and add new features like blogs and address books while big plans for version 3.0 cook in the background.

3. The original members start dropping off faster than the new ones come online at site1.

2. Somebody posts a “you suck” piece about the site1 and others agree.

1. A new site2 pops up with most of the original site1 members there.

BTW, not a direct correlation...I wish the YouTube guys all the success! But check out the video for some apropriate humor. When these are gone, the clown suits have defintely invaded. Enjoy:

Will Commercialization Kill the Cool?

Online spaces, like any other business goes through The Clown Suit Syndrome / Jump The Shark desperation evident when TV programs fail.

The current hype around social networks documented so well by Pete here on this mashable post and the Ad Age speculations that follow are no different. When you change what makes something original and cool you’re simply asking for trouble. Enter clown suits and shark ramps...

If you’ve ever participated in a social network, you’ve already seen what happens when the conversation goes from stimulating to “self promotional” to the utterly lame. The exodus happens when the original reason people come to a social network gets displaced by what Ernie Mosteller called "late adopter" participation (in a recent conversation we just had) that have nothing to do with what attracted the interesting conversations there in the first place.

The last era of marketing bottled “cool” for sale so often with reasonable success that most in the profession believe that anyplace with eyeballs mean “captive” audiences. They are sadly mistaken in my humble opinion. It’s not just my faint little rant at the edge of the blogosphere, its the rules of human nature.

We are social to satisfy a need. Unless that need is understood, no amount of marketing is going to have an impact. Just as multi-level marketers killed the party over at Ryze, the banner ads and shameless plugs will likely do the same at MySpace and GoogTube.

Mindsdhare is about meaning. Meaning happens when we are able to share the other person’s context. In other words, you have to “get” what they are into rather than using their space to push your own agenda. Seth makes a great point about that here. So does OM Malik as he breaks down what is really important for social networks here. For all the hypemongers rushing to create their own little 1.6 billion dollar paradise, it might pay more to listen.

Cool is about originality, it can’t be “contextually advertised” to become relevant to people who didn’t ask for it. Commerce is nothing more than an exchange of value, and that is absolutely natural. “Commercialization” however becomes a dirty word in today’s context because the attempts to date are “unnatural” because they go against the real reasons behind human behavior. Interestingly, we now have a medium (The Internet) that mimics biological connections. Commercialization doesn't have to be ugly. We can innovate towards a better, more meaningful solution.

Merchants of Cool?

These guys are hell bent on capturing the young "consumer". As lame as their "So, tell me what's cool?" approach is, they are still in charge of serving up the goods to feed the machine. Those of us in the business of creating brands that create customers now have a choice:

1. Believe that most people are the clueless masses and thus persuade them decide what they need and create our bottom line.


2. Believe that true democracy (collective decision making) is inherent to nature and create products and services to serve people where they are naturally headed.

Which way would you go? Why?

Black on Ads

I blogged about this w/ the Jessica Simpson video sometime back but this originating segment is a classic. In the era of mashable networks, new models are of course emerging but none that are mature enough to stand up to Mr. Black's verbal freight trains (yet). Enjoy!

Free Hugs!

I've always observed that true leadership is about finding what is universal and using it to motivate others to one's cause (regardless of context). This guy is definitely that in the truest sense of the word. You can't fake being real. Real always has the advantage...very cool!

Roger McNamee on Social Media

I'm think sync'ing with this guy. With "deep tagging" practices through offerings like, I think it will become more about "matching" vs. "searching" can be argued that they become one and the same. Enjoy the vid.

© 2006 GROW |