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Another Great Michael Wesch Video

55 minutes … long but worthwhile …

This prior one, less than 5 minutes, is one of my all time favourites …

Check out his blog post on “Context Collapse” here.

UPDATE:  June over at Network Weaving is lovin’ Michael Wesch too: http://www.networkweaving.com/blog/2008/08/web-20-and-network-weaving.html

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Teenage Beer Drinking Party … Shibboleths

For one entire year in high school, at least once a week, I calmly walked into our Principal’s office, was offered the use of the PA system with a smile and I announced the time and location of a teenage beer drinking party that was broadcast throughout the entire high school. Eventually most of the kids from two different high schools made it out to one of the parties. I never got caught. Ferris Bueller eat your heart out.

Of course I did not actually announce, “Hey everyone! They will serve us booze at Daniel’s Restaurant! See you there at 7 pm tonight!” I spoke in code …

“There will be a Break Dance Club meeting at Danny’s at 7 pm tonight. Members are reminded to arrive promptly and dress appropriately.”

This was long before the “flash-parties” that are the terror of today’s parents, where news of a private “parents away!” party can spread by text message like wild fire and quickly escalate into a swarm of dangerous strangers wrecking and looting a home. That is an entirely different communication effect with its own memetic qualities.

“Break Dance Club” became a “shibboleth” for some of the teen community in my home town. The idea of a Break Dance Club seemed innocent enough to our teachers and parents in a context where a moon walking Michael Jackson was a mass communication pop culture hit. To us the idea of a “Break Dance Club” was an immediate attention getter. Our party music came from Canadian punk rock bands like Teenage Head and the raging guitars of April Wine.

Who are the goofs in this “Break Dance Club”? (murmurred explanation) Ahhhh … ok, I “get it”. I’m “in”. See you there. Hey – are you going to the Break Dance Club meeting? Wha? And so on …

What are your brand “shibboleths”?

Do you know the “shibboleths” of your competitors?

I wonder what Chip & Dan Heath would say about the structural factors that make effective shibboleths? I am reading their book about the memetics of ideas, “Made to Stick“. It is great! But it is focused on how to achieve mass viral success. So far I have not seen them elaborate on how a memetic brand can also have elements that are exclusive – maybe to your employees, perhaps to only your most important customers.

I have been thinking of “Social Capital Value Add” as a sort of shibboleth that will resonate with disciples of value based management, economic profit/economic value add and brand valuation. I am not going after a mass viral “Tipping Point” hit. I am trying to bring a message to a small but potent group of executives within a framework that brings them meaning both in terms of how to understand what is happening and what to do about it.

Is that the right approach?

Anywhoo – thank you to my friend Doug Ireland for explaining to me what I am thinking.

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A Worthy Request: Signal of Altruistic Type

Check out this post by Collin please.  You should do this because he is a great guy and his sister is doing something cool.

From a memetic branding stand point, you might want to think about how altruism is important to everthing that you do in this new era that we live in.

“Economic theory suggests at least three mechanisms which induce the decision-maker to treat the partner more generously when there is a prospect of future interaction. First, the decision-maker can grant favors because she expects the partner to repay these in the future (enforced reciprocity)… Second, the possibility of future interaction gives incentives for the decision-maker to signal her altruistic type to the partner (Benabou and Tirole 2006). Third, psychological game theory has modeled preference-based reciprocity where decision-makers behave generously because they expect the partner to behave kindly towards them in some future interaction, and because they derive utility from rewarding kind behavior (Rabin 1993, Dufwenberg and Kirchsteiger 2004)” (Leider, Stephen, Mobius, Markus, Rosenblat, Tanya and Do, Quoc-Anh, “How Much is a Friend Worth? Directed Altruism and Enforced Reciprocity in Social Networks” p.1, October 2007)

The definition of social surplus that most “iPod killer” strategies employ is greater “utility.” They seek to beat iPod by building a better mousetrap with better product features and better design. Rebate strategies and typical loyalty programs (earning points for rewards) are also widely tried methods.

It is a social surplus defined as greater signal of altruistic type that may be the most interesting to study further as the link between social capital and corporate earnings comes to be accepted. There is some evidence that social Causes are the kind of maxim behind which business may align their activities as they develop memetic brands. For example just the top 5 causes on the Causes application on Facebook reach about 7.5 million people.

It brings with it the possibility of new motives for corporate social responsibility. Not only will the corporation be asked to be more accountable for its actions, perhaps the corporation can be encouraged to invest in ways for its social connections – consumers, suppliers, employees, investors, owners, analysts and value added resellers – to move beyond feel-good CSR tactics towards a relationship in which the opportunity is seized by each forging identities based upon greater social contribution.

Please check out the cross-post over at http://socialcapitalvalueadd.wordpress.com/2008/07/28/signal-of-altruistic-type-and-corporate-motivations/ for the corporate implications beyond memetic branding of this thinking.
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Memetic Naming: A Boy Named Sue – Johnny Cash

Check out this link to find a pretty good overview of traditional brand thinking when it comes to brand naming:

What makes a winning brand name? A name that requires no introduction, no explanation and very little advertising to give it clout.

Here is great new thinking about naming from Seth Godin:

A long time ago, the goal of a name was to capture the essence of your positioning. To deliver a USP, so you could establish supremacy in your space just with your name. International Business Machines and Shredded Wheat were good efforts at this approach.

It quickly became clear, though, that descriptive names were too generic, so the goal was to coin a defensible word that could acquire secondary meaning and that you could own for the ages. That’s why “Jet Blue” is a much better name than “Southwest” and why “Starbucks” is so much better than “Dunkin Donuts”.

“Naming companies” flourished, charging clients hundreds of thousands of dollars to coin made up words like Altria.

And here is a something that made me think – hey!  a memetic brand name! 

What do you think?  Life ain’t easy for a boy named sue, but its that name that had memetic qualities and implications far beyond any traditional notion of market positioning.

UPDATE: Doug added a great comment below: “I think one person who has used his memetic name quite well is Om Malik, of GigaOm.com – the homonymic relation to ohm gives it a tech luster while keeping the sense of the personal perspective of a curator of information.”

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Are relationships memetic?

Here is a quote from one of my forum discussions:

Michael, you state,”Of course relationships can be controlled by third parties and varying environmental contexts. Ask any pair of siblings who have been separated by the border between North and South Korea or the Berlin Wall. Ask Facebook, who at first did not let you in unless you were a student. Or Google, who knows what they are up to?”
That’s true for “physical restraints/boundaries” but not “mental/motivational states” which are the essence of relationships.

So I agree. Perhaps “influence” is a better word to use than control when it comes to describing relationships. But I am not trying to be politically correct here. I am concerned that the potential exists for corporations to get so far ahead in managing and exploiting social networks that their “influence” will amount to “control” for many.

In any event, this exchange provoked some new thinking for me. Perhaps the “memetic brand” idea is worth exploring for a reason that I have not previously directly addressed?

Relationships are memetic.

Broadband powered individuals are the emerging dominant media platform.

If we ponder what makes relationships evolve or become extinct, which we all have a well developed instinct for, then we will have moved a great distance towards understanding how brands live or die beyond the broadcast era.

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Susan Blackmore TED talk, released June 8

A few memetic brand reflections that occur while watching:

Susan Blackmore Tedtalk

– good introduction to the foundations of memetics,
– we are the meme machines,
– what are the keys to selection? Variation is a key to selection. Mutation/variation is key to the survival and the spread of an idea, key to memetic branding but contradicts the traditional brand mantras of consistency, continuity and conformity … hmm,
– “don’t think intelligence”, “think replicators” … this would seem to point us as brand strategists, towards investing a lot more time and money on understanding and developing relationships with broadband empowered uploaders, we over invest in campaign creative and broadcast “push” because it is easier,
– “spreading memes is dangerous” but economic network theory (UPDATE: Just came across this related paper: http://econ-www.mit.edu/files/2756, it’s new!) makes us hopeful that not only will we observe and replicate the behavour of our neighbors, there will be sufficient optimism to spur experiments, so that we will settle on optimum behaviours … hope matters. Elections like this one in the USA, matter …

Launch the video and please jot down your thoughts as they occur below …

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