In Art Is Business Is Art I failed to convey how business process has become, thanks largely to the web, like creating art. Back in the day, I spent long hours of studio time trying to become Jackson Pollack, Willem de Kooning and Robert Motherwell.I wanted Pollack's unflinching courage, de Kooning's draftsmanship and Motherwell's skill with color and shape. If I could have paid the devil to invest me with these things my soul would be mortgaged instead of my house.
Martin Scorsese may not be the devil, but I bet his soul is mortgaged. Mr. Scorsese's film Life Lessons, part of the New York Stories trilogy, is the best description of how an artist wanders toward focus, meaning and art. I've done this, create something from scratch from nothing other than what is banging around in my head, hundreds of times and it is always the same. Imagine being lost in a thick woods. Every step you take only serves to tighten your impossible path. You walk on seeing something inside your head, something you can't describe. You wander trying to focus and see what always remains just out of focus. You are agitated and procrastinating. There is always an invisible line you must find, cross and leave. Beginnings are the most stressful times. You wander toward something you are not sure exists. Each step is maddening and distracting.
During one of his drunken bear wanderings, Scorsese's camera focuses tight on the curve of Paulette's, Dobie's girlfriend played by Rosanna Arquette, ankle. Dobie quiets his mind and starts painting. He knows what he sees in his head. He can't get the image out through his fingers to the canvas. Dobie's focus becomes obsessive. Loud rock music pounds as he paints. He shuts out, doesn't shower and is covered head to toe in vivid oil paint. His canvas is organic, living and in the moment. Dobie's ego breaks down as he fails to find the painting's resolution. He argues with Paulette. He layers paint rapidly. He knows exactly where he wants to go and just can't get there.
There is time pressure. His show is in three weeks. His smarmy dealer played brilliantly by Patrick O'Neal keeps pressure on. Paulette leaves. Dobie doubles down shocking himself with the titanic size of his ego. He moves into the painting and away from himself. He finds the illusive moment long enough to capture masterful work. Process takes over as Dobie's painting works its way home. His process is iterative. He creates to destroy and vice versa. Building on its own created past slowly the idea emerges informed by everything before even as creative process continues to make right turns.
Nick Nolte as Lionel Dobie in Martin Scorsese's Lie Stories
As a Director of E-Commerce I use Dobie's iterative process, constant cycles of creation / destruction and destruction / creation and am always looking for how to communicate an idea’s narrative flow. Dobie doesn't have an almost immediate feedback cycle, but feedback is implied. The film's last shot is at the show's well-attended opening where feedback is plentiful and inspiration, now drained with Paulette's departure, renewed. As romantic and distractingly brilliant as New York Stories is Dobie's journey is one I know.
Dobie is questing. He is searching to voice an internal idea, a vision. Art is always a quest for narrative, for meaning. As we speed up, flatten out and reduce previously impossible business ideas and strategies to things we can create, voice and share business is art. We can't hang a web site on a wall and the paint will never dry, but it will employ Dobie's process. The site's feedback loop may be richer, involve many more people and be more tied to the world, but a web site, or product, brand or YouTube video use similar tools and process. Everything is mashed up influencing everything else even as the collective narrative moves through space and time changing with every moment. Art is business is art.
Life Stories on YouTube
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Image from Shepard Fairey's Duality of Humanity series
If you read ScentTrail Defined you already know how much Shepard Fairey's art inspires. As I write this three Giants stare silently at me from their frames. After a long summer drought it is finally rainy and stormy here in North Carolina. Every lightening strike lights Shepard's black and white Giants with electric white light.
But, that isn't the scary part. The spooky thing is Shepard's new show is called Duality of Humanity. Fairey, inspired by Private Joker in Stanley Kubrick's masterful film Full Metal Jacket, is exploring the duality of man, the Jungian thing. Private Joker writes, "Born to Kill" on his helmet while wearing a peace symbol on his lapel. The spooky part is yesterday I couldn't get The Jungian Thing, a line Joker tells a General in Kubrick's film, out of my mind. Here is how Fairey's email describes his upcoming San Francisco show:
The title of the show, “Duality of Humanity,” is inspired by the peace-sign wearing US soldier in Vietnam, ‘Joker,’ in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket. A central piece is a child with a gun in his hand and a flower in his hat. That theme of soldiers and weapons bearing peace signs, or peace signs comprised of military effects, runs through many pieces in the show. Environmental themes also appear in some pieces, illustrating the tenuous balance between our dangerously uncontrolled consumption of non-renewable resources, and our well-intentioned eco-concerns. Suffering and hope are seamlessly merged in a visual mash-up that defies expectations and easy answers.
Two Reasons To Head To City By The Sea
Now I am really depressed. SF MoMA is one of my favorite museums. I wrote about my desire to see the Kahlo show at SF MoMA (Top 5 Summer Museums) before the show closes at the end of September. Shepard's Duality of Humanity show opens at the White Walls Gallery on September 13th closing on October 4th. I have a duality of feelings about this. I am joyful that Shepard is creating what looks like massively cool new work and depressed about my inability to get my butt to San Francisco in time for the show. If you are going, as the song says, to San Francisco wear flowers in your hair and see Kahlo at SF MoMA and Fairey's new work at White Walls.
Shepard Fairey's Obey Giant Web Site
SEPTEMBER 13TH, 2008
DUALITY OF HUMANITY
New Works by Shepard Fairey
Opening Reception - September 13th, 7-10pm
Exhibition Dates - September 13th - October 4th
White Walls Gallery
835 Larkin Street
San Francisco, CA 9410
Other Fairey upcoming shows:
REGIME CHANGE STARTS AT HOME - Group Exhibition
Shepard Fairey, Al Farrow, Paul D. Miller (DJ Spooky)
Opening October 18th
Irvine Contemporary - Washington DC
1412 14th St., NW
Washington, DC 20005
For more info please visit www.irvinecontemporary.com
SUPPLY AND DEMAND: A 20 YEAR RETROSPECTIVE
Opening February 6th
The Institute of Contemporary Art Boston
100 Northern Avenue
Boston, MA 02210
For more info please visit www.icaboston.org
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Collage of Duchamp Readymades and Apple iPhone.
Business is like art and art like business in our Internet age. This thought has been rolling around in my head for about a year. After reading Everything Bad Is Good For you I started to compare art and business. Everything Bad Is Good For You connects pop culture, specifically computer gaming culture, with rising collective intelligence. The book’s idea is we are smarter thanks to what critics often refer to the “vast wasteland” of popular culture.
If early television took its cues from the stage, today's reality programming is reliably structured like a video game: a series of competitive tests, growing more challenging over time. Many reality shows borrow a subtler device from gaming culture as well: the rules aren't fully established at the outset. You learn as you play.I was thinking about Andy Warhol while reading Johnson’s book. Warhol made Marcel Duchamp’s idea of readymades, everyday objects elevated to the status of art when recontextualized by an artist, accessible. Warhol’s Brillo Box (1964) and Campell’s Soup Can paintings (1962) were shocking in the sixties. People outside of art didn’t get it. Even some influential members of the art community such as Leo Costelli didn’t immediately understand Warhol’s controversial new work.
Watching Television Makes You Smarter, NY Times Article by Steven Johnson
Warhol left Lichtenstein-like cartoons behind for soup cans and Brillo boxes. Warhol’s cartoons seem unfinished and referential to abstract expression’s drips, splatters and emotion. In the early sixties Warhol cleaned his lines, adopted the silkscreen process and moved Duchamp’s conversation about “what is art” to our collective consciousness. Andy was teaching us. Art is business is art.
Warhol left other clues. He called his studio a “factory”. He created Interview Magazine . He painted portraits of rich art collectors or moguls or anyone who could afford a sitting. I’ve included a picture of Warhol's portrait of Patsy Nasher wife of Nasher Museum of Art benefactor Ray Nasher (below). Bob Colacello’s book about his years with Andy, Holy Terror, discusses how adroit Andy was at “pushing the portraits”. Warhol knew museums were great, but his future was assured by those afternoon sittings with rich famous patrons.
Developer Ray Nasher with Warhol portrait of wife Patsy.
Holy Terror helped me realize how much of a businessman Warhol was. I recognized Andy’s tactics. Andy was creating a brand. His tactics were the same as I was taught at P&G, M&M/Mars and The NutraSweet Company such as:
- Creation of an effective back-story
- New, always new
- Keep the brand current
- Promote trial by introducing the brand to people who don’t know it
- Develop loyalty by converting trial to repeat customers
During Warhol’s life it was rare to hear about his sickly working class Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania roots. Warhol actively managed his back-story. As a result, Warhol’s history, during his life, didn’t seem to extend much further than his move to New York in 1949 when he was 21. Warhol’s mother lived with him for twenty years, but his Slovakian mother was not a subject for discussions or interviews. Warhol limited exposure to an important muse. He actively managed his back-story. Warhol’s fascination with glamour, high fashion and the idle rich is easy to understand and explain given his working class roots . Warhol would never overtly agree to such connections. He believed his real back-story would hurt his "brand".
New, Always New
Warhol was famous for asking friends what he should paint. Many authors move credit for much of Warhol’s oeuvre to others. That is nonsense. Frivolous indifference was a key characteristics of Warhol's brand. A frivolously indifferent baseball player may hit a homer every now and again. No way such a batter has a lifetime batting average above .400 as Andy did. The truth of Andy’s engaged management is clear in the scope and variety of "products" produced by his “factory” including portraits, balloons, films, Brillo Boxes (sculpture), “serious” work for art critics and museums (car crashes, electric chair, Mao, Last Supper, self portraits and skull) and fun work for collectors (daisies, cow, Elvis, Marilyn). Tide is always “new and improved” and so was Warhol.
Keep The Brand Current
An ever moving focus doesn’t insure a brand's currency. Changing focus and loss of a brand's relevancy is the risk. Lose contact with the center, the pulse of a market, and you're done. The slight constant adjustments necessary to dead reckon a brand is where Warhol’s business genius is most striking. Warhol partied at Studio 54 when it was the place to see and be seen. He worked with artist Jean Michel Basquiat when it was clear Jean Michel knew something Warhol didn’t. One of my favorite segments of Julian Schnabel’s amazing and often overlooked film Basquiat is when Jean Michel, played expertly by Jeffrey Wright, and Warhol, played spookily by Bowie, are creating a painting. They are PAINTING ON THE SAME CANVAS. In fact, Jean Michel OVER PAINTS Warhol. I love my Friend Edmund Besh’s paintings and have 5 in my house, but if he ever over painted something on one of my canvases my strong inclination would be to punch him in the face. Warhol creates with Jean Michel because he is dead reckoning his brand.
At M&M/Mars when we had a new brand we wanted large "free standing" displays in every grocery store possible. Get away from the candy aisle to change context and increase chances for trial. We would also reduce price. Lowering potential barriers to trial was important. Warhol used his portraits for cash flow and to move his work into major collections. What is the chance I buy an Elvis, Cow or Daisies painting after having Andy paint my portrait or my wife’s portrait? Chances are good I buy the big expensive stuff after Andy does a grid painting of me or my wife. Andy’s business genius realized this trail leads to repeat rule. The portraits were important because they were "trial." Colacello misses Warhol's idea behind the idea. Colacello sees portraits as cash flow and a pain because Warhol was always harping on him to “push the portraits”. Yes portraits provided cash, but Warhol was a millionaire long before Colacello. Portraits were equivalent to $.25 Twix. They helped establish Warhol's brand with major collectors. Collectors sit on museum boards, so Warhol's portraits killed two birds with one stone.
Convert Trial to Repeat
Once trial happens with the right crowd Warhol knew he would have the opportunity to sell them more. Where would Andy’s portrait of a business mogul such as Ray Nasher's wife hang before moving to Duke’s new Nasher Museum of Art? You don’t commission Warhol to paint your wife and not put that bad boy in your house, a house where rich fiends get to knash their teeth in envy until they get one of those “Warhol things” for themselves. I grew up in Texas. I know how that game is played and so did Andy.
Art Is Business and Business Is Art as an idea fell into place when I saw a video of Jeff Koons’ s "studio”. I put “studio” in quotes because Koons’ work space is even more factory-like than Warhol’s. Warhol’s factory was consistently populated by strange distractions. Candy Darling, Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground, Valerie Salinas (who ended up shooting and almost killing Warhol) and other hanger ons and wannabes. Koons’s factory is similar to the business I run now. Koons employs several talented graphic designers. They use powerful computers to “create” Koons “original” art. Koons working with his designers and fabricators to create a massive puppy sculpture model in the clip I saw. Except for the fabrication of the model everything Koons did is similar to tasks I perform everyday as a Director of E-Commerce.
Art is business.
Is Business Like Art
The Internet has irrevocably changed business. Today, businesses must be more responsive and flexible than ever. That surface change may make my point, but a deeper dive shows business creations are significantly different too:
Speed of ChangeBusiness is art.
The increased speed of change moves all business creations closer to their intended market. Apple’s creation of the iPhone, Google’s purchase of YouTube and Murdoch’s purchase of MySpace are good expressions of moving business decisions out of board rooms and marketing meetings and closer to the point of contact with customers. Business, like art, must be in contact with what is happening NOW or lose relevancy.
Influence and Influencers
Any successful business must understand, steal from, emulate or best influencers in its “space”. Business “space” is usually defined by the “vertical” category a business occupies. REI sells camping equipment and rugged fashions operating in the same outdoor “space” as L. L. Bean. Leave a competitor unmarked and you fall behind. Out innovate them and you win. While this may seem more competitive on its face than how artists function in a loose fraternal society, don’t be fooled. Artists are some of the most competitive people you will meet. When I was painting I was constantly looking at art. Ever notice how artists tend to form up in common locations? The importance of seeing, watching and learning from your “competition” can’t be overstated if you are a young and unestablished artist. Once your work is in major collections and your reputation assured you can buy the big house in the Hamptons. Until then, you better watch and learn quickly.
Flat Lateral Thinking
Business thinking used to be dominated by hierarchies. Organization charts, marketing plans and product development were a series of sequential tasks.
"Start here and end there" thinking is giving way to more spontaneous ways of organization and product development. Casual dress is common and a sign of a larger trend. Officially I “manage” three people. In reality, I don’t manage as much as collaborate. Everyone is invested and involved. I don’t make decisions as much as referee when needed. My role used to be vision and strategy creation. In a networked world the need for novel strategy and unreferenced creation is reduced to a murmur. The Grand Idea still has some “call of the wild” romance, but reality is much more like Warhol’s or Koons’ factory. You listen, watch and learn then produce so you can listen, watch and learn again. Thinking is “flat” because it is not hierarchical. My boss, the President of our company, has no real idea what or why we do what we do nor should she. I only understand part of it even as all of my energy every day is directed toward trying to understand. Things change too fast to fully comprehend. Algorithms create and models of a future that may never happen. We try to dead reckon brands and strategies with an artist’s care and attention.
Monday, August 18, 2008
Meaning of Life(MOL) Riffs
I've decided to riff haiku on the meaning of life or MOL on Twitter. Is this a pompous and ridiculous idea...probably, but recent loses (Randy Pausch, Leroy Sievers) have me waxing philosophical. I am aware of the eastern idea. The only way to find meaning is to stop searching. Someday soon I will find eastern peace. In the meantime my Texas and Connecticut roots have me on the beach with a metal detector flipping sand and searching for meaning. Anything I find I will share here:
First MOL riff:
Meaning of Life (MOL) 1: One hot August day 39 years ago Tom Landry came to our football camp. I was 11. We all played better that day.
If you've never seen Randy Pausch's Last Lecture you should check it out.
If you've never read Leroy Sievers MyCancer blog on NPR check it out too.
If you've turned over some MOL insight treasure please be sure to share. If you've attained the kind of peace only Buddhists seem to attain feel free to share. This line of thought reminds me of Caddyshack. Bill Murray, a scruffy pot smoking grounds keeper tells Chevy Chase a story about "looping" for the Dali Lama. It seems The Dali stiffed Bill. Instead of a cash tip the Dali Lama told Murray's character that on his death bed he would have internal peace. Murray looks directly at the camera and says, "so I got that goin' for me."
Hopefully thinking of Caddyshack brought a smile to you as it always does for me.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
ScentTrail Google #1 Rankings
Should anyone ever doubt content is king for Google they may want to review these long tail searches where ScentTrail, a tiny blog with a handful of readers, scores top listings on Google:
[ Read ScentTrail OutRanks Google article ]SEO Thought of the Day
Top 5 Summer Musuems
Meeting Robert Rauschenberg
The Death of Procter and Gamble
Seeing Miles Davis
Meeting Annie Leibovitz
Martin Marty Smith
Simultaneous Magical Thinking
[ Read The Daily Blonde article where I coined the term ]
Viral Marketing Event Horizon
[ Read The Oprah Effect Article where I coined the term ]
The real credit for ScentTrail's Google top listings goes to the nameless many who liked what they read and linked to one of my articles. Sharing "link love" may be one of the most anonymously charitable acts anyone performs. THANKS. Comments, links and ideas help me realize we are all searching for the ScentTrail of our lives.
martinselllingzoe @ aol
ScentTrail SEO Thought of the Day
Search Engine Optimization is on my mind so much after my week at the foot of the master, Bruce Clay, that I plan to post a SEO thought everyday on Twitter. My first SEO TOD:
Page titles are like keyword Haiku.
More tomorrow at:
Sea Orchestra Video Masterpiece by Blackheart Gang
Sea Orchestra Commercial for United
Bravo to United Airlines and The Blackheart Gang for creating a masterpiece of animation, marketing, story and visual glory. Animate Bosh, modify his hellishly dark vision, synchronize to a rousing LA Philharmonic rendition of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue add Robert Redford's voice over and you have a masterpiece. I am working on an article about how art and business are so close to one another these days that they may be the same thing. This visual bomb by the talented artists at the Blackheart Gang will be a prominent example in my upcoming post.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
This post from early 2008 featured Big Tex, the huge 3 story man who greeted visitors to the Texas State Fair and Dallas Cowboy games when played in the Cotton Bowl for more than 50 years. From ages nine to eleven I saw Big Tex several times a year. He always seemed so strange and powerful, so hypnotic and benevolent.
News that Big Tex burned today was sad. I remembered opening this story with Big Tex's face. I reread this story about my father teaching me how to shoot thinking of the times I saw the tall, welcoming Texan. Big Tex is gone.
Texas .410One summer Saturday my father told me to come with him. "I am going to buy you a shotgun," he told me placing extra emphasis on "gun". He was driving his large cream colored Lincoln Continental. He was younger than I am now.
I enjoyed spending a Saturday with my father. We drove to the gun store. A large man with a big belly named Randy or Bucky or Larry was leaning on a long glass counter reading a newspaper. The counter was glass so you could see hand guns propped in their boxes.
Randy straightened up cinching his belt. He smiled. I saw a holstered gun hanging on his hip. I couldn't take my eyes off Randy's gun. "This isn't a toy young man," Randy told me as he slid his gun from its holster, cleared the slide and removed the clip. There was a cloth on the glass counter. I could see the gun's outline in oil on the cloth.
Randy placed the gun almost dead center on the worn diagram. This wasn't Randy's first rodeo. Even at ten I thought it was strange. If a gun wasn't a toy why was it on the counter begging me to play with it. I looked up at my father. A nod meant I could handle Randy's gun. My father didn't even look down. He told Randy we came for a shotgun for me. My father is a Purdue trained engineer. Focus has never been a problem.
Randy moved us across the room to a long rack. Hundreds of shotguns sat butt down and barrels in little wooden u's. The smell of gun oil was strong. Randy was, I realize now, chewing tobacco. "Let's see what we have for the young man," Randy told my father emphasizing "man" the way my father said "gun".
"I want him to start with a .410 break barrel and we will need to cut the stock to fit his shoulder," my father instructed. Randy looked at my father strange. "Going to be hard for him to hit anything," Randy said. He explained the tight pattern and light load of the gun. Shotguns are "choked" in ways to change shot patterns. Chokes can be modified based on prey.
The .410 is small and it comes fully choked tightening the shot's thin pattern. A tight thin pattern and few pellets meant it would be hard to hit a bird on the wing. "I don't care if he hits a bird as long as he doesn't hit me," my father laughed with Randy. Why would I want to shoot my father I remember thinking.
Dad bought the gun; we got back in the car and drove to a deserted field near the store. I don't remember saying two words in the store or the car. My father was speaking in short sharp sentences. He didn't smile. "I am going to teach you how to safely shoot a gun," he told me as we got out of the Lincoln. "Stand there," my father said pointing to a specific spot in front of the car. He walked around scanning the ground. He found an old slat crate. He turned it on its long side. He removed an orange from his pocket placing it on top of the crate and came back to the car.
"Imagine that orange is my head," my father said as he broke the gun and loaded a long thin shell in the barrel. The gun didn't fit his shoulder. It was cut for me and looked tiny in the crook of his large shoulder. My father hardly sighted before he blew the orange into vapor.
A stationary orange is poor practice for an expert shot. In a few weeks I would watch my father regularly knock two birds out of the air even as they flew rapidly away from him. Sometimes I didn't even know there were birds near us. Suddenly I would hear pop-pop. Turning toward the sound I might see a puff of feathers as two birds plummeted to earth. Fast, frantic gray doves moving with wind and fear are, I would discover, not easy to shoot. The dove population of west Texas had nothing to fear from me.
My friends would "bag" their limit. They used multiple shot higher gauged guns. They also regularly "peppered" my father and me.
Most dove hunting takes place around small man-made ponds called "tanks". Tanks are cut out of brushy hard country Texas dirt to water cattle. Doves look for tanks to support migration south. Texas in September is hot. Flying must be impossible without stopping for water at cattle "tanks". Poorly instructed sons of doctors and insurance agents would take shots they shouldn't peppering other hunters.
Birds and hunters were safe from my .410. My father's rule was my gun had to be open with no shell in it and the safety on. When I saw a dove I had to quickly put a shell in the narrow chamber, close the barrel, flick the safety off and shoot. I fired the .410 three times and killed no birds.
I did kill a rabbit. I didn't want to kill the scruffy Texas jackrabbit. He scared me. I was walking across a snake invested dry creek bed. I glimpsed a quick lateral movement on my right and heard a rasp. I loaded my gun. I took the safety off violating every rule. Two steps later a scared rabbit bolted from under my right foot. I fired the gun off my hip. Like the birds my father's 12 gauge knocked from the sky the rabbit stopped sudden "dead in its tracks".
The rabbit was a crumpled lifeless ball. It was so sudden. I wanted to take it back. The rabbit was skinny, all ears. Its hard life was over. I was sad. I made up my ten-year-old mind in that moment. I didn't care about "bagging" my limit.
When my friends gave me a hard time I would take it. Next trip I snuck a book into my "bird bag". The book rattled the shells. "What do you have in there," my father asked as I threw my bag in the trunk. "Nothing," I said trying to cut off further inquiry. My father stopped what he was doing.
He looked at me as I walked to the back door. "What," his voice trailed off. "Nothing," I repeated opening the door. The heat of the car hit me in the face like a fist. Leather burned my legs through my pants as I slide into the car. My father got in the front seat. His friends Bob and Kruger would join him up there soon. Their sons would fill into the backseat next to me. My father looked in the mirror. I was smiling. He shook his head as he pulled his long cream colored Lincoln Continental out into a hot Texas day.
We Happy Few: Henry V and My Father (read my story about shopping Cutter and Buck with my father on a recent visit). Share stories of your father if one comes to mind.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Evolution of E-Commerce
My day job is managing a multi-million dollar web site. Part of my job is explaining what is happening online to our management team. I look for and try to create concrete and simple ways to explain difficult and abstract concepts such as Search Engine Optimization (SEO), how search engines spiders work and the importance of page rank.
The Adventures of Page Rank Man
A week ago I created Page Rank Man to help my team visualize how important it is to manage and take care of page rank. Google Page Rank plays a critical role in SEO. Page Rank Man was born when I went to Wal Mart purchased a 6” Incredible Hulk toy and taped a triangular PR to his chest. This is what happens when I read books. In this case, Made To Stick by the Heath brothers is the culprit. I am rereading Made To Stick now and recommend it for anyone who needs to create or communicate ideas or products that stick.
The Evolution of E-Commerce
Today I needed a way to explain how e-commerce has changed in the last ten years. My goal was to connect time with evolution. I also wanted to define goals of each e-commerce epoch. Webmasters and Internet marketers are like geese. One day we are all floating in a pond. Suddenly and imperceptibly a signal travels across the pond and we take to wing homing toward our next destination. If you doubt this metaphor attend Search Engine Strategies, WOMMA or E-tail and feel the energy quaking the room. See if you don’t feel like it is time to head south for the winter.
The Evolution Of E-Commerce Diagram I created today ties time, e-commerce flocking behavior and the effect of every goose arriving at a common destination. Once the entire goose universe arrives food becomes scare, clear water is impossible to find and there is goose poop everywhere. On my diagram I call this crowded pond the "point of diminishing return." You never want to be the last goose in the pond (because you will be cooked…. sorry couldn’t resist :).
Note: I tend to use Art of War analogies. War can be an effective schema (Made To Stick again) explaining e-commerce "battles". Some may find such aggressive depictions off putting. The chart works as well with “epoch” or “period” instead of "battle".
Would you like a larger higher resolution of my e-commerce evolution diagram? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be glad to send you the 300 dpi version. Makes a good dart board or coaster. I am not a graphic designer. I don't even play one on TV, but my evolution of e-commerce diagram helped me visualize the cube that was floating in my mind. I will post how it helps with my management team and please share any similar tricks you've created.
Monday, August 4, 2008
Sex Is A Schema
In Made to Stick the Heath brothers defined a schema as "a collection of generic properties of a concept or category"*. The generic properties of one known thing can form a bridge to a new unknown thing. A piece of simulated duct tape seemingly haphazardly stuck to the front of Made To Stick is one of the most creative and ingenious uses of schema's in publishing. The Heath brothers used something we all know, duct tape, to explain something we encounter for the first time - their book.
Can you think of a more complete faster way to explain what their book is about? Duct tape for ideas is a schema everyone can understand in seconds. I was reading Made To Stick on a trip last week and no fewer than 3 strangers reached out to touch the simulated duct tape. They had to see if the duct tape was real. The Heath brothers know how to sink the hook deep. Sex, like duct tape, is a schema we all think we understand.
Sex Meets All Six Made To Stick Principles
Made to Stick outlines six principles of sticky ideas. Here is a brief review of all six. Do you think sex relates to each principle?
- Simplicity - we must create ideas that are both simple and profound, a current example would be "green is good" or anything that even remotely helps our planet overcome our human footprint is beneficial.
- Unexpectedness - we must violate people's expectations. We must generate interest and curiosity. This is the "shock of the new" concept. Surprise is a powerful thing easily harnessed by Madison Avenue as demonstrated in Mark Walberg's Calvin Kein's underwear ad. You expect people in ads to be clothed. Take their clothes off and you create the unexpected.
- Concreteness - we must demonstrate our ideas in terms of actions and sensory information. Actions and sensory information is a good part of what sex is so even the uncreative may hit concreteness out of the park when sex is the medium if not the message. A good example is the mouth and cherry image at the top of this post. Very concrete, hot and sexy without much work.
- Credibility - sticky ideas carry their own knowable value so those who interact can "try before they buy" and easily adopt and spread the idea. When did you hear your first story about sex? Grade school children start transferring information, what little they have, because merely sharing such "incendiary" information is self-reinforcing.
- Emotions - people care about sticky ideas because they are emotionally invested committed and involved. Sex, even bad one night sex, requires more emotional investment than almost anything we do.
- Stories - stories transfer ideas forming a medium for transmission much like blood moves oxygen throughout our bodies. Sex and stories go hand-in-hand since our childhoods. Throughout our lives we use stories, jokes and water-cooler gossip to transfer information about sex.
When I was twelve I remember a Noxzema medicated shaving cream ad caused a scandal. They created a television commercial of a man shaving as a cute Swedish Blond tells him to "take it off" and a stripper theme plays in the background.
Old Noxzema Commercial (on YouTube)
Having a hard time seeing the distance we've traveled? Compare the Noxzema ad with the infamous Paris Hilton Car Wash commercial for Hardees.
Paris Hilton Car Wash Ad For Hardees (On YouTube)
What is left?
No Paris' commercial is not a sign the end is near, but it may indicate that Sex Sells is over. That is not accurate. Sex still sells but our times they are a changin'. After watching Paris make love first to a Bentley and then a sandwich what is left? What is "unexpected" now? As Paris's commercial and Mark Walberg's Calvin Klein ads become our new mean unexpected becomes almost impossible.
Smart artists and advertisers know that as one sticky principle is destroyed by overuse others can compensate. Photographers such as David LaChapelle (examples at left) and Annie Leibovitz tell stories with their images. They expand the How To Stick story principle to shore up the slide of the unexpected. Paris Hilton's sandwich commercial is salacious. It was made for maximum shock value. There is no story. Paris loses any interest created quickly. LaChapelle or Leibovitz (read about the day I met Annie in my Meeting Annie Leibovitz article) tease us with story. We must know more. Story, done well, is bulletproof. Nothing anyone can do with Paris or anyone else can reduce the effectiveness of YOUR story.
The Problem With Sex Sells
Sloth, laziness and copycat idolatry lies at the core of why sex doesn't command our attention as it once did. Mad Men on A&E shows the beginning of the end. The show is about "the golden age" of advertising (early 1960's). Everyone smokes and drinks. They treat women in their workplace as hookers and servants and their ads work. Their ads work. When ads fall on what can only be described as "virgin" ears life is good. Easy to be welcomed with open arms when you ride the first boats ashore. After years of pollution, disease and pestilence good luck keeping your hair. How many ads do we welcome now? Our "virgin" ad days are behind us.
Slothful and lazy advertisers copy they don't create. For years Madison Avenue could afford to underachieve especially when ads employed Sex Sells principles. Sending "Sex Sells" ads to virgin eyes and ears meant you got attention and made money even when your ad campaigns were less than original. A man shaving in a shaving cream commercial is not original. Close your eyes and you can almost see the two-martini lunch. A boozy ad executive leans across the table and says "let's throw a cute girl in there with stripper music" and the Noxzema scandal is born. Nice to ride a tide so strong all leaky boats lift. Get in the water and you win.
Been There, Done That
Multiply thousands of ads every single day in a variety of media times five, ten and twenty years and you get world weary consumers who've been there and seen that. Current estimates indicate a man or woman with cable and web access see somewhere north of 3,000 ads a day. Our ad “schemas" are so full even Paris Hilton making love to a car produces a yawn. No more winning by simply being in the water.
Why Sex Still Sells: The Pill, Free Love and Advertising
Let's step back. Why did sex sell in the first place? In the 1950’s and 1960's what Sex meant changed. The pill makes “free love” a cultural reality. What Seth Godin ( read my blog about Working with Seth Godin) named the “advertising industrial complex” is born and baby boomers become an adman’s dream:
Why Sex Still Sells - Biological Imperative
The pill liberated men and women. The pill meant procreation could be controlled, managed and planned. Pregnancy and children didn’t have to change a couple’s priorities, finances and lives. The pill meant sex could safely become a source of pleasure and recreation. Yes, STD’s eventually showed the dangers of too much freedom, but sex as pleasurable recreation not simply biological procreation won a long fought battle when the pill arrived in 1960.
Imagine another adman lunch. In this lunch our adman has a huge smile as he sees film from the Summer of Love. He spies a bedraggled hippie carry a sign with “Free Love” above his tangled hair. Our adman smiles because he smells money. He knows he will steal and package every “counter-culture” concept. Nothing is ever free, our adman knows, least of all love.
Advertising Industrial Complex
Godin uses the Pentagon as schema to explain the vast ad complex that hammered attention with enough interruptions, also known as commercials, to send an army of monkeys to the moon and back several times. Interrupt early and often was rule one. Use sex as much as humanly possible was rule two. When in doubt return to rule one.
If God appeared in Henry Ford's office one day asking, "Henry would you like me to make buying a car a biological imperative, a survival of the species thing." How would he answer? "God," Henry would say rolling up his sleeves, "you can have any color you want as long as it is black and yes the biological imperative thing will be just fine with me thanks." Sex sells cars. Detroit, Germany and Japan know this. God didn't give them a free ride, so they've spent billions to convince us cars, like sex, are a biological imperative. If you can't get the concessions from God you want, if you can't be a biological imperative, spend billions to get as close to one as you can.
We must breathe, eat and procreate. Everything else is marketing.
Why Sex Sells 2.....coming soon.
ScentTrail Marketing Terms Dictionary
* Page 54 = schema defined in Made To Stick
“The average American is targeted by 3000 messages per day. That
includes phone calls, e-mail, meetings, conversations. -- Data Smog by
David Shenk” http://davidshenk.com/