On a friend moving back to my hometown, not his (v3)

For Zach


Hey, so sorry I missed your call
I got your email with your new address
Nice. Good for you.

You’ll be living near that park we like
the one with the corpses of civil war dead
buried shallow in a wide ditch grave underneath

Just below the bouncy plastic playground
where my kid used to stomp after pigeons
the pipes plumbed through the old bones

All those screeches, kids and squirrels
jumping thump-thump, thump-thump, thump-thump
down onto the dirt gray mats

I’d lay napping in my apartment, across the street
on a beautiful spring afternoon
I used to live there, I don’t anymore

You lived there too. Moved away. Now you do again
Good for you.
Good for you.

Me, I couldn’t wait to escape the useless noise
I have another million reasons written down
And another million better reasons I’m not going back

Now I’m out here, in the heartland
with cheap living, white bread, and ample cheese
I have absolutely no supermarket worries

So, go ahead and enjoy yourself
send me a postcard, whatever
I’ll see it all online anyway

You know, now that I’m thinking
My daughter was born there
She’s more Brooklyn than you’ll ever be

And when you walk through that beautiful park
and the cheerful neighbors chat happy things
with their wide open arms and deeper smiles

don’t forget

All those tragically dead soldiers are staring up at your feet

‘Clovering’ to Make Sense of It All

Clovering: – verb. 1. Daily (minute) layering of potential options with social groups into adaptable data (thoughts) that mitigate complex decisions into simpler ones. 2. Activity of illustrating layers of influence into a graphic (clover leaf) to both discern and organize complex thoughts into simpler data. 3. A game played through charting a clover leaf diagram where the players submit ideas (either forces or goals) with the hopes to fully populate the clover.

In nearly every second of our day, we’re layering and integrating piles of data and information to make sense of our world. Tech and media companies barrage us with a host of tools and services to filter, aggregate and process the incessant information. We carry around toolkits including hardware (phones) and software (apps) — our tiny robots, our little helpers, extensions of ourselves — that help mitigate the river of data that is rampant within our western-culture lives.

We live within these layers. We float through them, they wave over us. If you were to illustrate our era, it would look like a shifting pile of translucent pancakes. You’re looking through a shifting screen of layers, viewing the incrementally cranking inside mechanisms of a clock; it would look like a massively layered Venn diagram.

It is no coincidence that Venn diagrams have become very popular. I see new diagrams every day, including a non-Venn (and a personal favorite), the “clover” diagram. As a culture we’ve been producing these layered illustrations to try to figure it all out. In a way, they are telling us the story of how the era is progressing. Back in ’09, HuffPo provided a slideshow, Jesus, Karaoke, And Serial Killers: The Funniest Venn Diagrams The Web Has To Offer.

This interest-spike in ’09  of Venn Diagrams denotes a cultural shift — one that suggests acquiescence to the data and a method to find joy within a seemingly unmanageable data-pile.

At WE Studio D, we were playing with a clover diagram to discern and divide up communications in order to find “viral.” This is more of an organic puzzle than a locked-in solution:

It’s satisfying to be able to lodge certain criteria into a position, to feel the sense of order, even if it’s fleeting. I am an open proponent of “clovering” and believe it could be a great tool for brainstorming and filtering down to the root elements of any complex scenario.

Ever since I’ve shared my interest in these clovers with friends and coworkers, I keep finding more and more. I received this clover from a friend who knows I dig diagrams. This one is also from ’09 and tries to define “what is a good information design:”

Edelman Digital also uses a clover to help define media:

In all three clovers, the middle spot seems to be the “answer” to whatever problem we’re trying to solve.

Recently I’ve begun to practice clovering as part of my creative routine. I’ve introduced it to friends at dinner (where we used it to determine the joy of coffee) and in the office with my co-worker Matt (to investigate the balancing act of client relationships). In Matt’s clover, the answers wasn’t in the middle, it was actually one of the side layers …Evolution!

Give it a try, see what you come up with, and let me know if you want to share it here on this blog.


Thought Marketers, Crossing the Chasm and the Cultural Terrain

(This post was inspired by my conversation with Michael Roston of The New York Times. I’m deeply grateful for his insights.)

I’ve been working on a diagram to anchor the digital-strategy conversations I have with clients. I wanted a map of the current landscape to reference when speaking about “why” we need to implement these strategies. Over the past two months, I’ve been sharing this diagram with my peers and refining it down. Then, just when I thought I had created the final version, two peers (Michele Clarke and Natalie Lieblick) noted it was reminiscent of Geoffrey A. Moore’s “Technology Adoption Lifecycle,” which he developed in his book, Crossing the Chasm (1991).

This is true, but instead of it being a bummer, it was a spark of evolution. In comparing my diagram to Moore’s theory, we can specifically identify what’s changed from then to now. Hurrah!

The initial “Chasm” theory points out the hurdle new technology needs to traverse in order to gain widespread adoption. Here’s a diagram that illustrates Moore’s “Chasm” theory:

Over on the left is the Chasm. Moore speculated that somewhere within the early adoption process this Chasm ate up most new technology, with only a few making it to the “Early Majority” market. This symptom still exists, but in our current era the “Early Adopter” zone is populated by a new set of behaviors.

Over the past 20 years, marketers, communications professionals, new technology startups and advertisers have been actively seeking to fix the Chasm. Right now the new fix is You, the digitally connected individual. The cultural forces that impact our lives have us focusing greater and greater time and energy within the online “networking” space. Facebook, Twitter, blogging, etc., have pointed our activity right at the Chasm; we’re reverse-mining the Chasm by filling it up with the immense amount of content we share. While marketers and communication pros used to focus on getting people across the Chasm, the need now is for marketers to minimize the impact of the Chasm, by re-engineering it altogether to make it irrelevant.

In my new map, an evolution from Moore’s theory, I’ve identified the behaviors of the entire terrain. While similar to Moore’s, it includes new overlaps, new definitions and updated behaviors.

The Cultural Terrain:

The Cultural Terrain defines where ideas start (not just technology products), where they are amplified and where they are adopted. From left to right, all of the roles within this Terrain are (I’ve defined each role in more detail at the end of this post):

–          Trailblazers

–          Futurists

–          Pundits & Thought Leaders

–          Thought Marketers

–          Consumers

–          Late Adopter

–          Lurkers

In the space where the Chasm used to be, there are now three main behaviors:

–          Futurists

–          Pundits & Thought Leaders

–          Thought Marketers

The new, key re-engineering role is being populated by the “Thought Marketers.” The number of participants within the Thought Market is growing exponentially as anyone with an Internet connection can now partake in the Thought Market. You yourself are probably a Thought Marketer. You don’t have to be “mainstream” to be a Thought Marketer; you can be either a Consumer who is participating within the public dialogue (posting status updates, sharing videos, new links, blogging, etc.) or a Pundit who seeks to influence your thinking. In fact, this influence is now a two-way street. Consumers have greater voice in defining the conversation around ideas, versus 20 years ago when this conversation was more passive.

When I post links to content I’ve found that I want to share with you, I’m Thought Marketing.  A friend post photos they want me to see and when brands post messages they want to me act on, they’re Thought Marketing. A journalist shares handheld videos that support their articles, my cousin shares a video of his kids — they are both Thought Marketing.

This behavior has created a new type of ecosystem, mostly seen through the growth of social media, that hopes to create influence through activity (I tweet every day in order to make sure people see my Tweets) and trust (I hope to gain more friends so you want to be my friend too, then I can share my ideas with more people). Thought Marketers are all hoping to inject and amplify their “thoughts” into the conversation to influence the conversation, to gain some recognition and to somehow prosper from their activity. If I share my photo with you, which is seemingly innocent, I am actually making an exchange with you, providing something I believe has value with hopes it influences your life, even modestly with a “like” on Facebook. More friends, more fans, more purchases…more influence.

As more and more people are engaging within the Thought Market, Thought Marketers have to increase their activity in order to gain results. As example, my Facebook news stream is full; I often miss photos my friends are hoping to share with me. I share news items over my Twitter feed — only a small percentage of my friends actually see my Tweet. Still, this activity can be very rewarding; if your message receives a spike in attention, your reach and potential influence can be immense, but it sure does take a lot of time.

Everyone who seeks to influence anyone wants to be in the Thought Market, and social software continues to provide more entry into this zone on the map. The role of the consumer and the marketer is blending as word-of-mouth, bloggers and tech startups continue to fuse these roles together.

So, if it’s getting so crowded in the Thought Market, and it’s taking more and more of my time to be influential there, what’s next?

I’m working on some thoughts right now and will market them to you next week.


The Cultural Terrain Roles:

Trailblazers: These are the fiercely innovative individuals and organizations who are inventing the future. Their greatest concerns are for newness and innovation, regardless of monetary rewards or who hears about the technology. They are the true “bleeding”-edge.

Futurists: These folks are the glue between the “bleeding”-edge and the amplification of new trends. They are both pushing the envelope while seeking to communicate their learnings to the larger group. They are aware of the tightrope they walk — knowing they are sharing discoveries that might be “too early” for the popular market but see the deep value these trends will bring to the future.

Pundits & Thought Leaders: This group identifies which of the new trends map to their own agendas and work to configure the trends for either personal or organizational gain. They are reliant on the Futurists to do the initial filtering, but take it the step further to create ingestible, adoptable plans integrating new trends into the lives of their markets and audiences.

Thought Marketers: This is the “stock market” for ideas where thought-brokers seek to amplify key trends, news, stories, etc., to attract Consumers. They aim to craft sticky and compelling content that will either resonate with a current audience or attract a new one. This is the main arena for advertisers, marketers and communicators. The thought market is where nearly all the obvious activity is taking place, primarily through the exponential growth of social media.

Consumers/Purchasers: This is the buying market. The individuals and organization who determine their purchases and take steps to make the new products and trends mainstream.

Late Adopters: These are the late bloomers to a trend. They do eventually get around to purchasing an item but typically long after the marketing campaigns are spent out and Thought Marketers have moved on to a new trend or idea.

Lurkers: This group waits until a trend has passed before they potentially participate. Still, they are a large group with buying power but are the hardest to influence. In Moore’s chart, these are the laggards.

Layered on top of this terrain is the “Popular Scope.” This is the arena at which most of current advertising, PR and marketing campaigns are aimed.

Throughout the timeline is the power of influence. Influence starts with the Trailblazers, moves through to the Consumers, and hits the wall at the Lurkers. Once it hits the wall, influence then reverbs back into the Consumers, typically as kitsch, irony and snark.

3 Quick Points about Building Your Digital Campaign

(originally posted on Thinkers & Doers blog, 1/11)

(The above slide was crafted by Cindi DeHoog, account executive at Waggener Edstrom Worldwide, as part of a collaborative effort between the account teams and WE Studio D.)

1. Heartbeats over spikes: Craft your campaign as a sustained cadence of low, modest and high activity. A careful mix of the three can propel the campaign forward while conserving energy (budget) to boost ongoing momentum (and greater adoption). Think of your campaign as an EKG line of short pauses, minor drops and lifts of activity.

2. Invitations over packages: Invite your community into the campaign from the inception; open doors to inclusion and participation. Dropping a tidily wrapped program into social channels will not allow for the same longevity as campaigns that allow for interpretation, organic growth and interactivity.

3. Relinquishing over rigidity: “A tree that is unbending is easily broken.” When considering your campaigns, build in a flexibility that allows for the greatest interactivity and adjustments. Infuse the campaign with a life of its own,  and allow it to grow beyond your initial expectations.

Let me know your questions!

Be in the Front

(originally posted on Thinkers & Doers blog, 11/10)

Be in the Front

The revolution rolls on ahead, incessantly causing the disruptions that influence our present. Consultants and strategists rush forward to take a peek at the future (and potentially influence its direction), and then hustle back with our analysis. Like carnival barkers, from our step-stool soapboxes we can see the new way forward.  We work hard to lift our clients onto our shoulders just long enough for them to take a convincing glance, and for us, the strategists, to express the merits, the benefits, and the ample successes waiting for them down the road.

“But where’s the ROI?” They ask.

What’s the ROI of a revolution?”  I respond.

The ROI is to be there, at the front, in order to invent the ROI. It’s pre-ROI!

I want to define this space in front of the future as the “Leadership Value,” your “LV.” Before we can get to ROI we need to get your LV.

Envision the future as a speedboat racing through placid water. The boat rushes forward, propelled by the incessant weave of economic, social and cultural factors. In the still water before the boat is the clean slate, the tablet to write the future. Behind the boat is the churning wake, the activity that defines our here and now. We want to be in the still water in the front of the boat. We want our clients to be there with us. We want to see the water the boat is cutting into, to position our clients at the sweet spot.

When clients ask me, “Should we invest in mobile?” I want to answer, “Yes, mobile is important, but it’s driven by a future further ahead of us. To better answer your question we need to see clearly. Let’s get to the front, get your LV set, and the answer will be strongest.”

If we’ve done our job well, we’ve brought our clients to the front, and put them into a positively active position where they are maintaining a presence in the stillness. They are in the lead; they are creating the lead. From there they can see all vantages: the future, the movement of the revolution, the wake and the distant past.

We can then plan for the future while building products for the entire market: the early and late adopters. Our vision is clearest when we’re in the lead.

Build your LV, and the ROI will follow.

Be With the Lions

(originally posted on Thinkers & Doers blog, 10/10)

Be With the Lions

The trick to taming a lion is to confuse it. Circus lion-tamers point the underside of chairs at their lions, giving them too many points to swipe at. Unable to decide on which leg to paw, the lion halts its attack. The trainer can then guide the lion to its happy place, typically by offering it a grand reward. Let’s call this approach “old school.”

The “new school” approach is to work WITH the lions instead of trying to tame them. The goal is to build lasting relationships with the lions. To be successful, the new-school lion “listener” needs to:

  • Study the group and discern the leadership
  • Live within the group to fully understand the nuances
  • Offer safe havens where the group can visit, without prodding or corralling

The Gap has learned that the old school no longer works.

The new logo designed by Laird & Partners, which I actually liked, was not sabotaged by its poor reception, even though it appears that way through the data. At the time of my writing this, there are tons of digital conversations about the logo. We did a quick search using Sysomos and found:

  • 1,457 blog post mentions
  • 51,027 tweet mentions
  • 364 traditional media mentions

Most of these mentions are negative, but show the fanatical support the Gap has for its brand. Looking at the Gap’s Facebook page there are over 1,000 more comments from eager brand fans seeking to add their voices to the dialogue. (Harness this power!)


The new Gap logo failed because it lacked a full “Social/Digital” plan to life-cycle the launch within the new-school frame. Our social era puts everything out in the open, transparently. These lions, the Gap’s audiences, are out in the open too. They looked at the old bait and saw past it, into the savannah, and knew there was better prey amidst the grasses. Instead of fully understanding this relationship the Gap initially panicked (which you don’t want to do around lions), and offered to “crowd-source” the logo. It’s impossible to tame lions in the wild, but taming lions is no longer the goal. That’s old school; it’s all new school now.

The Gap can still salvage this campaign, even flourish from the results. Social is a process, not a road marker; it’s evolving and is open to ongoing participation. Here are a few symptoms, solutions, and opportunities.

  • Own your brand’s digital footprint. When the Gap chose to announce the new logo on HuffPo they relinquished the power of their brand to HuffPo. I still think it’s a good strategy to engage with bloggers and media outlets, but there were earlier opportunities to reach out to thought leaders and highly influential digital trailblazers who could have helped amplify the goals while keeping the Gap’s brand strong. I expect the Gap to have had a well-maintained blog in place, potentially a virtual newsroom where they can offer bloggers, fans and fanatics useful bits of digital gems to foster conversation. Sure, a Facebook landing page is a good idea, but what’s missing is the ongoing conversations with their audience. Another solution could be a Gap-branded digital “home,” a mini-site to land on, to linger at, a place to share ideas with each other. The Twitter account is also too broadcast-heavy with low engagement. Overall, the Gap needs to invest more time speaking WITH their audience in order to own their digital footprint.
  • Ramp up slowly, in the open. The Gap could have integrated their audience into the new logo rollout. They could have made the process transparent, open to dialogue, and responsive to feedback. This is not “crowd-sourcing,” it’s engagement. Define the hierarchy of your audience, and pinpoint the strategy to include the grassroots leadership. Then allow the news to grow organically, monitor the response, and then remain in tune and agile enough to roll and react as needed. It’s hard to catch a big wave; start with a smaller wave and build up your response as the wave builds. It’s even harder to herd cats, especially big cats like lions. Instead, walk with them, see where they go, and build a course of action once you can define the trajectory. And above all, don’t surprise them.

I hope the Gap doesn’t batten down the hatches and go reclusive. I think they need to do the opposite, now, and with vigor. They need to be with the lions. They are ripe to harness the power of social.