I had the opportunity to lead a roundtable during the Resilient Business Summit a few years ago – here are some of my thoughts.
Finding and holding onto the pulse of your many stakeholders – Community engagement as the conduit.
I arrived on campus during the summer at the elite private school. No one was around. I wasn’t sure if I needed to call the cable company, or how to place a phone call. I didn’t know the area or which restaurants to avoid. I was brand spanking new to this school and community and felt very alone.
It became immediately apparent why so many people early in a new job or locale make the decision to leave. They have no real connection to the community and so the decision to leave is an easy one.
or What Chipotle and the Dali Lama have in common. (hint: They are able to touch and transform a lot of people)
Lately I’ve been spending quite a bit of time thinking about gifting and inviting abundance into my life. I’ve also been very focused on personal transformation. I’ve done breath work, dream analysis, meditation, et cetera. I’m following this path because I can feel and see changes happening in my life and in the lives of those around me and its powerful stuff.
But much of the change that I’ve seen is localized or only affects a certain sector of the population that can afford it. While I see the consciousness of the business world shifting through my friends’ businesses at SVN I wasn’t seeing much mainstream or popularized that really grabbed our transforming planet by the balls and… ok maybe a different metaphor. Not that they weren’t doing enough. They just hadn’t gone off the high dive. I’ve been seeing the change as we live the words of Ghandi, and even some cool new products and businesses, but holy crap Chipotle just did a cannon ball into a pool that’s only had a little splashing.
Cultural norms help to shape who we are. The stories that we hear every day. Those going against those norms are often outcast, but they are brave and being true to themselves in their actions.
What if this was all about gaining equality. Equality in the races, in gender, in identity. We are all people after all. Men had been forced to hide their feminine side and women their masculine. Many behaviors seek to overly espouse the opposite. Business women with short hair in suits. Women smoking. Or driven to over expression through hiding their true nature. Men who become over powering and violent in action. Culturally we seek to numb and hide in our actions. Drinking, drugs, over-consumption. We are obviously sick and getting sicker. While some of this can be attributed to our diets, those have been controlled by the cultural norms and so we must look deeper at the root. Continue reading “Changing Culture Norms through Storytellling”
Gamification is a hot topic nowadays. In conversation I’m seeing people reaching blindly towards gamification the same way they stumbled towards social media five years ago. To many, gamification is something that they’ve heard about people doing successfully and so they want it.
The surge in interest in games reminds me of Pin the Tail on the Donkey. A little silly to watch, but everyone genuinely wants to succeed. The other interesting dynamic is that I’m not sure anyone can see the donkey yet. While we are working closer and closer to understanding how to do this, it seems to be a field that includes elements connecting game designers, educators, and marketing professionals and thus one which our incongruous education system of silo-ed study has not created an environment conducive to cross disciplinary understanding and action. Some might disagree on this point, but I’d point out that in order to design effective games you need to understand systems theory, game design, psychology, math, sociology, etc.
But back to the topic at hand. In the past years candy, and other ‘junk food’ companies offered games to their consumers on their websites. I expect that they were seeking to get traffic to their websites. The games that I’ve seen often have little to do with the brand, but there in the background was the logo. M&M’s does this with a shuffleboard game, for example. The point is obviously engagement since you don’t need to play a game to open a bag of M&M’s. Connecting your product to an enjoyable experience is a good idea and one that came naturally and early to that sector. Continue reading “To Gamify or Not to Gamify”
So as you may know Create Better Impact Games is my company. I design games around making the world a better place which I know will one day be worthy of winning awards from Games for Change. Right now, this is a little tiny company with a little tiny budget. Not that one day it won’t be able to hold its own with the big boys, but for now marketing is not the top priority.
As I got ready to bring Waste Not to market using an Indiegogo Campaign I had to think seriously about how to approach marketing. While I have a lot of people in my contacts I couldn’t be sure who would actually have natural interest and who might need some convincing.
Being a game designer I tried to think of ways to make liking or signing up on social media fun and engaging to the community. This process is called gamification and everyone and their mother is currently trying to apply it to their web presence. I am lucky that it is part of my natural reaction to communications.
Back to the point. There I was at the start of a campaign trying to raise money to print Waste Not. My Facebook page for both CBI Games and Waste Not were relatively new with little to now following, I had just begun a Twitter presence for Waste Not, and I had nothing on Google+. So in response I decided to give away a version of my game for free via social media. You heard me, for free.
I figured that if people got a chance to play the game, even if slightly different interactions than with having a deck of cards, that they’d be more likely to ‘like’ and engage with the marketing of the brand. In this case, I was seeking to let the game speak for itself.
Now I’ve been going forward with the understanding that this deck of cards will be able to be used in many ways. That will always happen when you give someone a flexible tool, is that they will begin to bend it and play with it. In fact many of the stories that we know from childhood have changed over the centuries. The basic story is still there to communicate the archetypal hero/ine’s journey but the details change.
Well that’s exactly what I’m seeing happening with Waste Not on Social Media. While the instructions were to share the status so that others could see what you were liking and playing people tended to comment on the Waste Not status. While this did not garner the amazing viral experience I was hoping for, I did get the benefit of seeing how people began to play the game. And let me tell you it was fun! Yes, my games are fun for me too. Especially when I get to watch others play.
While I’ve let go of the control over the rules and will continue to allow for this project to flow and grow, I’m glad that I undertook this experiment in the gamification of my own marketing. I think overall those that played did have fun and many of them played several times. What I’m seeing now is a small but committed group of people who are totally engaged. I’d prefer this any day to a large, unengaged group. My hypothesis is that as long as I follow the same theory of engagement that as the following grows it may be smaller initially but they will be more valuable relationships.
Our businesses have a personality. In many ways they represent archetypes in our culture. For example take a look at locally owned Bart’s Ice Cream. Bart is this young hip dude who is unique, into the local food movement, and likes to drink.
Choosing flavors for this company and marketing should be based on the brand they are trying to achieve. Based on the aforementioned and established personalities should Bart’s present a flavor like Rum Raisin? Isn’t that old fashioned? Well within his personality, Bart likes to drink, so Bart’s would only make rum raisin seasonally and with real rum.
Branding and Marketing is not just a way to reach your audience. It is a way to communicate what you are like as a company. So what is your business like?
Other examples: Snow’s Premium Ice Cream – Snow’s is your grandparent, steady, strong with flavors you can depend on who kicks up their heels every now and then with a young modern twist.
Create Better Impact Games – When coming up with this logo the idea was to bring in an element of fun and action and that was the visual symbol of the company.
We all see initiatives and products advertised as being green or sustainable. Whether this is done as a component of corporate strategy or arises from a true belief of inherent ‘goodness’ most of the time on the scale of true worldwide sustainability, they are not without some impact.
My answer is that there is no black and white definition.
Within communities, corporations, small businesses, governments, and families there are different degrees of progress. When a corporation is announcing a greening strategy or movement, good for them. They have made progress. But by no means are they now officially GREEN with nothing left to do.
Think of this situation like being in a dim room. In a room that the occupants are used to they can see and because that is what they know, they accept it as being good, normal or right. There is no questioning whether or not the light can get brighter. They think it’s as bright as it can be perhaps, or they might not even question that more is possible.
If additional lights were added to the room it would be obvious to the occupants that at first the room was dark and now there is more light. Who is to say that it can’t get brighter still? Why settle for what we have if we can have and create a better world and society for ourselves?
It’s obvious when you see a green product. It’s obvious when you see a sustainable community. I think the question that we need to ask is can it get brighter? Can it get greener? And I believe it can.
Big Bucks advertising and marketing have got it down. They know how to begin marketing to someone at a very early age. They know that the wording of a slogan matters. They know that how you phrase an ad changes people perception. They know the colors and symbols used evoke emotion and connection. We should be using the same effective principles when we’re trying to help people to understand the new ideas and creativity we need to see in our world.
Too much of the green movement and those driving sustainability have been operating by making documentaries, writing books and doing talks. If that were the best way to get a product or concept to be purchased and believed in, well you’d have tons of pro-Wal-Mart documentaries. The bookshelves would be lined with books about Target being the solution. Scientific conference sessions would be dedicated to Nikes conforming perfectly to the feet of most humans. But you don’t see that. My intuition tells me that one of the reasons those tactics are not primary to corporations is because they don’t create a big demand in a short period of time.
We need to learn from this. We, as in those of us who are interested in the sustainability of the planet. We need to take a lesson from the corporations who have been so effective in getting their goods and products into our minds. We need to market positivity and transformation in a way to generate ‘fanatic evangelists’ for these life sustaining practices. Gloom and doom, end of the world, ‘you need to change’, and non-interactive mediums will not create vibrantly alive communities. Interactive, hands-on, culturally aware, co-created approaches will.
‘How?’ You ask. Well that’s something for me to continue writing about, and for you to hire me to implement. Check back in as these ideas unfold through my writing and feel free to share your thoughts via commenting.
I am finding myself in an interesting situation. I am a writer, consultant, experiential educator, teacher, facilitator, advisor, and a multitude of other descriptors. I love to do a gazillion different things. What others consider an insurmountable problem, I consider a challenge and something to delve into. I smile at an opportunity to re-think or reimagine. Problem solving makes my eyes sparkle as does learning a new language.
I work with non-profits, for-profits, educational institutes, and planning departments; really, just about everyone. I can create and compile the information necessary to request a loan, read a financial statement, develop interactive education designed to create social change, keep a classroom of 12-year-old boys enthralled for an hour and a half talking about sustainability, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
My current challenge is looking at marketing and branding myself in order to more efficiently explain to people what it is that I do. I am exploring this so I can simply explain to someone my current three projects and additional volunteer affiliations. Even more important I would like to give someone a business card that sticks in their memory because it deeply resonates with who I am and what I stand for.
I realize that this is important time to spend even though the results are likely to be something as simple and mundane as a business card, a logo on a website, letterhead on which to mail out my bills. Well, it’s going to be difficult for me to narrow down my focus from the broad to the narrow. However, spending time thinking about what is the most important to me in the direction that I want my life and my energy to go in will be overall a great benefit to my career and what I’m trying to accomplish. So I’m glad that it’s come to this even though it will take hours.
Randy Paynter of Care 2 brings up a good point when he says that businesses no longer controls their brand or marketing. This is because of the increasing interactions and communications in the digital world which are not controllable by an organization. He points out that today’s purchasing habits allow consumers to access reviews and alternative products with just a few clicks. In the past glossy advertising guided the public perception of a product, but today consumers are no longer limited to canned marketing campaigns medium to inform their opinions.
Randy maintains that this massive shift in power from the seller to the buyer comes in part from the plethora of choices, thereby creating a commodity of any product. In order to achieve brand success he touts the importance of differentiating a product as well as influencing the conversations surrounding it. He suggests that we need to create and engage ‘fanatical evangelists’ to build and communicate brands online. Listen to the full session here
Steve Newcomb has high aspirations. His company, “Virgance, is a startup incubator that finds great ideas and turns them into companies that change the world. Steve wondered if he could “break the rules and build companies that do good.” His commitment to 100% transparency puts him in front of the public so that they can ask any question about how business is conducted.
Steve has approached the idea of sustainability as he would any market sector and he sees the market opportunity as enormous. The change needed will require not a single Apollo-sized project by hundreds. Seeking to change the very nature of capitalism, Virgance companies adhere to five tenets:
“Cause as much direct and measurable change as possible.”
“Always use the carrot and never use the stick.”
“Use technology and the powers of social networks to get the job done.”
“Have business models that allow these businesses to be self-sustaining.”
“Try to involve and empower people to make the change.”
But the plenary wouldn’t have been complete without Malika Chopra, who began the session by guiding the SVN community in a beautiful mediation of gratitude, showing her heritage as the daughter of internationally renowned, Deepak Chopra. While her childhood exposure to the self-help arena and her presence around people who were on a journey of self-exploration, Malika’s early interests steered her to work for MTV initially. But it was while in Bombay that she had a change of heart after seeing a group of barefoot children huddled around a TV watching MTV. “Oh my God, what am I doing?” was all she could think and she decided to quit MTV the next day.
Today, Malika spends her time building a community on Intent, a sanctuary on the web for users to share their intentions and dreams with each other. Malika, a self-proclaimed “social media maven,” has a unique perspective on things because she is coming at it from the perspective of a mother and a woman.
Both Malika and Steve remind us that powerful movements and changes have been created through the use of blogs, Facebook and Twitter. Activities like ‘flash mobs,’ ‘tweet storms,’ and ‘carrot mobs’ can or have been used to create positive social change. The energy generated by this group’s discussion seemed to electrify the air, and that crackling interest will likely lead many of the participants to delve further into their own use of social media in order to create change.