Homogenisation of the Social Web

April 8, 2011

Great turn of phrase from Joe Boughner – definitely worth 42 points on a double word score.

Marketing is like cooking

March 21, 2011

From a conversation with our creative director:

“Everyone can follow a recipe; only a few people can be a chef

Put more bluntly, it shouldn’t be about “The Work”, it should be about “The Craft”. Work implies that, well, it’s work. Craft is about dedicating yourself to the craft, about perfecting it and feeling an immense amount of pride in the output. Not following a recipe.

Tenure and Horizons

August 26, 2010

From Seth Godin, former book author:

one of Arthur C. Clarke’s lesser known three laws: “When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is probably wrong.”

via Seth’s Blog: Senior management.

Game Theory and Decision Making

July 20, 2010

Two interesting articles on game theory (as applied to LeBron James) and decision making (as applied to Uruguay vs. Ghana), both from Noah Brier.

Did LeBron James Get Played? Game Theory and the Big 3

How does the [collective decision by The Big Three to go play with each other in Miami look when analysed by a game theorist?

Consider a simple game with three players (no pun intended!) who all have to choose where to play basketball next year. They can each choose to stay in their own city or move to the city of another player. (So for the moment we leave out the option of them all going to New York or Chicago for simplicity’s sake, but I think the logic still holds fine if we expand the number of destinations.) The players get utility from the following four factors:

  1. the money they are paid in salary
  2. the chance to win a championship
  3. the quality of life in the city in which you choose to live
  4. not being perceived as a villain


The optimal strategy for Bosh and Wade, I think, is both should credibly commit to going to Miami before Lebron makes his decision. This puts the maximum possible pressure on Lebron to come to Miami. Now all of the sudden, LeBron is making his decision with complete information: if he sufficiently values the chance to win a championship, he has to come to Miami also. Whereas if LeBron makes his decision first, he might choose to go to Cleveland on the expectation that there is at least some non-trivial chance that Wade and Bosh will join him there.

So this leads to the interesting question: by allowing Bosh and Wade to make their decisions first, did LeBron possibly get himself into a situation where he ended up with a sub-optimal outcome? If so, it would certainly put that ESPN special in a whole new light – not just obnoxious, but possibly even counter-productive. By committing himself to a specific timetable – and remember, the demands of the ESPN show called for absolute secrecy regarding his decision – he gave Wade and Bosh a chance to both (1) move first and (2) have a little time to think through the strategic value of moving first. So in the end, the need for the King to play to the public may have led to the King himself getting played – surely not the first time in history this has happened!

Cheating vs. Rational Rule Breaking

In something as emotional as sports, it is easy to label someone a “cheat” for breaking the rules, what if, however, you look at decisions with a cost/benefit analysis in mind? You get “rational rule breaking”:

It seems to me “cheating,” in its colloquial understanding, involves not just breaking the rules but attempting to prevent others from discovering you’ve done so.  What happened in that game [World Cup quarter final involving Uruguay and Ghana] was what I would call “rational rule breaking.”  There was no intent to deceive;  the Uruguayan player knew the only chance he had to save the game was to break the rules, and accept the penalty, and hope the Ghanaians missed the penalty kick.  True cheaters don’t wish to break the rules and accept the penalty, they just wish to break the rules and avoid the penalty.


Rational rule breaking, by contrast, is done with a clear understanding of the costs and benefits and not just a willingness to be caught, but an actual positive desire to get caught because the penalty is worth preventing the outcome that will come from following the rules.


Uruguay should be treating Luis Suarez as a national hero not a cheater, and we economists should thank him for a wonderful classroom example about cost/benefit analysis.

An alternate view from another economist is also available for those who still feel the pain of the Black Stars.

Why did I post these? It’s important to look at events with a critical, yet alternate point of view in order to gain insight into the human condition which, as marketers, can inform our future decision making.

What we can learn from the deformed golf ball

May 24, 2010

I haven’t done an analogy for a while but this image, via Digg, reminds us that the best stuff, the coolest stuff, always happens when we slow down and take the time to look.

Feedreaders, please click through to view the deformation a golf ball goes through.

The Business Model for Somali Pirates

March 23, 2010

In case you were wondering about the business model for Somali pirates…here it is:

A basic piracy operation requires a minimum eight to twelve militia prepared to stay at sea for extended periods of time, in the hopes of hijacking a passing vessel. Each team requires a minimum of two attack skiffs, weapons, equipment, provisions, fuel and preferably a supply boat. The costs of the operation are usually borne by investors, some of whom may also be pirates.

To be eligible for employment as a pirate, a volunteer should already possess a firearm for use in the operation. For this ‘contribution’, he receives a ‘class A’ share of any profit. Pirates who provide a skiff or a heavier firearm, like an RPG or a general purpose machine gun, may be entitled to an additional A-share. The first pirate to board a vessel may also be entitled to an extra A-share.

At least 12 other volunteers are recruited as militiamen to provide protection on land of a ship is hijacked, In addition, each member of the pirate team may bring a partner or relative to be part of this land-based force. Militiamen must possess their own weapon, and receive a ‘class B’ share — usually a fixed amount equivalent to approximately US$15,000.

If a ship is successfully hijacked and brought to anchor, the pirates and the militiamen require food, drink, qaad, fresh clothes, cell phones, air time, etc. The captured crew must also be cared for. In most cases, these services are provided by one or more suppliers, who advance the costs in anticipation of reimbursement, with a significant margin of profit, when ransom is eventually paid.

When ransom is received, fixed costs are the first to be paid out. These are typically:

• Reimbursement of supplier(s)

• Financier(s) and/or investor(s): 30% of the ransom

• Local elders: 5 to 10 %of the ransom (anchoring rights)

• Class B shares (approx. $15,000 each): militiamen, interpreters etc.

The remaining sum — the profit — is divided between class-A shareholders.

via The Somali Pirates’ Business Model | UN Dispatch.

It’s easy…

February 15, 2010

…to show your effort when everyone’s watching.

Watching the Olympics cross country skiing today it was interesting to see people coming into the final stretch starting to really crank it out. Of course, all the real work would have been done already so unless you’re in or close to the lead all the blustering at the end is just that, blustering.

It’s easy to go all out when there are thousands cheering you on. It’s much harder to go all out when no one’s looking. When it’s just you and the clock.

As Miles Nadal (@milesnadal), CEO of Veritas’s majority shareholder tweeted:

“Quality means doing it right when no one is looking.” Henry Ford

Too true.

Diisclaimer: I’m not trying to disparage any Olympians. Just being there is an acheivement I will never be able replicate. This is an observation that applies to the rec league soccer player, middle aged gym rat or high school cross country runner.

Measuring the ROI of Social Media

January 26, 2010

I’m a big fan of the work that Forrester does. I buy its reports, use its data, subscribe to its blog and use a lot of the frameworks it has developed in our everyday consulting at com.motion. In a lot of ways, Forrester is the pre-eminent thought leader in our space with the research capabilities to provide marketers with the data they need to make informed decisions about their target audiences and the technologies that can be used to reach them.

So I was a little disappointed to read the latest blog post on risk Avoidance and the ROI of Social Media, Insurance, Guitars and Tires. In particular, this part was hard to digest, in the context of ROI:

In 2009, what was the ROI of your investment in life insurance? The vast majority of you paid your premiums and filed no claims (or you wouldn’t be reading this). You received a negative ROI, so clearly that means you’re suspending your life insurance in 2010, correct?

Followed by:

Social Media is like corporate reputation insurance. You pay premiums in the form of building relationships, listening, responding, creating widgets, and building communities.

Now, I completely agree that the best crisis communications strategy is a proactive one – see my com.motion University: Crisis Communications presentation below. However, to argue that a major social media engagement is being undertaken in the off chance that an all-encompassing crisis overtakes a brand or organization is not something that many brand marketers I work with will sign off on.

However, I do agree that there are two ways to measure ROI – both of which directly affect the bottom line:

Sales and cost avoidance.

Both are important, both need to be measured but it doesn’t benefit our industry to focus on one and ignore the other, especially with analogies like the one Forrester is using.

What do you think? Am I off base? Does the life insurance analogy hold up and will your clients (internal and external) “buy it”?

via Risk Avoidance and the ROI of Social Media, Insurance, Guitars and Tires.

Not another RSS analogy

June 11, 2009

I’ve tried this RSS analogy thing a few times now, mainly because the concept of RSS is pretty integral to the new social Web. While my “lake and river” analogy got some good pick up, I still didn’t think it was all the way there so I’ve continued to think about it. Yesterday I tried out a new analogy on a client and thankfully it went down well so I’m repeating it here.

RSS and its use is a lot like the old telephone exchange. You tell the operator (your RSS reader) who or what you want to connect to and the people behind the scenes at the telephone exchange (the RSS) physically connect you.


As I’ve said before, the technology doesn’t matter. I don’t need to know what goes into a BlackBerry or even a laptop in order to use it. I just need to know how to use the BlackBerry/lap top. In fact, ignorance is bliss. It is easier to not know about a stupid sounding acronym and just use the technology than the other way round.

So just as we now just pick up a phone, dial and the telephone exchange works invisibly in the background, RSS does the same thing. For example, on the two most en vogue social networks, Facebook and Twitter, I connect with someone and RSS works invisibly in the background to continuously bring their information into my news stream.

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