8 Questions on Brands, Social Influence, Marketing & Community
I just did a half day ideation thing with the folks at PSFK, Saatchi LA and Toyota, which was a lot of fun. A highlight was meeting Joe Fernandez of Klout and speaking on a panel with him about the future of brands and the role of storytelling. Given that I recently opted out of Klout, it was refreshing to hear and see what changes they're making to the platform. Joe is a genuine guy with terrific vision.
Related to influence, PSFK sent over a question set, which I thought I'd share here. As companies like Unilever go off quarterly earnings schedules and adopt fully operational sustainability models, it will be interesting to see what happens in the coming months as money significantly changes face, the authenticity of brands is called out, and consumerism shifts to something more co-creative and community-oriented.
1. What should brands care about the most when it comes to social influence?
What they actually do in the real world to support local communities, experiment with new production and business models, and how they treat their employees and customers with the utmost respect, ethical foundations and transparency.
2. Which KPIs are the most misleading when it comes to community engagement?
'Engagement' itself is incredibly misleading, and assumes that employees and customers are completely aligned with a set of values that is clear, definable and actionable... which of course isn't the case. Real engagement has little to do with 'brand' and everything to do with advocacy behind, alongside or towards what you do and what you represent as a company. The proxies and the metrics themselves are adaptable to changes in culture and therefore how marketplaces behave (they are not mutually exclusive).
3. The biggest myth in marketing is...
... That most customers (consumers) care about brands and are influenced by advertising. They tolerate both elements (barely), and if anything, influence these elements to suit their daily needs. Marketing should be about building markets (as GE's Beth Comstock suggests), not manipulating people into thinking that they are buying something that they are not.
4. What is one book you recommend everyone read?
"The Systems Approach" by C. West Churchman. It was written over three decades ago and still provides a salient framework in understanding holistic methods for building systems of real value. Marketers in particular could learn a lot from this.
5. Tell us about an everyday thing or unusual skill of yours that most people don't know about.
I have built my life and career on being able to think holistically; I cannot build effective technologies, or invest in them, or apply them to different business or cultural contexts without understanding how things work interdependently. This requires deep experimentation and learning tied to economics, marketing, science, art and innovation. In another sense, I've given myself the opportunity to fail multiple times -- what I've learned as entrepreneur has been invaluable in my ongoing work.
6. Where do you find inspiration?
Mostly in my travels. I am fascinated by cultural systems and the mores associated with them. The human condition is the greatest proxy for personal and collective growth, and there is no shortage of ideas that spring from it.
7. Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can't you live without?
There isn't one. I can't live without human interactions.
8. What's the best advice you've ever received?
Sounds cliche, but never, ever, give up. Thoughts are things that change the energies of our collective conscience; the work each one of us does is that important in driving this world forward to a better place.