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An iconoclast is someone who destroys religious symbols. The classical example of iconoclasm is a guy named Konon, who you may or may not know as Leo III the Isaurian - further proof that names were more interesting 1200 years ago.

Today we use the term a little more loosely. It’s common to associate the term with business figures who up-end markets; Steve Jobs comes to mind. (Steve I the Appleonian?)

To Gregory Berns, Distinguished Chair of Neuroeconomics at Emory University (a fine institution that made the mistake of granting me a wholly undeserved degree) and author of Iconoclast: a Neuroscientist Reveals how to Think Differently, an iconoclast is “a person who does something that others say can’t be done.”

Setting aside the needless redefinition of the word iconoclast (what’s wrong with innovator?), Berns’ book provides excellent, and well-researched, information on how, and why, people generate iconoclastic (innovative!) ideas. 

In the process, the book also provides some insight, from the perspective of neuroscience, on how to market those ideas.

Summarizing the results of several research studies, Berns shows that dopamine - sometimes thought of as the ‘pleasure chemical’ of the brain - is highly associated with the desire to seek out new experiences.  Individuals with highly active dopamine systems are more likely pursue novel experiences and - here’s the kicker - young people have more active dopamine systems. The bottom line: market new ideas to the under-thirty crowd, they’re more receptive.

But what does this mean if you have to market to people who, like me, wouldn’t survive very long in the world of Logan’s Run? (This is tech blog, if you don’t get that reference you’re in the wrong place. Turn off your com-put-er, call a friend and start making fun of geeks).

Still with us? Good.

If you’re target demographic are grey-hairs, Berns points out that wrapping new ideas in the ‘cloak of familiarity’ can drive a “new idea to be adopted by a large percentage of an older population.” In other words, don’t position a new idea as ‘revolutionary’ to a 50-year old C-suite executive; demonstrate how it fits neatly into the world he or she already understand.

There’s much more to the book and, despite the misuse of the word iconoclast, it’s worth reading. There’s also a fabulous section that details which illegal narcotics to take in order to stimulate iconoclastic thinking. Buy the book for neuroscience, read it for the psychotropics.

Nicholas Ludlum

by Nicholas Ludlum
Category: Trends

Via SAI I came across the latest version of Mary Meeker’s presentation on the state of the Internet. It’s a must read. There’s really too much good stuff to summarize, and you should really click through and spend time with the whole presentation itself, but pay close attention to slide 4 which compares the growth of the mobile Internet to AOL and Netscape’s growth in the 90’s. 

Another thing worth noting is slide 7 which, rightly, defines the mobile Internet as more than just phones (includes eReaders, car electronics, etc). The PC & browser -centric model of computing is fading away and that’s bound to have significant implications. One of those implications, I think, is that the way we experience the Internet is being, essentially, subdivided.  We’re self-selecting the kind of Internet experience we want to have (the iPhone app experience is different than the in-car experience, which is different than the Kindle experience, etc). Social media disintermediated many of the traditional influencers that shape consumer/customer perceptions.  Now that the relatively simple & static PC/browser model is being, effectively, disintermediated, there’s going to be increasing pressure on brands and marketers to ‘play’ in a multitude of different digital playgrounds, or - as I’ve written about before - digital subdivisions, each with their own formats, ettiquette, style, etc.

Anna Hughes

by Anna Hughes
Category: Technology

Will you be in the DC area on June 23? The Ogilvy Exchange is presenting a discussion with Facebook on how to improve citizen communications, international diplomacy and the internet economy. This free event will take place at Ogilvy’s DC office at 8 am and fear not: breakfast will be served. See the full invitation here for additional details.

Ogilvy PR in California has two veteran politicos on their roster who provide advice and counsel to Ogilvy clients – and keep a hand in the always interesting world of California politics.  Mindy Fletcher was a press advisor to George Bush II and Maggie Linden was a communications consultant to three Democratic California Assembly Speakers and a US Senator.   Following are their quick “takes” on what Tuesday’s California primary election might mean and a look at what’s to come.

A View of the Election from Maggie’s Perspective:

The results are now in and they put California right back in the political spotlight. We’re never very far from it – with movie stars and initiative wars competing for national attention – but both CNN and NPR are calling California’s races for U.S. Senate (Boxer vs. Fiorina) and Governor (Browns vs. Whitman) key battleground races to watch in November.

And as Dan Morain pointed out in Today’s Sacramento Bee – registration numbers won’t tell the entire story this year in California. Although Republican now can only claim about 31% of registered voters – the increasing numbers of Decline-to-State voters – and the disenchantment of the general electorate to all things that look “political and incumbent” mean that the Democratic registration advantage can not be taken as a solid indication of victory this year.

Boxer vs. Fiorina:

Carly Fiorina became the darling of the new right during the course of the primary election. While she started out a moderate – she moved into the far-right fringe in the final weeks, was endorsed by Sarah Palin who made nearly one million robo calls on her behalf, and championed the Arizona anti-immigration law. She also took and was proud of taking nearly three-quarters of a million dollars from anti-choice national money – and California has not elected an anti-choice candidate in decades. However, Barbara Boxer has been an unwavering liberal and has never really faced a tough or well-funded challenger. So while Carly looks very “right” right now, Boxer will have to run to the middle also. In fact she has already started that by emphasizing jobs, jobs, jobs in all of her post-election comments.

To be elected Fiorina also must move away from her right wing primary stances. Her election night speech was well done, and she’s already begun to move to the center. She is a cancer survivor; she is a successful corporate CEO; and she isn’t one of the Washington DC incumbents Together with Whitman they will have a strong appeal to women and to disenchanted voters. There is more at stake here than just the Ca Senate seat. The US Senate is a critical battleground for Obama and the national Democratic agenda and the eyes of the nation will be on Boxer/Fiorina. This race will be close.

Brown vs. Whitman:

One Dem wag quipped this morning that since Meg Whitman spent about $77 dollars per voter – which is what an I-Pod currently costs on E-Bay – maybe her slogan can be “An I-pod in every pot!.”…but I digress…This is a very tough contest for the Democrats. Meg has the ability to go on TV and Radio right now and stay on through November 9th. No amount of Dem money will match her, even as the unions are up on TV today. Meg has an anti-incumbent advantage – and she’s a woman running with another woman (Wow the Reps moved into this century(!)

But never underestimate the power of Jerry Brown to re-invent himself. He did have the best election night line of the night: “It takes more to govern California than the ‘rich and the restless.’” And he will be indefatigable in this race, even though he won’t have the funds to match Whitman.

On our side, labor unions, teachers and others will have to get organized, energized and become believers – with both shoe leather and money to bring this one home.

Yet to be answered for me is whether either of the top ticket pairs can infuse any real “excitement” with the general voting public into this race. While special interests will surely notice: e.g. business, labor unions, women’s groups – the turnout yesterday was miserable (less than 30%) and nowhere were there screaming crowds – in any headquarters or hotels election night. In order to get the kind of campaign Dems need someone will have to fire us up!

In addition, this electorate was remarkably different from the Obama 2008 electorate. It was white, it was old (er) and it was conservative. Both Republican candidates embraced tough new immigration reform, which, in another year might hurt them with California’s large Latino population – but it remains to be seen whether Latinos will be motivated by that and actually come out to the polls. Similarly, younger voters and African American voters, captivated by Obama have little to relate to in either Whitman or Brown – indeed Jerry’s service as Governor took place before the younger voters were born. Low turnout races sometimes spell trouble for Democrats.

Down ballot races could prove to be semi-interesting because:

1. Coat-tails” don’t often emerge in California. Voters are used to voting for different statewide candidates of different parties. Eight years ago under the Davis re-election effort Dems nearly swept the floor; but that is not the main happening in California. We are very used to having both a Republican Governor and a Dem Lt.Governor or the other way around. But with two women in the race at the top of the Rep ticket and a woman at the top of the Dem ticket, it will be interesting to see how/if they campaign together and what that means.

2. Liberal SF will be an issue. Our Lt Governor candidate: Mayor Gavin Newsome gained statewide attention during the Prop 8 effort and he is joined by our Attorney General Candidate San Francisco DA Kamala Harris. Will the Reps make a big deal of SF liberals – I’d guess yes.

3. Only a few legislative battles remain and both houses will remain firmly in the hands of the Democrats – so while some may be hard fought, I don’t see much interesting on that front.

A few final comments of note:

  • Meg Whitman only mentioned a few people last night to thank for her victory: Nathan Fletcher was one of them – good on ya, Mindy and Nathan!
  • California voters once again proved themselves VERY SMART last night. It really wasn’t a long night. Few races held much drama. But if you take a close look, the rejection of both Prop 16 and 17 once again proves California voters do and can pay attention. They can figure it out – even when millions of dollars are spent by special interests to try and sway them. They do listen to editorial boards and to personal connections, either on the phone or at the door, and oft times say NO to big money and big corporations. PG&E and Mercury Insurance spent millions in failed efforts because the public saw through them. In most cases the voters here do get it right (Prop 8 notwithstanding – but we’ll get that right soon.) This is some comfort to those of us (Dems) who will be fighting the enormous war chests of Whitman and Fiorina as the nation watches.

It will be a long summer and a longer fall…but I’m very excited to see it unfold.

A View of the Election from Mindy’s Perspective:

As always California offers colorful and interesting storylines that make the rest of the county scratch their head and watch in wonder. I agree with Maggie that this first test of the election season shows that Californians on the whole are pretty smart and despite the lengthy, confusing and wordy ballot, they manage to figure things out.

An important thing to remember about the primary yesterday was that the turnout was heavy on the Republican side because of more hotly contested races on our side. I think the effect of that was probably more visible in some of the lower profile local races and initiatives.

But let’s get to the juicy stuff.

My party last night nominated 2 women, a black (Damon Dunn for Secy of State) and a Latino (Abel Maldonado for Lt. Gov) for the statewide ticket. The two women were history making unto themselves, but the four of them together could actually make history in November. Maggie pointed out that we usually don’t have coattails in California. However, this year could be different – here’s why

  • Meg Whitman, unlike her predecessor, actually understands the value of bringing in a team and not winning a solo victory in November. Watch for her to campaign vigorously for the ticket, especially Tony Strickland (who narrowly lost this same race 4 years ago) who is running again for the little-known, but very important Controller’s seat. The current Controller has been a thorn in the current Gov’s side the last 4 years. Meg knows she needs friends to get done what she wants to get done.
  • The anti-establishment climate in the country will be felt in California. It won’t be in Assembly and Senate races because they are drawn so one-sided it doesn’t matter what climate is out there. It will be felt in congressional races. It could be felt in other state races where the right issues are in play. Two of Meg’s key messages – jobs and spending – are very much a part of the tea party anger and could serve her and the rest of the ticket well in November. Best part – the Dems will be hard pressed to morph her into a crazy tea party radical. She just isn’t.
  • Carly Fiorina understands how to cripple Barbara Boxer and has a high enough profile for it to matter.

What I am most excited about from last night’s election has nothing to do with the 2010 elections, but could change the face of California politics. Open Primary.

Voters passed this initiative that will yield more candidates focused on getting things done and fewer candidates focused on setting themselves up for the next election down the road (a terrible byproduct of term limits). Open primary will be combined with the new redistricting process where involved citizens (that the Ogilvy team helped the State Auditor recruit earlier this year) will be drawing the legislative lines instead of the legislators who run for the seats.

My party opposed this and with its vantage point of staring a Democrat supermajority in the face I am not sure why they think the current system is such a good thing. Maggie’s party opposed it to. Another reason why my party should have embraced it. I will leave it to you to surmise the wisdom of an electorate that passed something so strongly opposed by both party establishment…..

These two changes could create a legislature where common sense has a chance and getting things done trumps getting a good headline. Like I said – this could change the face of politics in California for years to come.

Concluding thought:

So now we head into the usual antics of the general election in California. Lots of union dollars spent on ads. Lots of Republicans bemoaning the union dollars. Lots of my neighbors asking me if I could tell X candidate to please stop making those phone calls to their house. And many events and happenings sure to make news that we couldn’t even dream up as we sit here today.

It will be a wild ride as usual. But I look forward to it and to joining Maggie along the way to keep you updated and entertained.

 

This past Monday, as I feverishly refreshed Engadget’s live Blog of Steve Jobs presentation at the WWDC conference, I was reminded of this excerpt from the book about the development of the Segway, Code Name Ginger, and this quote from author and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupery:

“Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away”

Apple has access to the same sort of raw material (in the form of people, technologies, strategies and tactics, etc) as their competitors, and yet is a very, very different company than all of them.  I’m not going to speculate as to why that is, this TedX video makes one argument, but I do think part of the answer - as suggested by the book excerpt linked to above which heavily features some of Steve Jobs thinking on promotions - is that the company is just more sophisticated and disciplined when it comes to marketing than most other technology companies.

Jobs presentation at the recent WWDC - and really, all his presentations - is a great showcase for some simple, straightforward marketing principles that more companies should employ:

  • Intensity: Apple treats its news like a precious commodity, hordes it, and announces it all at the same time. On Monday Jobs had 8 pieces of news. Most companies would string those out over 8 press releases and each would achieve the attention it deserves. By packaging them together their inherent news value becomes more, not less, significant.
  • Simplicity: Remember this article in the New York Times about the problem the US military has with PowerPoint? Apple doesn’t have that issue. Ever. Presentations are simple. A concept a slide. A word or two a slide. A picture in place of words whenever possible. Our minds seem to be wired to want to communicate in complex forms but to only understand things when cleanly and simply presented.
  • Credibility: Want people to understand how wonderful you are? Establish your credibility by showing them real, functional solutions (um, WiFi issues notwithstanding), and get partners and customers to help tell the story. If you’re giving them a big stage, they’d be crazy not to want to share it.
  • Beauty: Maybe it’s just me, but when Apple communicates something, it takes the time to make sure it’s presentation is, well, aesthetically pleasing. Look at the Engadget pictures. Sure the slides are text, or photos of hardware, but they look good. There’s nothing bad about being easy on the eyes.
  • Narrative: The presentation recognizes the importance of narrative, something I’ve written about before. This isn’t just a series of product introductions, it’s a story about what ‘we’ (Apple) are doing to innovate and create an even more compelling next generation of products. Narrative is important, it’s how people think, process and store information. There’s a story, an innovation story, behind everything Apple does, and it works.

Since we’re PR people, we tend to favour words rather than images.

That’s changing thanks to the rise of Social Media and the need to embed rich multimedia in our communications because, in the end, it makes for more effective communications.

However, the idea that images are more powerful than words is an old concept.

I’ll illustrate the old Confucian saying that a picture is worth a thousand words in this post about the changing face of Asia — in this case, specifically China.  Visual storytelling at its best, you could say.

This is a 1990 picture of Lujiazui in Shanghai:

Shanghai in 1990

Shanghai in 1990

Now compare this with the same area in 1996 — a mere six years later than the picture above:

Shanghai in 1996

Shanghai in 1996

Now take a look at Shanghai in 2010:

Shanghai in 2010

Shanghai in 2010

As I said said: a picture does tell a thousand words.  All of this change in a mere 20 years.  Can’t wait for the next 20 years in Asia.  It will be very cool.

(Images sourced from here.)

The year 2015: cars and skateboards will no longer be bound by gravity, and all films will be in 3D…so was the 1980’s cinematic vision of the future.

While Hollywood has been making good on its 3D movie promise, the lack of any hover mobile on the market is a bit of a disappointment for those of us who grew up on the Back to the Future films of the 80s. However, while our cars may not be taking to the skies anytime soon, it may be a source of some consolation to fans of flying DeLoreans that over the next few years several major auto makers will be unveiling what they claim will be the future of the automotive industry…

Coming to a dealership near you – Electric Vehicles for the Masses!

Many speculate about how successful these electric vehicles, or EVs, will be outside of the ‘green’ bastions of California, New England and the Pacific Northwest. However, from a PR standpoint there is little doubt that EVs have been extremely successful in generating a great deal of positive media coverage thus far. Over the past five months alone, there have been thousands of articles written about these new cars, and a major driver of this media coverage has been the partnerships that the major automotive companies in the EV game are entering into with the biggest names in technology.

Most recently, there has been a great deal of media attention paid to a potential Google partnership with a major car maker, which will entail integrating the Android operating system with existing onboard telematic technology.

The buzz created by Google’s foray into the automotive industry follows news generated by similar partnerships between other major automotive companies and top tech companies. For example, Microsoft plans to help solve potential problems that these new cars will cause the power grid by working with auto makers to implement its Hohm application into EVs. The technology is expected to prevent an ‘electrical traffic jam’ on our electrical grid by helping owners determine when to most efficiently and affordably recharge EV batteries.

While cars will most likely remain on the ground for some time to come, the automotive industry is working to ensure that EVs will be on the roads of tomorrow by making innovation a priority and by partnering with major tech companies in the process. From a PR perspective, the key takeaway is that these partnerships are major drivers for media coverage and that they are generating buzz among potential buyers.

Looking forward, it wouldn’t be surprising if these types of automotive-tech partnerships do more to make consumers more comfortable with the thought of owning an EV than auto shows or other traditional methods of marketing. What better way to lend some tech-cred to unproven products than to couple them with market leading technology brands?

While we will not have hover mobiles, being able to give voice commands to your electric car and enabling it to communicate with the power grid for the best energy rates via Google and Microsoft technology may be as close as we will get to Robert Zemeckis’ vision of the future without kitting out a DeLorean for time travel.

Whoever uses Facebook, Twitter and Co. knows them: people who just spread nonsense in the social web universe. At least the Twitter question has changed from “what are you doing?” as in the early days of 2006 to “what’s happening?” What should be clear is that “I’m drinking coffee” is not a message at all.
A few tricky brands took advantage of the overload of information and implemented the concept of “oversharers” in their social media strategy. Pringels for example gives annoyed users the chance to rebuke their friends’ share-mistakes with a button, called the “Overshare” button. Whenever it is activated your friend gets an e-mail from the Pringels help service that leads them to the Pringels website“helptheoversharers.com”
On average, approximately 1% of a site’s audience generates 20% of all its traffic through sharing of the brand’s content or site links with others. These “influencers” can directly influence 30% or more of overall end actions on brand websites by recommending the brand’s site, products or promotions to friends.
What this seans is that successful social media marketing isn’t simply about amassing thousands of followers, but instead precisely identifying the most influential members of your audience and recognizing them for their value. By directly engaging one influencer with exclusive opportunities, special offers, and unique content, you are indirectly engaging thousands of other people who are part of this influencer’s social sphere.
The first step is to indentify the 1%. What motivates them to promote your product or brand? For most people spending time to share content with friends or followers is not about fortune, it’s about fame. Make them famous, let them know that you see what they are doing and feed them with special content. Engaging in social media means before all else you must listen, audit and rate the social audience in your to communicate in the end with the right influencers.

As a practitioner of green PR and marketing, I spend hours every week walking the fine line between sincere promotion of sustainable corporate ideals and the murky waters of corporate “greenwashing” – the general term to describe the practice of promoting disingenuous information to support the guise of an eco-friendly public image. Accordingly, being accused of greenwashing is a constant concern of mine, apparently for good reason.

In fact, a recent study found that 98 percent of products make claims that are greenwashed. While some may dismiss the label of “greenwashing” as a casualty of green PR and marketing, the damage caused to any organization found guilty of the practice can be severe. Consider just three of the six main greenwashing risks, as outlined by OgilvyEarth’s greenwashing guide:

  • Reputational Damage: Companies that greenwash risk their credibility within their industries and with consumers. Skepticism is a growing trend and ideal in our society, and people don’t hesitate to pick up on and alert others to anything they feel is insincere. Rebounding from a blow to one’s reputation is one of the hardest tasks a company can face.
  • Consumer Alienation: More than 50 percent of climate-savvy consumers believe brands’ sustainability-related claims are embellished or fabricated. With so many other options for eco-friendly products, skeptical buyers will be the first to walk away if they find a reason to believe a company is greenwashing.
  • Leadership Opportunity Cost: There is a $200 billion market in the U.S. for eco-friendly oriented products. Additionally, 38 percent of eco-minded consumers make an effort to purchase goods and services from socially-responsible companies, meaning there is huge potential for failure for businesses that choose to greenwash. But, there is also potential for success among those willing to lead the charge in genuine environmental efforts.

Many organizations, no matter how sincere their reasons for taking on corporate sustainability, run the risk of greenwashing. But to avoid being crowned with this notorious title, be honest about your environmental efforts and communicate your plans for reaching sustainability goals. Celebrate your accomplishments, but don’t embellish them – consumers will see straight through the hype. Take immediate action if concerns arise about your sustainability practices, that way you won’t give anyone a reason to believe you have something to hide. Lastly, always maintain your relationships in the industry and with media – this will only help to fortify your reputation and give you credibility when and where you need it.

Click here to download OgilvyEarth’s From Greenwash To Great: A Guide To Great Green Marketing (without the Greenwash).

by Robin Shin
Category: Technology

Last week, Adiran Eyre and I had the opportunity to attend a PRSA event, “Inside the Newsroom,” where Fortune magazine reporters provided insight on the growth and structure of Fortune online and what they look for when developing a compelling story.  The panel included senior technology writer Jon Fortt; editor at large, Adam Lashinsky; senior writer, Michael V. Copeland and online producer Mason Cohn. 

The outlet is going through a significant amount of growth and what many may not realize is that Fortune online is hosted on the CNNMoney.com website.  CNNMoney.com also hosts CNN broadcast and Money magazine online coverage as well.  This partnership and Fortune’s online channels are continuing to grow and managing editor Dan Roth was recently added to the mix to help develop and expand Fortune’s online content.  While CNNMoney aims to provide breaking news for the website, Fortune writers are interested in providing value, analysis and the “why should you care” component to a story.  With more of their online coverage containing video, the panel emphasized the need for good visuals and a good spokesperson to increase the likelihood of getting your story on the site. 

Some of the online channels that they discussed included:

  • Tech Mate: a series co-developed by Jon Fortt and Michael Copeland where new trends and digital issues are debated and analyzed.
  • Tech Talk: a CNNMoney and Fortune video series where Fortune journalists discuss the latest tech industry topics and interview major influencers in the industry.
  • Connected: a video series by Jon Fortt and Adam Lashinsky where they meet with top company executives to discuss hot topics and get in-depth insight of what’s going on within the company.

Please let us know if you have any questions, or feel free to leave a comment below!

Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide