system two

system two
start-up thinking in the enterprise

Thursday, 30 April 2009

the shock doctrine

Ordinarily I wouldn't just post stuff being talked about elsewhere - but this is excellent

punk rock is fake...

"Punk rock was profoundly important to me. The power, the rage and the message. It was authenticity incarnate."

really? I have never been able to see unrestrained anger and rage as anything other than chaotic and destructive.

That the frustration and rage of punk resonated with many people is undeniable - but did it provide any answers?

When people, whether on the web or in real life, talk in such black and white terms about such complex feelings - I always find myself taking everything they're saying with a hefty pinch of salt.....

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

iggy & car insurance - a brands inhumanity

A classic example of a brand breaking our first core condition - congruence - you pay an aging rocker a load of cash to tell users how great your product is

only issue being a) he doesn't use the product he's endorsing (so what we say - how many celebs use the stuff they're asked to promote) but......b) he couldn't even if he wanted to - they don't insure musicians

a serious mismatch between what the brand is outwardly saying - and what is actually going on for it internally - plainly the brand isn't anywhere near as rock and roll as it was pretending to be

an insurance company brand jacking the inglorious bastards tailor (see here) - now that would make a good ad....

its your mess - its not "mine"

brand after brand - food retailers, insurance providers, car manufacturers will tell you that their brand - is "yours" Your M&S, Your Asda....

but what if I don't want it?

what if we don't share your values or ethics - you don't know anything about me - why do you want to give me something?

Reading a "do psychology in 10 minutes" blog and realizing ownership = loyalty - then plastering the word "your" over point of sale - doesn't make it real.

being human in action....

But this is being human....

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

software for emergencies.....

the shock doctrine in all its glory....

microsoft launch a piece of software so you can keep track of your "loved ones" in an emergency

wow - what a useful piece of kit - thanks microsoft - thanks for caring so much about me that you want to keep me in a perpetual loop of fear and anxiety.

swine flu isn't going to kill you, (statistically) I can tell you with some certainty you are never going to fall out of the air whilst flying / get caught in a firestorm / get blown away by a hurricane

yes - bad things do happen, but it is illogical, irrational and unhealthy to spend the time and energy we all do worrying about stuff that is (statistically) never likely to happen to us - in doing so we distort and reduce our lives to mere existences.

Monday, 27 April 2009

being human - the practical application...vol. 1

Does some of the methodology that psychotherapy employs to facilitate a therapeutic relationship have any bearing for brands trying to be more human - and (by my definition), more successful?

I'm studying person centred psychotherapy - which is luckily light on structural processes and heavy on existential "belief". Evidence suggests that therapeutic change will occur if the therapist is able to offer 3 "core conditions" to their client. These are:

1. Congruence
2. Empathy
3. UPR (unconditional positive regard)

Congruence is the matching of the therapists internal state of being (happy, angry, sad, confused, bored etc) with what they are conveying outward - their words and body language.

Empathy, is the therapists ability to step inside the clients world and "feel" what the client is going through, without being so immersed in the clients emotional story they become overwhelmed and unable to remain objective.

UPR is unconditional positive regard for the person with whom you are speaking. It doesn't mean you have to be their best mate - but however obnoxious, difficult or unpleasant the person might be – or whatever they might have done - a therapist needs to be able to keep in mind the persons intrinsic humanity - their capability to become more functional, less distressed (and distressing).

So what does all this mean for brands....

Perhaps the biggest single "change" for people undergoing psychotherapy is a migration away from a linear, static rigidity - towards a more fluid, organic, process driven state of mind. None of the core conditions describe places where a person should "get to" or things they should "be". Instead they map out what we call “states of being”.

For a brand to become human then it would need to embrace this fundamental shift. Not in the sense of having to correct itself in the rational sense of the word - taking itself from a state of being “wrong” to a new state of being “right”. Instead, congruence specifically, is about a brand being transparent – whatever state it finds itself in - day in day out – good and bad.

If the product launch was a disaster – then the resulting frustration within the business would be something it would be ok to have on display (so long as it was “owned” and not blamed on a third party!).

Best example in the “real” world? ASDA (Wal-Mart). A company that shoves the message that their staff are “always happy to help” down the throats of its poor customers when it’s patently obvious most of their staff are anything but (I don’t blame them – if I worked for less than the minimum wage in those sorts of conditions I wouldn’t have a smile on my face either).

Empathy is where our new approach comes closest to conventional marketing practice. Most brands will tell you “understanding our customers” is something at the heart of their business but what we mean by empathy goes way beyond that forced, grin for grin’s sake, “understanding” most brands are trying to find in faceless qualitative surveys.

This is a real connection. Knowing when there is a genuine deficiency in the lives of your users and filling it with something modest, appropriate and sustainable (Humvee anyone?) - as opposed to creating meaningless iterations of the same pointless product – blindly manufacturing a false appetite for something with little or no utility (hair care product / zit cream / razor blades – pretty much any FMCG product!).

But empathy goes beyond these obvious crass calls to over-consume. It is truly knowing how your users interact with your product, as opposed to how you think they should use it (the / nike plus – f**king hello????) and, although it might be heresy to suggest it - its about understanding when to leave people alone. How many brands actively chose not to target potential customers when their product isn't appropriate? To give users space to explore other aspects of their life (another version of the Bowie back catalog anyone?) knowing that in the long run, when their users do decide to pick up their need for their product, they'll be in a stronger position to sell them something they really want.

And lastly the glue that binds these 2 concepts together - UPR.

For a brand, to show unconditional positive regard would be simply about prizing its users, even when they aren’t acting in a manner in which the brand would choose – when they’re complaining, arguing and even causing the business to lose money. Dell is by far the best example of this in the online world. At a time when a single blogger was destroying its reputation (with good reason) – instead of closing him down, they took everything Jeff Jarvis was saying to heart – and fundamentally transformed their business in the process – a true road to Damascus moment.

As a user, witnessing a brand cherishing me when I’m being a pain in the ass, means I’m much more likely to come back to you once I’m done shouting.

So what does this all mean?

Well, for a brand to demonstrate to its users, wherever they touch its business, that it understands them as human beings is massively hard. In some ways it runs completely counter to received marketing wisdom, business practice and basic economics. But times are changing. Following this massive financial de-leveraging, the next 20 years are likely to be defined by thrift, sustainability, locality and proportional consumption. Being human resonates with this new world.

Arguably remaining “inhuman” (in the same way as Stern would argue the case for environmentalism), is economically, a bigger risk. The world is too connected, conversations between global villagers too easily overheard, for a brand not to live in the manner in which an increasing proportion of its users are choosing to do.

As a final thought, and maybe most significantly of all, all of this means that those working for a brand, all those millions of people across the globe who spend their days creating and maintaining these most unusual of economic "memes" ultimately need to share and resonate with "human" values. In other words - the world needs to get less dysfunctional before brands do - its one of the reasons why I’m studying for a psychotherapy masters…..

good consumers....

The above is something I've been thinking about for a while and needed to get down on paper. In a nutshell...

Good consumers (defined as people who buy stuff they don't need - as always - I include myself in the group) are, by definition (it is not rational to spend money you don't have, on stuff you don't need), more psychologically disturbed than those who are able to moderate their desire to shop.

Or to put it another way - the greater the psychological disturbance the more likely a person is to consume additively and compulsively.

2 outcomes which flow from this....

1. It is not in the interests of those who make vast sums of money selling stuff that we don't need (in other words powerful people and the politicians who are elected at their behest), to try and address the explosion in mental health issues which has occurred since the 1970s, since their wealth (and power) depends on people’s “unhappiness”.

2. If you're a manager of a brand, and you want to sell more of your product – it is rational to target those who are psychologically disturbed - which in itself is fairly easy given the correlation between poor psychological health and most of the activities which pass as "normal" within our society (working excessively, smoking, drinking, believing in god, sitting on the sofa watching TV, levels of stress, attaining poor / excellent grades at school, v. low / v. high wage jobs etc).

My evidence for this? Apart from reading all the usual books on consumption and related topics (The Overspent American, The Growth Fetish, No Logo etc) I don't have any. Perhaps someone could supply me with some...

Thursday, 23 April 2009

being human...

In the spirit of the web being a collection of half formed ideas - below is a presentation I found lurking in a long forgotten corner of my hard drive.

I never finished annoying habit of mine.

Much of it still resonates with me though, so I thought why not throw it out there and see what comes back

Being Human Slides

Strategy before operations – why most digital agencies can do better…

I haven't yet worked in a digital agency which has a decent strategy process to use with its clients.

They’ll tell you they have one – but where’s the bits of paper? Who in the organisation has a strategic training and spends time on it? And more importantly – when was the last time they actually used it and followed it though?

Only by developing a solid strategy (vision of the future) can brands then figure out what they really want to achieve - and from there – what to build / design / launch to get there.

It’s understandable in many ways. Human nature suggests that having won an account, the temptation to jump into operational mode and prove you are delivering something often means a strategic look isn't taken as clearly, or for as long, as perhaps it should be.

Something I I've picked up from years of working with the people at strategic thinking group, is without a clear, tangible process that enables people to paint a simple vision of what they think the future will look like - good things come harder.

My own ideas are coming soon….

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

are we f**king stupid?

I'd forgotten how powerful the writing of Noam Chomsky is.

“Manufacturing Consent”, “Hegemony or Survival” - masterpieces - because they speak truths - real, difficult to admit, deep down, "bollocks he's right" truths.

He came to mind reading about CIA water boarding.

Fact is - anyone of us would admit to blowing up the twin towers if you nearly drowned us 180 times a month – why was this pretty obvious logic ignored by everyone? Chomsky would consider this "manufacturing consent".

When dissident Saudi pilot flying planes into skyscrapers - that is terrorism. (Lets all stop pretending it was illiterate Afghani tribesmen with 3 hours behind the wheel of a crop duster shall we?)

And when the US tortures detainees - that's also terrorism right?


How is it that basic, logical statements like the ones above (which are kind of irrefutable unless you believe the world was created in 6 days - or you're thick) - get ignored? The reason, if we're being honest, is because those of us doing the ignoring, don't hold the same point of view as the people being ignored.

This embedded collective blind spot is the mechanic behind the manufacturing of consent. It is this hard wired, tribal, group instinct which leads to so much dysfunctional behaviour in the world. It is the reason why, whilst 30% of Americans find themselves obese, millions of others on our tiny planet die of hunger. It is the reason our economic systems routinely collapse. The reason 1 in 3 of us are unhappy.

Us humans - we're f**king stupid sometimes....

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

understanding creates participation

5 years ago I didn't write a blog - it was too much hassle - I couldn't see the point

Now, living and breathing the online and psychological worlds for so long - I find myself almost enjoying it (I have to admit - I love the thinking - I'm not so good at the structure / detail of committing my thoughts to virtual paper)

so I began to wonder what had changed - and it struck me that understanding had created participation.

obvious - but something I think we forget - I saw a stat today - 75% of 18-34 year old Amercians' are on facebook and Myspace

the cynic will tell you that 99% of them are just trying to get laid - but imagine what they'll all be doing in 5 years time....

Sunday, 12 April 2009

beelzebub's economic feast

Peak oil created the current financial melt down.

Few people in power talk about this of course. To do so would be to accept an important variable in the well being of western consumerism is unknown - and we humans (and our money) don't do unknowns.

A Buddhists might point out nothing is in our control - and attempts to kid ourselves otherwise only drive us further into the warm embrace of chaos - but we digress...

The point is - a lack of oil (whether real or imaginary) seems likely to drive its price higher any time anyone mentions “green shoots”.

For this reason, my prediction is we'll see politicians continue to deny, in black and white terms, the possibility of depression (as they are now doing, by frequently talking about the end of a “recession” they have no way of knowing exists and whose presence no data currently supports) but begin to speak about economic recovery much more obliquely.

This is Beelzebub’s economic feast.

Economic stagnation becomes a self fulfilling prophesy - the resources on which growth is based, becoming a luxury item, every time the economy looks like its turning a corner.

Good news for oil speculators, the green movement and those of us with stupidly large mortgages though....

Monday, 6 April 2009

car scrapping schemes

there is, pretty much, a worldwide consensus that we're in a financial mess because of a debt fueled consumption binge.

Many of us (myself included) rushed to buy a load of crap we didn't need - and in the process, hastened the destruction of the very ecosystem on which our lives depend.

The solution from the people who are meant to be in charge?

Encourage people to take on more debt, to replace something that doesn't need to be replaced, and in the process consume more resource the planet doesn't have.