system two

system two
start-up thinking in the enterprise

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

economic permafrost...

Is the economy like permafrost?

Permafrost (as far as I can remember from my school geography) is a fragile lattice of delicate, icy connections - it is extremely delicate. It regenerates very slowly.

I have a mental image of a diagram of how they built oil pipe support struts to sit above it - so it could remain undisturbed.

Once crushed - it takes years to regenerate and grow.

I wonder whether western consumer economies aren't like this. The leverage on which they were based, a fragile network of trust.

Will they ever regenerate? Given the lack of appetite for credit risk, the pension black hole and long term government debt?

Trust is such a human emotion. The FTSE continues to rise on the assumption that we're through the worst and that this belief can be artificially restored. It could take a generation. And if it does. Then the FTSE should be closer to 3000 than 5000.

Friday, 22 May 2009

a stretched skin of contradictions...

World War 2, Vietnam, Thatcherism, The bust and now the financial catastrophe - all disasters  where rationalism made no space for man's, far from perfect, mind.

Peace of mind is more often than not based on finding a balance between the competing forces in one's head - the desire to consume and to be frugal, to run and to take responsibility, to create and to destroy, to be peaceful and be loud, to be solitary and to be part of a community.

We are a stretched skin of contradictions across a drum of opposites.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

borrowed relevance...

Josh Bernoff published a report recently here talking about "boring" brands.

It resonated with me - a lot of the brands I work with at Dig for fire are what he'd define as "boring" - healthcare providers, banks, government departments, building supply merchants and educational institutions - brands that certainly aren't going to be adopted by users just because they're "cool" (I'm aware just using the term "cool" - means I'm likely to be anything but...)

As someone at the coal face of always on marketing, tasked with getting these sorts of brands to exist online, I can attest to the fact that a lot of the issues on a day to day level, come down to brands not being comfortable with "borrowing relevance".

Its not about "cool". Its about convincing brands to get involved with what people are actually talking about, as opposed to what the brand would like them to be talking about.

In other words - there is possibly too much getting stuck up on the relevance of the marketing tactic and not enough understanding, that so long as whatever the application or technology employed (the application, viral, widget, newsfeed, weird bit of technology) resonates with the brand essence - in most cases, that's enough to start.....

So long as they're contributing in a positive way, a brand in unfamiliar territory is something users probably take more notice of, at least initially. Removing friends from your facebook account has got precious little to do with eating burgers but it reinforced Burger King's playful, cheeky brand values. On the other end of the scale, Keep Britain Tidy publishing data in RDF format has nothing directly to do with picking up litter, but being seen at the cutting edge of web 3.0 means the brand can have conversations it could never have had, had it stuck rigidly to its push messaging plan and segmentation model.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

a mid system crisis....

Are the issues in our print media, in our democracy and economy linked?

Like the extreme weather events in the movie the “day after tomorrow”, each seems to be gaining momentum. Should they all peak simultaneously; one can imagine a tear in the fabric of our collective minds which recent history teaches us is not a good thing. Like a collective mid life crisis we appear to be unable to muster the energy to keep the contradictions inherent in our lives at bay.

The problem is one of visibility. The "man in the street" (of which I count myself one) doesn't really understand the mechanics of the world around him. He knows as little about the underlying forces that influence politics, as he does about those which shape the economy and the society in which he lives. He never did. He likely never will. We all pretend we do – but of course, secretly, we don’t.

It is this ignorance, and the appalling liberties sections of society have taken because of it, that is at the heart of the problem. When lack of understanding went hand in hand with the ability to easily ignore - all was well. Now, even though we desperately want to, we simply can't ignore the structural deficiencies in our societal model.

Lets be honest with ourselves. No rational argument in politics, religion or economics can deliver anything like a coherent reason as to why anyone poor should support the status-quo. By anyone's measurement - the inequalities within our societies are shocking - and incredibly, for the last 20 years at least - they seem to have been getting worse. However hard writers on both sides of the political spectrum have tried to justify it, since the death of absolutism, no one has come up with a solution that really works. For my money Marx came close - very close. But unfortunately, practical application was an issue.....

Bottom line - the way we manage society is fundamentally broken, has been for centuries and everyone in real power of course knows this. It is the base from which they govern.

This paradox, this “crisis postponed” is surprisingly well understood. We frequently study it and allude to it in our literature and films (Animal Farm, Chomsky’s life's work, The Matrix, A Scanner Darkly, Fight Club etc). Up until the birth of the web, most of us were happy to mortgage reality, to continue the fiction of a “free” world just to get us through the day.

A juicy steak is a juicy steak - right? here

You were a hard cynic, if for instance, you explicitly accepted the deaths of a proportion of your countrymen in terrorist attacks, and the deaths of millions more in the third world, as a by-product of your need to consume - but in effect that was the decision you made, every day, just by getting out of bed. We have always had the option of facing up to the contradiction - but frankly - there's a Magnum re-run on TV tonight...

Now, with the advent of the very human web, where the sins of the powerful live undiminished, truths – previously avoidable - are increasingly difficult for us to ignore. Contradictions so large that no head burying will prevent them from being noticed, are continually rammed in our faces. Ever wondered why you can only read Private Eye for a couple of plane journeys before you stop buying it?

Newspapers, politics and the economy are being pulled apart by an asymmetric anger of implied understanding. Forget charging for content, or reforming the expenses system. Liquidate all assets and head for the hills….

Friday, 15 May 2009

the 6 c's of social media marketing...

This is something I wrote as the first in a series of articles for our company blog / email

The C’s of social media…

Social media is hot. Everyone wants their campaigns to be social – their advertising to be viral - but what do we actually mean by social media?

Social marketing is a phenomena quite unlike any other that the web has seen. Its effects will be felt throughout our society for years to come. We as a species are rediscovering our connectedness and some would argue our humanity. The late, great Douglas Adams put it very well…

“We are natural villagers. For most of mankind's history we have lived in very small communities in which we knew everybody and everybody knew us. But gradually there grew to be far too many of us, and our communities became too large and disparate for us to be able to feel a part of them, and our technologies were unequal to the task of drawing us together. But that is changing.”

For the full text click here

This epoch busting change will affect everyone. The old media (record labels, film studios and newspapers) are already feeling its full force. Many household name brands – EMI, the New York Times, ITV and The Daily Telegraph are fighting for their very survival. Some will not make it into the second decade of this century. These businesses have felt the effect first because of the ease with which their products can be shared. But make no mistake. All businesses in this next phase of the web’s evolution will need to meet similar challenges. It is by no means too late, but it is certainly time to give social marketing some serious time and thought. Take a very simple for instance.....

Right now, it is possible, by using a technology called “facebook connect ” to see in real time, which of your friends (or your friends’ friends) have bought a particular product, and what they thought about it. Yes the technology is in its infancy, no one is using it very well – but its coming - and the effect of this single application alone will be extraordinary - think how powerful the recommendation engine is on Amazon – now image the person writing the recommendation on every ecommerce site you visit is someone you know and trust.

The age of push marketing – where we tell “consumers” what to think about our brands is coming to an end. Have a read of this excellent blog called post advertising to find out more

So it’s a “big” topic – both in terms of scope and impact What I’m going to do over the next couple of month is to introduce you to a few of the pillars of social marketing – the 6 C’s (in a Dodgeball style…). Over the coming weeks we’ll take a look at them, see how they work in practice and what they mean for brands, they are, in order of importance:

- Communities
- Conversations
- Control
- Content
- Continuity
- Context

For anyone wanting to read more widely pick up copies of - Net Gain, Small is the new big or the Cluetrain manifesto - all essential reading for marketers of all ages and creeds.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

economic charlie....

The media is reporting the end of the recession - or as near as damn it - are we all crazy?

the government has just printed half a trillion pounds and is throwing it around like its not worth anything (cough...)

of course the economy is looking rosie - its the economic equivalent of a the biggest, fattest line of charlie you've ever seen!

might make us all feel good for 6 months - but its not going to make the next 5 years any easier.

conditioned to fear

this is just nonesense!

most well adjusted, intelligent people living outside the US wouldn't even recognize the world Tim O'Reilly talks about and microsoft builds products for

depressing and scary in equal measure....

an agency from scratch...

Monday, 11 May 2009

the evening standard - being human

Might be a cynical ploy - but to me its

the pope was a Nazi right?

and he's visiting Israel - this is pretty bizarre - or are we all missing something?


its a crazy world we live in....

twitter and linked data....

after figuring out a really clever way to use twitter to drive an application we're hoping to build for axa - and having just read a post from tim o'reilly about how twitter saves him time here - I'm starting to get my head around some of the root causes of its popularity - I've never been an early adopter - I'm only half a geek - I like to see which things appeal to my "normal" side before I dive in usually

I spend 2 hours a day, reading blogs, pulling ideas out of the web and figuring out how brands can use them. for people immersed in the online world - keeping up with the sheer array of people who might be interesting / useful / interested is one of the major challenges - I now get how twitter has helped force the condensation of these conversations to a manageable length

but its the data that we're able to pull from its API which might still make me a real fan. I'm a linked data cheerleader - and to be able to sample such a rich stream of sentiment from across the world so easily I've realised is massively powerful - yeah you can do it from traditional social media platforms - but the simplicity of 140 characters makes it so seductively easy...

Friday, 8 May 2009

an apple for the old world...

I'm making an (admittedly long) bet that the next broadside / revolution to hit the "old" economy is virtual businesses, cyber squatting on old skool business models. just like apple did with the record labels..

What do I mean....

Take builders merchants, insurance companies, healthcare providers - in fact pretty much any old world brand who hasn't embraced the web.

What is to stop well funded, agile startups, deploying cutting edge technology to offer the products of old world industries, forcing the brands whose patch they're squatting on, to play ball and supply them?

An agile startup raises a couple of mill and puts together a slick, lightweight site which offers everything the old world merchant does (or more likely just the higher margin stuff).
They take the trouble to integrate an enterprise level CMS, stock management and ecommerce system and then approach every brand in the sector to tell them they've solved their biggest IT headache - an all singing, all dancing online presence - no capital cost - they only want 30% of the net.

Board of old school company, faced with the prospect of their own pedestrian IT department coming up with the goods anytime soon (and in a bid to generate much needed revenues in the short term to help the shareprice and this years bonus...) agree - thinking they'll balance control issues with the upside of owning the offline relationship with their customers and by retaining their "brand values" (which of course mean s**t on the web).

Its happened once – it could happen again….

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

we need the backwaters and the lanes...

Recently we were staying with a load of mates in a big house in another part of the country.

I was out running with no particular goal. Just finding my way down small roads and it stuck me forcefully as I jogged - us humans - we need the backwaters and the lanes.

I'm not even sure I know exactly what I mean. Just that we humans need real and virtual places out of view, off the beaten track, where its safe to think, love, fight - whatever. Out of the view of public scrutiny and debate. Somewhere to foster ideas - somewhere our ego can take a backseat.

the seeds of the next disaster....

Watching a great visualisation on the credit crisis here it occurred to me - if you accept Jonathan Jarvis's basic premise - that the abundance of credit in the early part of this decade was down to the secondary effects of the dotcom bubble bursting - then it may well be, the seeds of the next financial disaster are being sown as we speak - and the likely candidates aren't too difficult to find...

- overstimulated economies from excessive fiscal intervention, social unrest due to governments ignoring the effects of climate change, population migration, resource depletion, national anger (in the US particularly) about a loss of status in the world...