Thursday, April 30, 2009

Social Sacrifice

It's fun to see how many friends you can hook up with on Facebook. That could include friends, former friends, schoolmates, acquaintances, recruiters ... you get the idea. A friend of mine sent me this message last month saying she was whittling down her network on Facebook. What's the optimal number friends? Too many and you look insecure. Not enough and you look like your anti-social, unconnected or just to busy to care.

According to one site there is a 5,000 maximum friend allotment. I took a quick survey and didn't find any of my friends in that mega-friend category.

What is the happy medium? According to researcher Robin Dunbar it's 100 to 150. That's the general size of group where everyone knows everyone else. Studies of military units, city dwellers and churches suggests a similar finding of 100 to 150 for the natural group size where direct relationships remain strong.

If you had over 800 friends in 2007 you were considered a social whale. The new egregious aggregate for 2009 has bumped up some - to 1000 friends. Greg Atwan, co-author of "The Facebook Book," about Facebook etiquette, considers having more than 1,000 friends "a pretty obvious cry of social insecurity" and said that having too many friends "dilutes the meaning of friendship for the rest of us more modest Facebook users." So what is modest? According to Facebook the average member has 120 friends.
Burger King (led by Crispin Porter + Bogusky) must have figured out the trend to drop friends from Facebook. Earlier this year they started a Whopper Sacrifice promotion to give a free Whopper if you "gave up" 10 of your friends. Each deleted friend ends up netting about 37 cents towards the $3.69 sandwich. According to a NYTimes article, "The application sends a note to each of the banished friends, bluntly alerting them that they were abandoned for a free hamburger."

I expect the Facebook Fatique factor to be in the press on a more regular basis as the social milieu encroaches more and more into peoples everyday lives.

Social Suicide

I couldn't resist posting this mash-up of the Social Media playing field by Tom Cunniff. Looks live a mutant virus at pre-pandemic stage.

My kids were recently fishing in a small pond had a couple of huge fish and all the rest were stunted little micro-fish. Too many fish and not enough food. The big ones chow on the smaller ones, but there is no chance for the little guys to mature and grow in size in the pond's competitive environment. In similar fashion, todays market has some big players that will continue to get bigger as they feed on smaller wannabes.

The social networking trend is growing at an exponential rate thanks in part to the back-up parachute plan-B mentality. Networking has never been more important. We'll have to see if many of these small social media upstarts can make it once the economy picks up ...

God bless this mess.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Genius or Madness?

Just watched a fascinating 2008 Oscar-winning documentary called Man on Wire based on Phillipe Pitit's book To Reach the Clouds. Phillipe has a magnetic and intense personality is part of the driving success of his quest to walk a tight rope across the World Trade Centre twin towers in 1974.

At the closing of the documentary, Phillipe gave a sublime summary of his life philosophy:

"To me life is simple - Life should be lived on the edge. You have to exercise rebellion. To refuse to taper yourself to rules, refuse your own success, to refuse to repeat yourself. Every day, every year as a true challenge, and then you are going to live on the tight rope."

The 59 year old Frenchman is now planning a series of high-wire walks this autumn around the United States.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Hybrid Power by Gates

Bill H. Gates III, builder of Microsoft, is hoping to play his hand at automotive engines. A patent filed in October 2007 for an “Electromagnetic Engine” proposes using electrical and chemical reactions for power. The patent, number 20090091138, states that sophisticated software can continuously alter the way it operates. The patent states the engine "... may be configured to convert mechanical energy of the first piston to electrical energy during a power stroke, and to drive the first piston" in the non-power strokes. Read: Selective gas and/or electric hybrid powered engine.

There is mention of liquid reactant (plasma) injectors that would kick start a chemical combustion reaction using "reactant" fuel to get the combustion process going with the ability to convert the mechanical force into electrical or electromagnetic energy to drive the pistons. This clever merging of the electric and combustion process, with the ability to switch between systems, is elaborated on in the patent: "... the engine may select between the first and second modes," either gas or electric-powered, "in response to actual or predicted operating conditions." That's where the sophisticated software comes in.

The electromagnetic piston is interesting to say the least. But many free piston type engines have been proposed in the past and never seen the light of day. The patent states that each cylinder is non-circular and non-linear (read odd shape), and drive a helical gear box and work in tandem with a set of powerful electromagnets and juiced up by a rechargeable battery.

The patent was filed for a company named “Searete LLC.” According to Searete is one of many shell front companies for Nathan Myhrvold's Intellectual Ventures, a patent powerhouse for a myriad of innovations. According to an IAM (Intellectual Asset Management) article (large PDF file), Intellectual Ventures has a roster of senior inventors that either contribute to the patent pool or draw in innovation from their extensive networking. They move Intellectual Property (IP). According to Myhrvold the U.S. strength has changed, "IP is the thing we're good at," he stated. Since most manufacturing has moved overseas Myhrvold believes IP will only grow. "In 10 years patents will be even more important than they are now."

It might as well be the gold rush of the 21st century. With lots of cash to drop on speculative ventures, the rich are just trying to get richer in an ever changing world economy where information is king.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Vegetal Chair

I found this wonderful video posted by David Carlson at the blog David Report. The mellifluous music by The Captains dances along playfully teasing your visual cortex with the meandering roots of the Vegetal Chair. Another site describes the biomimetic design story of the Ronan and Ewan designed Vegetal Chair. Grow see the video at

Monday, April 13, 2009

Social Immersion: Mirror Your Environment

A friend of mine sent me some photos of a "new" hunting blind that utilizes mirrors to mimic the natural environment.

The blind, called the Predator V4, is marketed as "the world's only mirror hunting blind." It is stated that the stand becomes any environment you place it in and is described as the perfect camo, or mirrorflauge. Clever stuff.

This same principle can be applied to social marketing where you want to be immersed into the social strata without being perceived as a foreign entity. I favor a 360 degree approach - much like a huge disco mirror ball.

You need to plant your mirrors all over the Web: Flickr, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Twitter - and water with constant attention. Feed the bite-sized brand mirrors with fresh content and allow users to see and express their own identity as a part of your brand. Send messages to show you're a fan of their brand enthusiasm and their stewardship. Above all nurture participation. Read more in a very thorough article: Design for Social Networking.

Joe Marchese has an interesting article called, The Social Media Mirror where he states that "social media is a digital reflection of real-world social interactions." He goes on to further state that "social media is where people create a digital representation of themselves for other people to see."

Brands can act as accessories to individuals' social representations online. They are an outward digital expression of who they are in the real world.
This cyclical approach to social marketing is beneficial to the consumer and to the marketer. Adam Wilson, former Creative Director of the Jeep brand at Organic, Inc stated that social media participants were "micro broadcasters." They were key-influencers in a own micro-universe that overlaps with multitudes of other like-minded individuals.

I have the honor of acting as one of the key brand stewards for the Jeep brand.
The core values of the Jeep brand: Freedom, Adventure, Mastery, Authenticity and most recently Fun naturally appeals to a wide demographic. Marketing for the Jeep brand - we make a concerted effort to maintain an identity that can trace its roots back to 1941. It's taken over 60 years to create the branding of Jeep - a true original. That same recognizable identity - that portrays rugged individualism is just one reason the Jeep brand has thrived in the social arena.

So, is it the brand that is imitating the audience or the audience that is imitating the brand?

Friday, April 3, 2009

Gang Signs in Advertising

Where do you draw the line with gang signs and advertising? You can find some kind of symbol in almost any advertising using a hand. Take the successful Jeep Patriot campaign - a woman playfully pinches a wolf and drops it into her friends canoe. One could say that the pinch sign (see # 8 below) is used by some obscure gang somewhere that doesn't really matter. Should that gang sign limit creativity and stifle the Jeep campaign with its pinch the wolf theme? Of course not.

Sign of the times.

You’ve got to love Plaxo – they reminded me that a friend was getting older. Plaxo is hooked up with ecards – I linked out to see what I could send for free. One of the first free cards was of a hand sign. Innocuous enough, but it looked vaguely familiar. Then I remembered a training packet my wife brought home while teaching alternative education students some years ago.

The police had a training course put together with Michigan State University on gang symbols, colors and graffiti. Ever since then I’ve been wary of any talent using hand signs in our Jeep® advertising. When working at BBDO-Detroit I recommended steering away from a questionable hand gesture that was proposed for a print campaign. My feeling was it was better to be safe than sorry.

This ecards is the sign language symbol for love - it’s also used as a gang sign by the Almighty Latin King Nation – now known as “Latin Kings” or “Latin Kingz.” It’s been said that the Latin Kings have over 5,000 hand gestures in their “handabulary” (my own term). Who could have anticipated that obscure gang signs would have the far-reaching capacity to shut down expensive advertising campaigns?

The Virginia Department of Tourism ended up pulling a $400,000 “Live Passionately” campaign because of a seemingly innocuous image of a woman making a heart symbol with her hands. It turns out the sign is used by members of the Chicago-based Gangster Disciples gang. They were known for selling crack-cocaine and were featured in a book called “Freakonomics” – where a sociology grad student tagged along to learn the gang’s structure and business operations.

Is it time that corporate legal representation has to be familiar with gang signs to ensure that a campaign does not go awry? Let's hope reason will win out.