Archive for the ‘Social Objects’ Category
February 21, 2013
[More thoughts on The Rackspace Book…]
6. ROB LA GESSE
Rob La Gesse is the groovy cat who first hired gapingvoid at Rackspace.
He’s also the guy who hired my friend, Robert Scoble.
He’s a lot like me and Scoble, i.e. very much his own man, very much an individual.
I suppose that’s why we get along.
Above is a T-shirt design I’ve never showed Rob before– he’s seeing it for the first time here on the blog, the same as you and everyone else. He may like it, he may not.
That’s how Rob and I work together. Like I said in my last blog post, “he lets me just post stuff without getting pre-approval. We like doing that way because it lets him see the work for the first time in the wild, which keeps the thinking fresher, somehow.…”
The thing is, there’s a method to the madness. If the idea fails, hey, it’s just a wee cartoon on a blog post. We can quickly and easily try something else the same day. It’s not like we blew money on a Superbowl ad that ended up bombing…
But if the idea works, it works REALLY well. The idea gets emailed around, both inside and outside the company, to employees, shareholders, customers and non-customers alike. It suddenly takes on a life of its own, on its own merit.
In other words, it suddenly becomes a cultural object (i.e. a social object that articulates the company culture), as opposed to just a usual piece of commercial, “Here’s-why-you-should-give-us-your-money” messaging (You know, the kind that noboday actually cares about).
Rob and I never planned it this way, we just started talking and this is kinda how it evolved. That’s kinda how we both roll. Rock on.
February 19, 2013
[Photo courtesy of Carly Starrat]
Yesterday I was in Chicago, at the WOMMA Summit, riffing about “Social Objects”, a subject very dear to my heart.
Kudos to Katie Kile for summing up my nine principles for creating social objects.
1. Make Meaning: The market for people wanting something to believe in is infinite; make your products “worth it.”
2. Create/Find a Purpose: People often confuse purpose with meaning, but the purpose relates back to the reason you get up in the morning and do what you do.
3. Create Play: Humans innately like to play; it’s the way we first start negotiating the world, so give people a reason to want to interact with your product.
4. Create New Language: If you want to evolve your product, you have to evolve marketing. You have to talk to people in a way they have never been talked to before.
5. Create share-ability: Don’t make it easy for people to share your product; Make it easy for them to share THEMSELVES.
6. Push Boundaries of Design: Design matters! It has the ability to differentiate your product.
7. Facilitate Community: Turn your product into a place where people gather rather than thing people that people buy.
8. Create New Context: Allow people to see your brand in a new light.
9. Enable “Meatspace”: Bring people together to facilitate discussions around your product.
Like every other list I’ve ever made, this list is still a work-in-progress, and far from definitive or complete. But it’s still an idea that excites me, many, many blog posts later.
[N.B. I didn’t coin the term, Social Objects. That honor goes to and old blogging buddy of mine, the insanely brilliant Jyri Engestrom. Though I did do a pretty good job of popularizing it in marketing circles etc etc.]
May 1, 2012
[Click on image to activate animation etc.]
This is one of the cooler “Social Object Factory” mini-projects we’ve done lately– a little animated Gif for Seth Godin’s lovely little book, Poke The Box.
[Yes. I know. We didn’t use my drawing style this time. The Factory is really about Social Objects, not about Hugh etc.]
One thing Seth and I always had in common, is that we both believe in writing short books. My personal rule is: All my books have to be short enough to be read on a plane ride between Miami and New York. And they are.
A book that makes you feel hopefully really inspired and really excited, that you close and put away satisfied, just as they’re dropping the landing gear, coming into La Guardia. It’s simple enough goal to aim for; certainly a lot less deluded than “Write the next ‘Sun Also Rises’ or ‘Ulysses’”.
Seth talks about his “short format” philosophy some more in a brilliant post, “Tracts and Books”:
The Communist Manifesto is 80 pages long. Certainly long enough to make an impact.
It has never taken me beyond a hundred pages to be persuaded. Sure, there are times when the pages after page 100 help me pile on, give me more depth and understanding. But a hundred (and usually fifty) is enough to get under my skin.
Or to steal heavily from George Bernard Shaw, “I’m sorry my last book was so long, but I didn’t have time to write a short one”.
It’s dirty little secret that most of my business-book author friends (and I have more than a few) will freely admit off the record: Most business books are lucky if people read more than the first hundred pages.
So why write more than a hundred pages? You tell me…
It’s never quite that simple, of course. There are as many ways to write a book as there are authors. If you want to spend the next seven years teaching junior college in order to be able to write the next Great American Novel in your spare time, that works too, go for it.
But if you’re just trying to get ideas to spread– if it’s the ideas that actually matter, not the book itself– I’d pay attention to what Seth is up to, very carefully.
Like I’ve said many times before about Media, we’re now living in the era of #CheapEasyGlobal. And thanks to that, I do honestly believe, it’s never been a more exciting time to be a writer.
Make of that what you will.
April 8, 2012
Daily Email-Blowing Your Mind from Gapingvoid on Vimeo.
Daily Email– Mindblowing Cartoons from Gapingvoid on Vimeo.
Daily Email-Social Objects from Gapingvoid on Vimeo.
It was a little twelve word copy competition. We thought we’d get 20 or 30 entries. But ended up with well over 200, a great result and a giant “thank you” to everyone for entering.
Once we compiled the comments and emails, judging began. Hugh put together his short list, Laura did hers, Jeff put in his five cents, even intern Darrick piped in.
And then, what started as a bit of fun, turned into a free-for-all. Kicking, screaming, name calling. Everyone had their favorite, and no one agreed.
Tumult aside, we’ve decided to change the rules. Since there were so many entries, it seemed fair that there will be more winners: Three to be exact. And, you guys get to decide the ranking. Just watch the vids above, leave your comments below and we’ll compile and announce later this month.
Regardless of who comes out on top, all finalists will get a framed, signed print of their choosing (conditions apply), and more importantly, the credits which will be seen by millions of people. The winners lives will be transformed and they will be showered with internet riches beyond their wildest dreams, etc., etc., etc.
To make voting easy, we had our crack team create animations with each of the finalists’ tag lines. Watch them and tell us your choice for the king of all exploding head tag lines!”.
March 29, 2012
The new business cards have arrived.… Very cool.
I’ve been saying this for years– a business card is not just “content”, is not just “personal details”. A business card is not just a social object; it’s a form of schwag, if you think about it.
So you have to treat it like that; you have to think to yourself, “How are people going to interact with this, when I hand it out?”
Not rocket science. Just common sense.
[Check out the new gapingvoid startup: Social Object Factory]
March 28, 2012
[Today’s guest post is by Brian Solis, Principal Analyst, Altimeter Group.]
It’s inevitable that I will get the question. You’d think by now that I would learn to expect it…that I would prepare for it…or have a response that would be purely second nature. But I don’t. I’ve no standard answer that automatically inspires anyone in the moment to take action. And, to this day, I neither expect the question nor do I have a rehearsed or standard riposte committed to memory.
So what is “the question?”
The question faces those who see disruption all around them. They believe survival requires change and they aspire to fight for transformation. But, at some point in their quest to pursue a new course, a direction in which they deeply believe, they will ask reluctantly, even desperately, “How do I convince others to see what I see” or “how can I get those in control to recognize the importance of what’s happening around us so that we can move forward in the right direction?”
While my response in each moment always attempts to zero-in on the individual circumstance, the truest, most genuine answer that I can share is that…to bring about change does not take technology, it takes courage. And, this is why change is not a commodity. Change is not easy nor is it formulaic. But I can say this with the utmost conviction, change.is.inevitable and it is yours to define.
We live in disruptive times. As such, everything we know transcends into everything we once knew. How we communicate, connect, discover, learn and share is changing. New and emerging technology is becoming increasingly relentless and it is forcing evolution or complete transformation. And, it touches your personally and professionally. In our own way, we each are gravitating toward dissonance or disarray and it can be distressful. As students, parents, role models, employees, managers, entrepreneurs, artists, or some or all of the above, we will at some point collide with disruption. And in that moment, we will have a choice to make. We either fall down, choose to embrace change, or we will see the possibilities beyond what’s immediately apparent to pave the way toward a more meaningful outcome.
But again, it takes courage. It takes courage to see what others don’t or do what others won’t. It takes courage to push forward when pushed back.
Courage is the ability to do something that frightens one, yet it is the very thing that all leaders share. See, courage takes great strength to stand in the face of pain or inevitable grief and without it, your vision, no matter how brilliant or essential, is merely a masterpiece painted on a napkin — a promise that is never fully realized.
We stand today upon a foundation of uncertainty and apprehension. Everything is changing. What is constant however, is the absence of clarity, direction or answers. To tell you that there is an easy path toward transformation or that there are a series of “top 10 ways” to help you change the perspective of leadership or those around you is, well, misleading or a complete falsehood.
Contrary to popular belief, there are no rules for revolutionaries…just as there are no leaders who don’t continually strive to earn a position of leadership. It takes courage to be a change agent, to rise up and lead the way when others are filled with fear. It takes courage to walk in a different direction when others walk along a contrasting path. Most important, it takes courage to drive persistence to overcome resistance…to find comfort outside your comfort zone when the promise of reward is ambiguous. For, it is the vision to see where you need to go and the conviction to shepherd the march toward relevance that earns the greatest rewards of all, leadership, significance, and advocacy.
This is your time…
“Courage is grace under pressure.” — Ernest Hemingway
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March 27, 2012
Of all the cartoons I’ve done for Rackspace, this is one of my my favorites. Part of the #SmallTeamsBigImpact thing that Robert Scoble has going on.
Besides the main sentiment of the cartoon, #SmallTeamsBigImpact is something that me and the tem at Social Object Factory can really relate to. Of course we can…
March 26, 2012
Hugh MacLeod is Noteworthy at #SXSW from Gapingvoid on Vimeo.
[“Social Object Factory’s Jeff Sass put together this video of Hugh drawing on his Samsung Galaxy Note (provided by Samsung) as part of Hugh’s participation in the Samsung #BeNoteworthy campaign. Cool!”]
Matt Nelson from Tribal DDB wrote this blog post that seems to be getting a lot of attention: “Forget ‘Mad Men’ – Now Is The Golden Era For Advertising”.
Of course, when an ad man promises a golden age of anything, I’m going to be suspicious. Still, IT IS a pretty good article. OK, so it reads a bit like a sales brochure, but hey, a lot of my blog posts do as well. It has some good, tasty bites, regardless.
BUT IS IT TRUE, I hear you ask? Is the Golden Age really upon us?
As somebody who worked in the ad business at the very tail end of the pre-Internet, Mad Men era, I would say “Yes”. For all the reasons Matt mentions. Being a Mad Men-era person was actually a lot less fun and interesting than TV makes it out to be.
So the next question is, how is this new “Golden Age” actually going to happen? What will they actually have to DO, for this Golden Age to actually exist?
The answer, of course, isn’t about the “Media”, social or otherwise. It’s about the “Make”.
It’s about what you’re going to have to create at the granular level.
And what you’re going to have to create, of course, are Social Objects.
Which is why me and the team are in that business. Rock on.
[PS: It’s also why it’s such a HUGE opportunity for PR firms like Edelman and Weber Shandwick to STEAL business away from Madison Avenue. But I’ve been saying that for years…]
March 23, 2012
Rackspace — We Love Startups! from Gapingvoid on Vimeo.
Another video our new company, Social Object Factory did for Rackspace at SXSW..
A sea of little red startup folk, piling into the #StartupBus, something they sponsor.
“Because the world needs more Awesome, the world needs more Startups.” A simple enough thought, one I happen to think is very, very true.
Without startups, this world really doesn’t have much of a future. At least, not one I would want.
March 22, 2012
Rackspace — Because the World Needs More Awesome… from Gapingvoid on Vimeo.
Something that I’m VERY proud of, Social Object Factory’s recent animation we did for Rackspace.
“Because the world needs more Awesome, the world needs more Startups.”
What astounds me is how quickly we turned it around. A couple of days from getting the first phone call, in the can. BOOM! Just like that.
Compare that to the traditional ad agency model– it would’ve taken ten times as long and cost ten times as much. Not to mention, a lot of strategy meetings and endless Powerpoint slides.
We live in incredible times…
Congrats to the team on a splendid effort! Rock on.
March 21, 2012
[Today’s newletter copy was written by Jeff Sass, our latest addition to the gapingvoid/SocialObjectFactory team:]
“I’m not passive aggressive, I’m decaffeinated.”
Energy, passion, enthusiasm… these are the things that often drive one’s creativity.
They are also the things we can share to help inspire and drive the creativity in others.
When we share an idea we yearn for it to be met with one or all of the above. We want our audience of one or many to respond to our work with energy… with passion… with enthusiasm. When they don’t, we take it as commentary, or worse, as criticism. But sometimes their less than amazing reaction has nothing to do with us, or our stuff. Sometimes your audience is just too tired, or just too distracted by their own stuff to give you what you want. They’re not being mean, or trying to cut you down with their silence. Their cup is just too full at the moment to make room for you.
What’s in your cup?
[The cut-out we had on display in the Samsung Bloggers’ Lounge at SXSW…]
Tim Kitchen has a nice riff on the concept behind the Social Object Factory:
The fourth thing I meant is that there is an ‘aggression’ of conceptualisation. I have written elaborately in the past on memetic branding, along with Mike Cayley and also on brands as producers of connectivity. In Hugh’s mind brands simply become ‘Cannons’ puffing out memetic cannon balls… the visual language removes the need for analytical and captures the essence of the idea. More importantly, it is a productive, energetic and kinetic image, which makes brand owners feel as if they are in control.
Fifthly I was evoking ‘commitment’. Hugh’s basic concept here, as I see it, is to move away from a typical agency focus on the production process, and also to move away from a consultancy focus on outcomes. Instead he confidently assumes the outcomes and trusts his track record for the production process, and focuses instead on the ’stuff’ itself.
Thanks Tim, though I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the name, “Social Object Factory” was really Jason’s idea (gapingvoid’s CEO).
We were trying to evolve the business away from just “Hugh, the cartoonist” and all that “Personal Brand” crap, to something larger and more interesting, not to mention, scaleable and sustainable.
Besides that, Tim’s commentary is pretty perceptive and incisive about what we’re trying to create, here. Worth a read. Thanks, Tim!
March 20, 2012
Like gapingvoid CEO, Jason Korman wrote in today’s newsletter:
Hugh drew today’s cartoon in connection with a talk earlier this year for the members of socialmedia.org, Andy Sernovitz’s great cabal of social media heavy weights.
It’s a cute little reminder that no matter how big your business is, your business is not really all you want to be talking about on social channels. It’s the idea of brand as platform. Finding interesting aligned ideas to talk about. The challenge is to create lots of cool stuff to launch into your social networks through your brand.
Take a look at the logo on the bottom right of the image. It’s the logo of Social Object Factory, our new little startup, still in beta, which is in the business of making those cannon balls. Little morsels of powerful content that will explode out of your social channels spreading mojo everywhere. YAY!!!
Yes, now you can have gapingvoid cool to deliver to all your peeps
gapingvoid has been creating and evangelizing social objects for years, for ourselves, for our friends and for our clients. Now we’re turning it into an official business.
Social Object Factory. We help businesses kick ass.
Feel free to click on the link to find out more. Read the manifesto. Apply for a job. Hire us. We’re looking forward to kicking ass with you. Rock on.
March 19, 2012
[This went out in the newsletter at the weekend, written by my business partner, gapingvoid CEO Jason Korman.]
To those who don’t know us well, gapingvoid just appears to be in the business of selling Hugh’s cool illustrations. Over the years, Hugh and I have gone through the often-tortuous self examination required in the journey of finding our true purpose. Nearly every day asking ourselves: “What can one do with a cartoon?”
Thanks to our friend, Mark Earls, we think a lot about the notion of Purpose Idea, and spend a lot of time helping clients wrestle with the beast as well.
So, we have come up with our purpose, and much of it is around the idea of inspiring others.
Here is an excerpt of what we consider our Purpose – note that it is a work in progress, and always subject to change as we grow, morph and reinvent ourselves.
*We live in incredible times.
*Every single person on this earth has the capacity to make a difference… the ability to lead, and leave their mark.
*Every business is driven by forces far more powerful and profound than money.
*We help businesses discover and articulate their purpose
*We help people make a difference,
*We help leaders lead
*We help businesses kick butt.
*We create social objects that transform organizations, start conversations, and spread ideas at lightning speed.
*We live in incredible times, and as long as there is one person on this earth who does not agree, there is still work to be done.
December 29, 2011
Thanks to Kathleen Warner for ordering the gapingvoid business card above.
I’m passionate about the idea that a business card should be more than just a way of handing out contact details, but a social object that states what you believe in, what you stand for.
December 17, 2011
I love this video.
Pringle of Scotland [the famous sweater company] has commissioned artist David Shrigley to create a humorous short animated film about life behind-the-scenes at Pringle to celebrate the brands return to Milan Fashion Week.
I love this because:
1. Shrigley is one of my favorite cartoonists in the world, and I have VERY few of those. I actually know him personally [He’s really good friends with one of my best friends in the world, the film director Dave Mackenzie]. I met him at a gallery group show in Glasgow with Mackenzie back in 1994, plus on the set of Hallam Foe.
2. Famous Scottish brands tend to be VERY twee [growing up in Edinburgh, I know this to be very true], this idea is SO OUT THERE and SO NOT TWEE. Hell, it’s not even mainstream. But it IS interesting, especially when you think it’s basically just an animated sales brochure. As I’m fond of saying, evolution in marketing is an evolution of language. In terms of old, established woolen brands, Pringle is talking to the market in a way its never been talked to before…
3. Compared to most ads out there [And it is an ad, even they like to talk about “commissioning an artist” and calling it a “film” yada yada ], it’s insanely wonderful. And way longer than a traditional 30-second spot, and yet it still keeps your attention. And completely different. When was the last time you saw a major clothing brand express this much unvarnished humanity? Exactly.
4. Like most of Shrigley’s work, it’s got a wee bit of a dark edge to it. Pringle let him keep that. Pringle didn’t ask him to change his schtick in any way.
5. I want to send this to my pals at Dewar’s Whisky, just to say to any brand people there who may be feeling timid, “See? You can be TOTALLY OUT THERE and still relevant and interesting and cool. You don’t have to do the usual, expected, traditional, REALLY ANNOYING AND LAME twee Scottish thing [“Chivalrous golfers, Anybody?”]
6. Yes, it’s a culture jam. Yes, it’s a social object.
This made me so happy, it really did. Besides that, Shrigley’s a lovely guy. Rock on.
December 14, 2011
SO WHAT COMES AFTER ADVERTISING?
The Golden Age of advertising– the “Mad Men” era– started about 50 years ago, with people like David Ogilvy, George Lois, Bill Bernbach leading the way, and shops like Weiden & Kennedy, BBH, Fallon, BMP, GGT, CDP and Goodby following in their wake.
This golden age came to an abrupt end, when our friend the Internet came along, with a lot of people on Madison Avenue suddenly starting to fear for their jobs.
So if traditional advertising is “dead”, what comes after it? That’s a question I’ve been asking myself for the last ten years, ever since I launched gapingvoid back in 2001.
Though I wasn’t paying too much attention at the time, the answer kinda-sorta came to me back in 2004, in a line I wrote in The Hughtrain:
November 15, 2011
We’ve had a lot of people send emails and approach us with the same question, and it’s one we are always very eager and happy to answer: What IS a social object?
The thing is, it’s simple to understand literally, but what does social action gravitating around an object have to do with the cartoons I draw, you ask. Here’s the thing – I don’t draw cartoons to be hoisted up on the walls of some gallery for people to walk through and look at. I draw cartoons to encourage social dialog.
It’s not about staring at something and asking, “What does this mean?” It’s about relating to something. I take thoughts and ideas that have passed through ALL of our heads from time to time and put it in a format that encourages us to actually TALK about it.
So, again, what are social objects? There are many different types (some are VERY complex), but the gapingvoid brand of social object is designed to communicate meaning in unexpected ways. My cartoons don’t come with an explanation, and two people may have different interpretations, but they find a place inside of hearts and minds that make people want to share them — That’s what makes them Social and that’s the beauty of it. And it is why I love doing what I do. It’s just…simple.
[Photo courtesy of @MissDestructo]
Above are some of the social object cartoons we had on display the other week at Blogworld… clients including Rackspace, Babson College, Intel etc etc.
The one on the top left got the most reaction, I wonder why
The mission continues: to spread the message that yes, social objects ARE the future of marketing.
I think it’ll take a while to spread but hey, there’s been some serious recent progress: In his big keynote at Blogworld, Jim Farley, the CMO of Ford Motors said, “Cars are social objects”.
Wow. I was right there in the audience, hearing it live. I could hardly believe it.
It felt like a coup…
As you probably know already, I was turned onto the social object idea by the antropologist, Jaiku founder and former Google employee, Jyri Engstrom, at his big talk at Reboot 2005 (which has gone in history a one of the best tech conferences ever, btw).
A year before that, I had met Jyri for the first time at Joi Ito’s big geek dinner in London, where we talked about how blogging was all about “particle media”, whereas traditional broadcast was all about “wave media”.
Wave vs Particle. Exactly.
And what do these particles consist of? Social Objects. Exactly.
Jyri knew what I meant, kinda sorta. You?
[CAVEAT: This post is not a finely crafted piece of blog literature, witeen for posterity, but me just thinking outloud. But there’s some things in here worth thinking about firther etc.]
October 25, 2011
Here’s the latest: a tee shirt I designed for Babson College.
A well-known motif, the fist raised in defiance. Yes, all good entrepreneurship begins as some sort of defiant act. Exactly.
I’m also thinking of the idea that getting one’s degree from Babson as an act of defiance as well (as opposed to say, Harvard or Wharton).
Entrepreneurship is, of course, something inside you. If you are a budding entrepreneur, the issue isn’t whether you have that quality to begin with –you do. The question is how do you unleash it. Where do you begin?
And yes, the “Fist of Defiance” is a social object. “Cool, you feel that way too? So do I!”
[Essential backstory: The Social Object landing page]
September 14, 2011
[Buy the print here etc.]
This is a poster I did for Prepara, the cooking utensil maker. They’re a client of my client, Rackspace. Basically, Rackspace was commissioning me to create a little goodwill gesture, a little social object for one of their favorite customers etc.
I was trying to capture Prepara’s schtick in a single drawing. I follow the art gallery scene, I follow the industrial design scene. Pound for pound, the latter inspires me more often, more consistently. The combination of love and utility is a powerful one. Combined with something so basic and primal as eating, even more so.
[The “Commission Hugh” page etc.]
September 1, 2011
[Screenshot of the Rackspace client page etc.]
Now this is exciting: Dedicated gapingvoid client pages.
Here’s the first one: For my favorite Texan client, Rackspace. All the cartoons I’ve done for them on a single page, easy to find at the URL rackspace.gapingvoid.com.
AND… they’re all in high-rez. WHICH MEANS, anybody at Rackspace (or anybody somehwere else), can click on the image, download the high-rez version, print it out and stick it on the wall of their cubicle or office or door or wherever.
Instant cube grenades. Exactly.
And we’ll soon be doing likewise for gapingvoid’s other clients: HP, Dewar’s Whisky, Intel etc etc.
Like I said a few days ago, my work doesn’t belong in art galleries, it belongs in office cubicles. And this makes the latter REALLY easy for people. Sure, if they’d rather have a signed print that cost money, they can do that easily enough, as well… but FREE has its place, too.
Early on, we (i.e. the entire gapingvoid team– Me, Jason, Laura, Sam etc) noticed that a business is only as good as the conversations it has with people, both inside and outside the organization [i.e. classic Cluetrain parlance].
Ergo, that means there MUST be a market for art i.e. social objects that could start these right kinds of conversation. Quod Erat Demostrandum.
To us, this wasn’t rocket science, this was ALL common sense. And so we built a business around it…
So now the next question is, of course, how are YOUR conversations coming along? How can they be improved? CAN they actually be improved? Serious question.
August 24, 2011
Not too far down the road from my house in Far West Texas, my friend, Glenn Short and his team make, and I kid you not, the best store-bought beef jerky I have ever tasted (And I have tasted A LOT over the years). The Lights Jerky Company is phenominal, check it out.
After a few years struggling to get it off the ground, business is booming. I met one of his people last night, drinking beer over at The Railroad Blues. He was just EXHAUSTED at the end of the day from busting his ass, filling orders. It was, how you say, the right kind of exhaustion to have…
Out here in the Texas desert mountains, where it’s ALWAYS been a tough place to make a living, I’ve noticed three kinds of business:
1. THE LOST CAUSES. New ones open and close all the time. Well meaning people who don’t really get what they’re doing, don’t really get what their customers are after, don’t really get much, in spite of their often valiant and kind-hearted efforts. Retired school teachers from Dallas, who never run a business before, who just moved out here recently because they liked the scenery, who SUDDENLY decided to go into the restaurant business or whatever. These places usually close down in less than nine months. They’re not uncommon.
2. THE COMMODITIES. Stuff you’d expect to see out here. Gas stations. Convenience stores. Fast food joints. Nothing too special, but they provide some needed service, same as any where else. Nice local people working there and all, but nothing to write home about.
3. THE TREASURED. These are the rarest birds. Products that are not only INSANELY GREAT, but are done with such, imagination, love, flair , or even just plain ol’ hard work and good manners, failure JUST isn’t an option.
And treasured they are. If you live out here long enough, you start to realize soon enough that if you don’t ACTUALLY TREASURE the businesses you love, I mean REALLY treasure them more than you would in a big city, say, these places will just close down eventually, just blow out of town like tumbleweeds. Their unique magic will be gone, forever, without nothing to take their place.
And people KNOW that.
Lights Jerky is one of these. So is The Pizza Foundation, The Marfa Book Company, Harry’s Bar, The Murphy Street Raspa Compaany, Novak’s Barber Shop, Tacos Del Norte, The French Grocer and The Saddle Club, just to name a few.
And yes, these businesses are Social Objects. When something happens in one of these places– somebody loses their job, or somebody gets sick etc– news travels WAY faster around town than with the other places. Because people ACTUALLY do care. BECAUSE they are treasured, the social dynamic is far more intense than in say, a national fast food chain.
And what is true in small-town West Texas is true in any big city. You don’t have to be Amazon or Apple or IBM or McDonalds to be a social object. You can be a small jerky company, bookshop or taco stand. As I’ve always said, “Meaning scales”.
But The Treasure Factor HAS to be there, somehow.
Is your business treasured? Or do people just give you money? Serious question…
August 23, 2011
[Buy the print here etc.]
With my recent post, “Reclaim Blogging: Why I’m giving up Twitter and Facebook” making all that fuss all around the Web, obviously I’ve been reflecting a lot on blogging in general.
What is blogging for?
More specifically, what is gapingvoid.com for?
Even more specifically, what is gapingvoid.com actually ABOUT?
Blogging is the same as careers: Every now and then it helps to take some time off, to reflect, to regroup and refocus. Which is EXACTLY what I’ve been doing these last couple of days.
Having a big ol’ think.…
Besides drawing and posting cartoons, which I’ve always done and will always do until I die, I believe the focus of gapingvoid should be something it’s riffed on nonstop for the last half-decade.
i.e. Social Objects.
i.e. Why Social Objects are, I believe, the future of marketing.
And why are they the future of marketing, exactly?
Because unless businesses and brands get their head around the Social Object concept, their marketing will fail, end of story.
And Marketing is too important to fail, not just for businesses, but for society in general.
This is a conversation that HAS to happen, end of story. And where better to start this conversation than on gapingvoid? Exactly.
And yes, I expect some REALLY COOL art to be made in the process…
May 21, 2011
Ken Kaplan brought this to my attention: One of my little blue critters hanging on a wall inside Intel Corp.
Ken called it a “Sign of Super Intelligence and Creativity Inside Intel”. Thanks, Ken!
A cartoon all by itself changes nothing. A “Social Object”, however, can move mountains.
As I’m fond of saying, if your marketing fails to create Social Objects, your marketing will fail.
Think about it some more then get back to me…
May 19, 2011
[One of my favorite recent “Social Objects”: a cartoon I did for Rackspace.]
The Social Object, in a nutshell, is the reason two people are talking to each other, as opposed to talking to somebody else. Human beings are social animals. We like to socialize. But if think about it, there needs to be a reason for it to happen in the first place. That reason, that “node” in the social network, is what we call the Social Object.
For as long as I’ve been involved with the Internet, I’ve seen the SAME OLD DISCONNECT appear again and again AND AGAIN i.e. the disconnect between how the Internet ACTUALLY works and how the social media marketing dorks like to PRETEND how it works.
Case in point: From Steve Jones’ blog:
Today I received an e-mail that said “Like us on Facebook and win”. Later in the day I walked into a store and on the door was a sign that said “Like us on Facebook”.
That’s like Billy Joel asking me to buy his album. It is like walking into a party and having someone say “Be my friend and I’ll buy you a drink”. In a word, it is pathetic.
Damn right it’s pathetic.
Note to Social Media Marketing Dorks: The hard currency of the Internet is not Facebook “Likes” or Twitter “Retweets”, as flavor-of-the-month as they might be. By themselves, they’re worthless.
The hard currency of the Internet is “Social Objects”.
i.e. Social Objects for people to SHARE MEANINGFULLY with other people.
You’re either creating them or you’re not. And if you’re not, you will fail, end of story.
May 18, 2011
[I added the following to the “About” page. Thought it would be useful to clarify what it is exactly gapingvoid does for a living. Hope it helps etc.]
“Social Media happens around Social Objects, not the other way around.”
At the core of any social media campaign, there are Social Objects.
Social Objects are the Alpha and Omega of Social Media. Without the former, THERE IS NO LATTER, end of story.
So that’s what gapingvoid does. We make Social Objects; that’s what the cartoons are, that’s what “Cube Grenades” are.
We make social objects, big and small. For businesses, brands and individuals.
Check out the Cube Grenade page. We’ve made social objects for large companies like Microsoft, Rackspace and Purina; we’ve made them for small startups and individuals.
I went on record years ago, saying, “Social Objects are the future of marketing.” With the Internet, time has proved me right.
My business partner, Jason Korman and I are experts at this stuff. Feel free to email us anytime at email@example.com, Thanks.
April 26, 2011
Mike Natalizio, CEO of HNI Insurance sent me this photo. A framed cartoon I did a year or two ago for his company. Thanks, Mike!
He’s got a few of these gapingvoid cartoons in his office. “Social Objects” designed to start conversations when people come to visit etc etc.
This is what I meant when Paul Barron asked me, what’s next for gapingvoid, in that terrific video interview he did earlier this year [Towards the end, about 19’15″ into it].
Art, not as pretty decoration, nor as an existential howl from Tortured Artist Genius Dude, nor the smart-ass, sychophantic, postmodern shit from New York and London.
But Art to articulate real meaning. Art that helps move businesses forward. And hopefully helps move REAL people forward along with it. Right here. Right now.
Not advertising. Not telling people to buy.
That’s what the Cube Grenade idea is all about. Creating work that articulates the stuff that ACTUALLY MATTERS to people. Work that articulates Purpose-Idea. Right here. Right now.
But hey, most people reading this are also trying to do the exact same thing with their stuff, so at least I’m good company. Heh.
April 4, 2011
[One of my more successful “Social Objects” of late: The SXSW t-shirt I did for my client, Rackspace. We printed 3,200 of them, and they all went REALLY quickly. The just FLEW off the table. It was stunning to watch…]
I’ve been talking about Social Objects for a while now. And using cartoons to create social objects i.e. “Cube Grenades” is the main way I make a living.
Whatever your social media strategy is, it needs the object. It needs that thing that people socialize around.
Because people socialize around objects– a product, an idea, a movement, a person– people don’t socialize in a vacuum.
Creating cartoons is my way of creating social objects, but of course, there are other ways.
gapingvoid is basically a little Social Object factory.…
March 21, 2011
My second cartoon for a Rackspace customer is for Posterous, the photo-sharing, proto-blogging site.
Basically, Posterous is a site that makes it easy to upload and share photos. It’s simple and straightforward. It doesn’t need a lot of explaining, really.
And nor should it have to. Talking to their CEO, Sachin Agarwal on the phone the other week, it’s apparent they want their service to have mainstream, mom n’ pop usage, not just something for the geeks…
As for the cartoon, well, I was determined NOT to draw yet another one of my cute-sy “monstercritter” cartoons [I was already doing a lot of them for Rackspace already], but in spite of my best intentions, this Posterous one just stuck, somehow… the humanity of it.
We know the point of photos is to document the seen world, capture memories and all that. But a big a part of that is the social and emotional– the creation of what I call “Sharing Devices”- social objects that allow us to share ourselves with others.
i.e. Posterous’ value comes not from the actual photos per se, but from a very human need that was around long before photography (or cave painting, for that matter) was even invented.
[Check out my other Rackspace cartoons here…]
February 9, 2011
[The Cube Grenade I did for Shit Creek Consulting etc.]
Traditional advertising doesn’t work very well.
Sure, it tries, and tries hard, but most of the time, it fails.
It fails far worse now than it ever did during the golden era of TV or print. Those days are gone. We live in The Internet Era now.
Old, traditional advertising was all about creating messages for the media, not about creating social objects for the people using the media.
“Social Objects” is what makes the Internet work, what makes the Internet possible.
Without the social objects, there would simply be no World Wide Web.
Social objects are part of the Web’s very DNA.
In The Internet Era, an ad that isn’t first and foremost a social object, is useless waste of money. Even if we’re not talking about the Internet, per se.
Which is why I invented Cube Grenades: social objects in cartoon form, designed to star real conversations between people.
To me, Cube Grenades aren’t just about cartoons. Cube Grenades are about something far more important- they’re about doing something that creates real change between people, that creates something that actually matters to people.
Social Objects: I use cartoons. What do you use? Serious question.
January 29, 2011
To My Groovy Clients at Intel,
I just drew this wee picture for you. Feel free to pass it around, download the high-rez version, print it out and hang it on your wall etc etc.
Yes, it’s a social object. Designed to continue a conversation that I already started online. [Yes, if you know somebody at Intel, please send this link along to them, thanks].
Whether you manufacture microprocessors, or draw cartoons like me, the question, “What is human potential?” never gets old.
Of course, you’ll never find the definitive answer. But you still have to ask the question.
And keep on asking it. Again and again.
Or else life dries up. And microprocessors and cartoons don’t get made.
Think about it.
September 2, 2010
[Originally posted November,2007]
Chris Schroeder riffs on my whole “Social Object” marketing schtick with this very salient thought:
If your company wants to succeed, it needs to have a social object marketing plan.
Amen to that. But note what Chris also says:
I don’t know about you, but when somebody walks by with an iPhone, I notice. If I see a kid stroll by me in some limited edition Nikes, that registers with me too.
Therein lies the rub. The Social Object idea is easy to get if your product is highly remarkable, highly sociable. An iPhone or the latest pair of Nike’s are both fine examples of this.
But I can already hear your inner MBA saying, “Yeah, but what if you don’t work for Nike or Apple? What if your product is boring home loans, auto insurance or… [the list of boring products is pretty long].
My standard answer to that is, “Social Gestures beget Social Objects.“
Which is another way of saying, maybe the way you relate to somebody as a human being plays a part in all this. Maybe describing the product as “boring” is just one more bullshit lie we tell ourselves in order to make the world seem less complicated and scary. Hey, my product is inherently dull and boring, therefore I get to be inherently dull and boring, too. Hooray!
Nowadays, thanks to folk like Nike, we think of sneakers as “non-boring” brands. This wasn’t true when I was a kid. Back then sneakers were those bloody awful $3 plimsolls we wore in Phys Ed. But it took companies like Nike and Adidas to come along and by shear force of will, raise the level of conversation in the sneaker department, before sneakers became bona fide global social objects, bona fide global powerhouse brands.
The decision to raise the level of conversation isn’t economic. Nor is it an intellectual decision. It’s a moral decision. But whether you have the stomach for it is up to you.
Like I told Thomas almost 3 years ago re. English bespoke tailoring, “Own the conversation by improving the conversation.” And hey, it worked. His sales went up 300% in 6 months.
It wasn’t the change in product that made Thomas’ suits Social Objects. It was changing the way he talked to people. The same applies to Stormhoek, which 3 years ago was an $8 bottle of South African wine nobody had ever heard of. Conversation. Matters.
So all you corporate MBAs out there, here’s a little tip. When you planning on how to embrace the brave new world of Web 2.0, the first question you ask yourself should not be “What tools do I use?“
Blogs, RSS, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook– it doesn’t matter.
The first question you should REALLY ask yourself is:
“How do I want to change the way I talk to people?“
And hopefully the rest should follow.
Think about it.
[Bonus Link: For a more academic take on social objects, check out this post from Anthropologist, Jyri Engestrom.]
August 16, 2010
One evening Father Steven, the elderly priest who baptized more than one of my nephews and nieces, came over to my mother’s house for dinner. I was there, too.
Father Steven is a lovely guy. Deeply spiritual and very smart. Very learned in theology and the history of the Roman Catholic Church, though not Catholic myself I always looked forward to discussing “The Big Stuff” with Father Steven for hours on end.
That evening over wine and cheese, I was telling Father Steven how during a particularly rough patch in my twenties, somehow I got into the habit of carrying a small Bible around with me everywhere in my day pack. Not quite sure why. Being the good former choirboy, I’ve always read the Bible in bits and bobs, here and there, all my life. I told Father Steven I thought it was rather odd, even though at the time the Bible accompanied me everywhere, I didn’t read it any more than I did in my non-day-pack days. I just liked having it around, as it were.
“Ah, that’s quite common,” said Father Steven. “People have always carried The Bible around as a talisman.”
From Wikipedia: A talisman (from Arabic طلاسم tilasm, ultimately from Greek telesma or from the Greek word “telein” which means “to initiate into the mysteries”) is an amulet or other object considered to possess supernatural or magical powers.
Basically, a talisman is an object that has been given meaning that far exceeds any actual function. A good luck charm. Or a crucifix. A St. Christopher’s medal. A Star of David. Or that friendship bracelet your girlfriend gave you when you took off to France without her for six months “in order to find yourself” or whatever. A reminder of an idea or an identity.
As is that $150 pair of sneakers that you think are going make your exercise more often, that too is a talisman; that too has totemic power. Or that $400 smartphone that’s going to get you more organized and focused about your career. Or the author’s signature inside the jacket of your favorite book. Or yes, that gapingvoid print that’s going to hang in your office and help you to stay upbeat and motivated when you’re having a blah day. Or getting “Linchpin” tattooed on your arm.
And this is no different than watching some well known tech blogger like Scoble walking out of an iStore, waving his latest Apple gizmo to the video phones and cheering crowd, after he spent three night waiting in line, in order to be fist in the store to buy one. Right then and there, the Apple gizmo has tremendous talismanic power.
And of course, so does your “Object-Idea”, if you’re fortunate enough to have one. Huge power.
Why do we seem to have this insatiable and irrational desire to surround ourselves with talismans, totems and Object-Ideas? Because they represent meaning to us. And like the the cartoon above says, we have an infinite need for that.
[The Object-Idea archive is here.]
August 15, 2010
I’ve been working on a problem lately…
“Purpose Idea” plus “Social Object” equals…????
The Social Object, in a nutshell, is the reason two people are talking to each other, as opposed to talking to somebody else. Human beings are social animals. We like to socialize. But if think about it, there needs to be a reason for it to happen in the first place. That reason, that “node” in the social network, is what we call the Social Object.
[Quoting Mark Earls:] Put really simply, the Purpose-Idea is the “What For?” of a business, or any kind of community. What exists to change (or protect) in the world, why employees get out of bed in the morning, what difference the business seeks to make on behalf of customers and employees and everyone else? BTW this is not “mission, vision, values” territory – it’s about real drives, passions and beliefs. The stuff that men in suits tend to get embarrassed about because it’s personal. But it’s the stuff that makes the difference between success and failure, because this kind of stuff brings folk together in all aspects of human life.
In his brilliant book, “Welcome to The Creative Age,” Mark Earls, then one of the top advertising planners in London, coined to term “Purpose-Idea”, as a more interesting, engaging and human term to replace the word, “Brand”. The latter he viewed as an outdated, overused and mostly meaningless concept.
Though I loved the book [“Purpose-Idea” is one of the most explosive “A-Ha!” moments I’ve had in my entire career], it soon became apparent to me that a Purpose-Idea doesn’t live in a vacuum. It needs to be articulated via a Social Object, so the idea can spread. Ideas spread not on their own steam, but as social objects. “Hey Gang, what do y’all think of this idea” etc etc. The Microsoft Blue Monster was a good example.
After the success of The Blue Monster, I wanted to create more of these…
i.e. “Social Objects that Articulate a Purpose-Idea” etc.
So I started drawing Cube Grenades with EXACTLY THAT in mind.
But in order to explain what I was talking about, it needed a name. Something more descriptive than say, “Blue Monster” or “Cube Grenade”, terms which are both utterly meaningless without a lot of backstory and context.
So recently I’ve been using the term, “Object-Idea”. A bit of a mouthful, maybe, but it works for now.
So what does this have to do with anything?
Well basically, I’ve been telling the ad agency world for while now, “Guys, you’re no longer in the Message business, you’re in the Social Object business.”
Yes, TV commercials can be social objects [“Dude, did you see that crazy new Progressive Insurance commercial? WTF??!!!”].
In fact, they must be, if the ad is to work. The “Whassuup” campaign for Budweiser [which was actually written by my old advertising buddy, Vinny Warren] didn’t work because the ad was THAT great artistically or convinced you of the beer’s quality.
It worked because suddenly millions of young adults the world over started saying ““Whassssuuuup” to each other. The advertising message, “Whassuup” had become a social object. An utterly massive one.
In the advertising & marketing world, successful social objects [Often called “virals”, especially when talking online] are a good thing. Every brand manger and his uncle dreams of one day creating the next Cadbury’s Gorilla.
But a social object on steroids i.e. an Object-Idea, is far more powerful.
Because it’s actually talking about stuff that actually matters to people. It’s not enough for people to like your product. For them to really LOVE it, somehow they’ve got to connect and empathize with the basic, primal human drives that compelled you create your product in the first place. The Purpose. The Idea. Otherwise you’re just one more piece of clutter to them.
The Object-Idea might catch on within the advertising & marketing world, it might not. It might need refining on my part– maybe a lot, maybe a little– we’ll see. But I sincerely believe that the people who really get it will have a considerable advantage over their peers who don’t.
The Object-Idea. You heard it here first, Folks. Rock on.
[N.B. “Social Objects” is a term I did not coin myself, but was turned onto by the anthropolgist and Jaiku founder, Jyri Engestrom.]
[“Wings”, which I sent out in the newsletter recently. You can get the print here etc.]
[Originally published November, 2005:]
I was having a long conversation with a friend last night about “Business Porn”:
Business Porn is just like Ordinary Porn or Real Estate Porn, except instead of it being about the women we wished we could sleep with, or the houses we wish we owned, it’s about all those cool, lucrative, exciting jobs and businesses that we wish we had, instead of the normal, tedious, schleppy crap most of us end up doing to pay the bills.
Does your blog suffer from low traffic? It’s probably because there’s not enough porn on it. Sex Porn, Real Estate Porn, Wine Porn, Biz Porn, Emotional Porn, it doesn’t matter.
Porn = Traffic.
Porn = Marketing.
Porn = Sales.
With Porn, all things are possible.
So now you know.
August 4, 2010
Very cool. The Techcrunch Party poster I mentioned the other day (and in the newsletter this morning) is now available as a print.
Also, for today only there’s a wee offer code that knocks 45% off the normal price etc.
I’m writing this from my hotel in West Hollywood. I’m in LA for the PSFK Conference tomorrow.
The title of my PSFK talk is, “How Culture Will Un-Break Itself”.
Culture? Broken? WTF?
Hint: Social Objects and The Purpose-Idea, Baby… with a bit of Cognitive Surplus thrown in for good measure. Rock on.
August 2, 2010
[“Wings”, which I sent out in the newsletter recently etc.]
It was when I first stumbled up Mark Earls’ “Purpose-Idea” back in 2004 that I realized, that after more than decade in the business, I REALLY didn’t want to be in advertising anymore.
Besides the usual reasons– yes, it REALLY IS that stressed out, neurotic and empty– I thought there must be some way I could create more value for clients, more quickly, cheaply and hassle-free.
So after a few years of looking around, I created the Cube Grenade concept. “Art as Social Object as Purpose-Idea” etc.
I liked the idea because it was cheap, easy and disruptive. As opposed to expensive, complicated and calcifying [which is what most advertising is].
July 16, 2010
I’ll be in New York next week, speaking at Supergenius, the Word-Of-Mouth conference organized by Andy Sernovitz and his team.
I designed two prints for the event, based on Andy’s two favorite WOM lines.
My take on Word-Of-Mouth? Two thoughts:
1. Would anybody tell a friend? If it’s a social object, yes.
2. Advertising is the cost of not being a social object.
I’ll let you figure the rest out on your own…
Thanks to Andy for putting on such a swell show. Can’t wait!
[Commission your own gapingvoid print etc.]
June 10, 2010
[The Cube Grenade for Shit Creek Consulting ]
[UPDATE: We’ve changed the rules. You have to nominate a friend– you can’t nominate yourself. Details here.]
gapingvoid is giving away a free commissioned Cube Grenade to the business or organization with the most interesting idea.
I draw Cube Grenades for a living.
They’re quite expensive. Several thousand dollars a pop, sometimes ten grand or more.
Not everybody can afford one. Cash is tight. That being said, every month I get dozens of requests from start-ups, small businesses, and non-profits for commissions, asking for free or nearly free work.
Occasionally I’ll do a pro-bono one for the right cause, or a good friend, or because I just love what a business is doing, but 99% of the time, I just have to say no.
The truth is, there are a huge number of really cool start ups, small businesses and charities doing worthwhile work and fabulous people whose cause could be transformed by a CG, but just don’t have the cash it costs to have one.
What’s so special about these Cube Grenades?
Sure, they’re great social objects, but they have another purpose: They’re amazingly powerful tools for a company trying to engage in what many call “Cultural Transformation”.
[The one that started it all: “The Blue Monster”. Backstory here etc.]
You change markets in your favor by changing the culture– either your own company culture, or the culture of the industry you’re in. In my world, that’s where the REAL opportunity lies.
That’s the change I want to help affect. That’s where I think my cartoons can be the most useful and valuable.
So I decided, what the hell, I’ll do one for free for somebody, a small business, a worthy cause. Spread the love etc.
I haven’t decided yet.
Tell you what. If you want me to draw a cube grenade for your business, write a blog post about it, leave a link to it below in the comments, and/or submit it to Tumblr at the same time. Then let us put your idea up on the Tumblr page we created specifically for this [Please keep it under 500 words, Thanks].
I’ll draw a free cube grenade for the person who has the most compelling cause.
I don’t care, it can be for your kid’s 6th grade class, your business or charity. Just as long as the idea is interesting,
This offer will expire Auguest 1st, and I’ll be talking about some of cooler posts here and/or our Tumblr page, so please get cracking.
This should be fun!
[UPDATE: We’ve changed the rules. You have to nominate a friend– you can’t nominate yourself. Details here.]
June 9, 2010
From this morning’s “Daily Cartoon Newsletter”:
Every Wednesday from now on, we’ll be sending you a high-res, work-related image for you to download, send to your boss and/or colleagues, to print out, hang up on the office wall, the bulletin board, around the watercooler etc [The usual CC licensing terms apply]. Y’know, a social object to start a conversation with.
All we ask in return is that you share the following link with as many people as you see fit, Thanks!: “Hello From Hugh”.
This week’s high-res download is called “Snake Oil”. Enjoy!
People have been asking me for a while, when am I going to start offering free high-res downloads again, like I did in the old days.
Well, as you can see from the note above, I just did. But you’ll need to subscribe to the list first. Easy.
April 20, 2010
[N.B. The Daily Bizcard archive is here etc.]
I had this idea that wouldn’t it be great to give out free printed business cards to my favorite people?
A wee social gesture from me in the form of a social object, which as I’m fond of saying, I believe is the future of marketing.
So I made a big list of my favorite people…
Once a day (weekdays, anyway) I’ll blog a new bizcard to give someone.
First on my list? Brian Clark, whose SUPERB blog, copyblogger –i.e. all about marketing via online– is VERY high on my must-read list. Besides that, he’s fun to hang out at SXSW and drink cocktails with.
This “Delusional” cartoon dates back from late 2009. I didn’t design it specifically for Brian (you can actually buy the print if you want), but I know from the horse’s mouth that he’s very fond of the image, so what the hell… I’m planning to do more customized ones in the future etc.
[Brian, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with the details you want to see on the back, and I’ll print up a batch of 100 for you. Thanks!]
April 7, 2010
[The “Cube Grenade” I did for Shit Creek Consulting etc.]
So long after you leave college, you keep asking yourself the question, “What do I want to do when I grow up?”
And to help you answer the question, you try out a whole string of different things. Working in an office. Working outdoors. Going to law school. Starting your own coffee shop. Freelance. Consulting. Writing books…
And hopefully, after a few years (or decades) of trial and error, hopefully you end up with your answer.
I think I’m finally ready to answer my own question, “What do I want to do when I grow up?”
The answer is, of course, creating “Cube Grenades”.
Sure, they’re great social objects, but to me they have another purpose: They’re good tools for a company trying to engage in what’s called “Cultural Transformation”.
[The one that started it all: “The Blue Monster”. Backstory here etc.]
You change markets in your favor by changing the culture– either you own or the culture of the industry you’re in. In my world, that’s where the REAL opportunity lies.
That’s the change I want to help affect. That’s where I think my cartoons can be the most useful and valuable.
Always happy to talk further about it with people maybe wanting to do business. Feel free to ping me whenever. Thanks…
April 6, 2010
For the upcoming PSK conference this Friday, besides the PSFK event poster, I also designed these wee purple badges– a bunch of quirky designs that people wear to describe to other attendees what their shtick is– deluded, investor, guide, confused, maker, mayor, data, tech, art , advertising, pr, investor, etc.
[N.B. People get to pick their own buttons, they’re not assigned etc.]
“Social Objects”. Exactly. Miniature “Cube Grenades”. Exactly.
[Bonus Link:] PSFK blog post about “Cube Grenades” etc.
March 24, 2010
[Signing the agenciaclick cube grenade, May, 2009…]
[Originally posted here, May, 2009]
Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been talking with various advertising and PR folk about the Cube Grenade idea. Here are some notes:
1. In terms of the advertising and PR industries, the Cube Grenade is basically conceived as a relatively cheap and effective Social Object to articulate the Purpose-Idea of a brand or company.
2. If the agency has an idea they REALLY want to sell to their client, they might have better luck if they first articulate the idea via a Cube Grenade designed by me, rather than the traditional “agency pitch” model. The agency’s idea is somehow articulated as a commissioned print, the print is given out as a gift, to people within the relevant constituency. The print hangs on a wall, other people see it, and if the idea is any good then people will start talking about it. That conversation will lead to other conversations. If the idea is any good, other ideas [and opportunities] will be spawned from it.
3. The Cube Grenade is not a glorified advertising poster. I’m not primarily interested in why people should buy the client’s product per se. I’m far more interested in the human dynamic, the collective human drive that makes the client’s people want to get up in the morning and go to work. That is where THE REAL VALUE is created.
4. Because the Cube Grenade is given as a gift– an act of love, as it were– AND NOT A DELIVERABLE WANTING TO BE SOLD, it will break through the cultural barriers of the client company a lot more cheaply and quickly than your standard “Big Advertising Idea”. The game here is not about “Selling An Ad”, the point is to make the client more alive, more human, more aware of their own human potential. Again, this is where is where THE REAL VALUE for the client-agency relationship is created.
5. Whether the Cube Grenade “works” or not in the end, both agency and client will find out if the thought behind it works A LOT sooner and inexpensively than executing your average ad campaign. Like all communication, the idea needs to RISK FAILURE if it’s ever to be any good. “Fail cheap, fail often”, as the great venture capitalist, Esther Dyson likes to say.
6. As I’ve said before to the ad agencies: “Guys, you are NOT selling messages anymore. You are selling Social Objects. The work that you create will affect the Cube Grenades and Social Objects, that your clients and their customers use to interact with each other.” This is why I’m talking to advertising folk. At the end of the day, we’re both in the same business.
7. To get more background reading, please visit my Cube Grenade archive here. You might also want to check out “The Hughtrain” to get a better understanding of where my ideas are coming from.
8. As always, if this idea is of any interest to you, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com. Or if you know someone in the advertising industry, please send them along to this page [Here’s the link]. Thanks!
February 23, 2010
Today I’m flying to St. Louis, to give a talk at Purina, the giant pet food company that’s owned by Nestle. It’s their big, annual digital summit. All their top digital marketing folk (and their top ad agency digital folk) will be there.
I’ll be talking about “Social Objects”, and how I believe they are the future of marketing.
Above is the “Cube Grenade” they commissioned me to draw for them. I like how it turned out. “All products are information” refers back to something I wrote a few years ago, “The Kinetic Quality”.
How often do large, well-known companies call you up and ask you to draw a cartoon for them? Exactly. I’ve worked in the tech world for big clients before– Sun, Dell, Microsoft etc– but this is my first “Cube Grenade” with a large, FMCG brand (Fast-Moving Consumer Goods). Not to mention, I’ve always held Nestle and Purina in very high regard. So naturally, I’m pretty excited. Rock on.
[Commission your own Cube Grenade. The Cube Grenade archive is here.]
January 9, 2010
[The Cube Grenade that Kula Partners commissioned me to draw for them. You can download it here and print it out etc.]
My Best Pick-Up Line Ever.
During the dotcom boom in early 2000, I was out in Los Angeles for six months, working for a startup, renting a house in Venice, near the beach. The usual…
One night I was at a big party in the Hollywood Hills, with my friend Colin, and his girlfriend, Amy.
Colin and Amy were a nice couple. Colin was a bit of a clown and a rogue, but pretty lovable. Amy was a real sweetheart, and cute as a button.
The party was pretty typical LA: a large herd of twenty and thirty-somethings wandering around rather aimlessly on the make, trying to score romance and/or useful business and social contacts. We’ve all been there…
About one a.m. Colin and Amy approach me.
“Ready to drive back to Venice?” asks Colin.
“Sure, not a problem,” I say. “This scene blows.”
Suddenly, this other cute girl comes up.
“Excuse me,” she says. “Are you going to Venice? Would you mind dropping me off on your way home? My ride already left an hour ago. I live just off Santa Monica Blvd…”
Sure, no problem.
So there we were, driving home, the four of us. Colin and Amy in the front, me and the cute girl– her name was Cindi– in the back.
The car was a late-1960s silver Rolls Royce; similar to the kind John Lennon had. Colin had bought it for a song the year previously.
The back seat was huge– Colin and Amy were probably four feet in front of Cindi and I, making in hard to talk to them without shouting. Besides that, Colin and Amy were already lost in conversation, the radio was playing pretty loudly, so Cindi and I just carried on by ourselves, talking to each other.
It was a fun conversation. Cindi was smart, funny and delightful company. I can’t remember what the conversation was about– just the usual young single’s LA banter, I suppose.
We’re talking away, when suddenly I interrupted her quite suddenly.
“Hmmmm…” I say, “You’re kinda cool… I’m kinda cool…”
A slight pause.
“We should kiss!” I exclaim, rather jokingly.
Cindi looks at me for a moment, says nothing, then suddenly leans over and plants a big one on the ol’ lips. Hurrah!
I won’t tell you what happened after that, only to say that, with Colin being the biggest gossip-monger on the planet, for the next few months I couldn’t go into my local bar in Venice without one the barflies jokingly saying, “You’re kinda cool… I’m kinda cool… We should kiss!” every time I walked by.
The thing had gone viral at the bar. A few years later the bar’s owner told me that the regulars still liked to use it at the bar, when they wanted to tease a friend. It had become a legend. Thanks Colin! Heh.
Don’t worry, I didn’t really come here to tell you about my love life.
I was just thinking earlier today about how this story relates to Cube Grenades. Seriously. Hear me out:
Cube Grenades aren’t designed to work like traditional advertising messages.
“Here’s why you should buy my product” would be a bit like me saying to Cindi in the back of the car, “Here are my recent bank statements and a compete list of all my former sexual partners; would you like to go bed with me…?” Human beings are far too sophisticated for that attitude. It wouldn’t have worked with Cindi, why would it work on our customers?
The way the Cube Grenade works, is more like a gift, a social gesture. “You’re kinda cool… I’m kinda cool…” i.e. a social object that expresses the idea, “I’m into the same things you’re into.”
And I’m starting to think more and more, as marketing gets more and more about The Social, the ability to make these kind of “You’re kinda cool… I’m kinda cool…” social gestures with one’s market is going to get increasingly important. Just sayin’.
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October 26, 2009
Rudy’s BBQ, my favorite restaurant chain in Texas, serves REALLY good “Sause”, which they also sell by the bottle.
Being the total “Social Object” geek, I’ll say it again– It’s not the sauce in the bottle which makes the Rudy’s “Sause” brand interesting– it’s the social interaction that happens around it that’s interesting.
It’s fun to go to Rudy’s with your friends to talk and eat. It’s fun to buy some ribs at the supermarket, get the smoker in the back yard fired up, douse the meat with Rudy’s Sause, fill up the cooler with beer, crank up the Willie Nelson and invite some friends over.
And yes, if Rudy’s sucked, if Rudy’s BBQ sauce sucked, it would be less fun. And so we wouldn’t buy it; we’d go with something else. It’s the friends and fun we’re actually paying for– the human interaction– not the red stuff in the bottle.
Too many brand managers ask the question, “What message do I have to craft in order to get people to buy my product?” It’s a dead end. A far more useful and profitable question would be, “What can I do to make my customers’ lives more interesting and meaningful?”
And “Meaningful” always has a social dynamic. We find meaning via our relationships with our fellow creatures. “People matter. Objects don’t.”
A bottle of barbecue sauce isn’t going to instantly change anyone’s life for the better. But that 4-hour-long conversation with an old friend, sharing a plate of ribs and brisket, with some Shiner Bock… Well, that might. So you want your product to be there when it happens; you want your product to be around during your customers’ significant moments.
Rudy’s understands this. How about you?
P.S. If that latter “Interesting & Meaningful” question sounds like a hard one to answer, that’s because it is. There’s a reason why the companies who manage to pull it off on a fairly consistent basis –Apple, Nike etc– are worth tens of billions.
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