November 29, 2008

desertmanhattan update

[40-second video, no audio.]


["DesertManhattan". India ink, pencil and acrylic on canvas. 4x8 ft. Click on image to enlarge etc.]


[Close-up view. Click on image to enlarge etc.]

The final ink layer is about half done, which by my reckoning makes the whole thing about 75% completed. Quite pleased with it, so far. Quite excited to have it finally finished, one of these days...

The last 25% of a large drawing is always the hardest. You're so anxious to get it over and done with, the temptation to take "shortcuts" gets harder and harder to resist. Starting a big painting is easy. Finishing one is a nightmare.

Posted by hugh macleod at 1:48 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

November 26, 2008

stormhoek in the west texas desert


1. A few weeks back I mentioned that I was back working with Stormhoek, the South African wine.

2. I mentioned that I had painted a billboard:

"Stormhoek. Made in South Africa. Drunk in West Texas."

3. I mentioned that there was no marketing budget to speak of, and that also I lived in West Texas, so with these limitations we were going to have to improvise.

4. Watch the video here to see the story begin to unfold...

Posted by hugh macleod at 10:29 PM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

November 25, 2008

sms iphone


Posted by hugh macleod at 2:21 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

November 24, 2008



[Cartoon inspired by Shel Israel's recent post]

[UPDATE:] Brian Rethinks Dell

Brian Baily, who follows me on Twitter, emailed me the following re. my work with Dell. Got my attention, to say the least:

The thing I keep trying to figure out is why did a few 140-character comments by a guy I had never met have more impact on my view of Dell than anything else over the last 2 years. I used to love Dell and worked with them all the time in my former life. Over the last few years, I began to see them as a big, soulless company obsessed with only the product and its price (and especially the price of all the pieces that make the product). All of their advertising seems to be about the stuff and the specs and not about me, or my company, or the amazing things I can do with their it. Even if they want to emphasize their price advantage, which is important, tell me that how I can afford a better health plan for my employees because I'm not wasting money on overpriced hardware.

Your few tweets and posts about Dell have already made me think about Dell differently. I've heard a little about the determined, loyal people inside who want Dell to build the best products for the best price. I have a sense of the soul inside the machine, and their passion to do what they do better than anyone else, but also to do well by their customers. Dell seems like a company worth paying attention to again. Hell, I even looked up the Dell Mini - the first time I've been on a Dell product page in a long time (unfortunately their web stuff and product naming still sucks and is ridiculously complicated... "Dell Inspiron Mini 9"). As a Texan, I want Dell to thrive. I hope you can play a part in making that happen.

I've been saying this for years: Blogging [and all its social media cousins] is a good way to make things happen indirectly. Sure, it takes forever and it's a bitch to measure, but when it works... Boy, it REALLY works.

Posted by hugh macleod at 7:15 PM | Comments (18) | TrackBack




Posted by hugh macleod at 6:05 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

potential client


Posted by hugh macleod at 4:55 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

corporate dude


Posted by hugh macleod at 4:21 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

social media specialists celebrating


Posted by hugh macleod at 3:54 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

social media specialists waiting in line


Posted by hugh macleod at 3:28 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

you're a social media specialist?


[After reading Pat Phelan's "Are Social Media experts surplus to requirements in a recession?", I couldn't resist...]

Posted by hugh macleod at 12:45 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

the gary vee litho


My friend, Gary Vaynerchuk of Wine Library TV fame and I have been talking on and off for the last while about me doing a lithograph for his wine business, in a similar spirit to all those Stormhoek lithos I did back in London.

Finally, yesterday, I stopped my dilly-dallying and just cranked it out. Voila!

Like I said a few weeks back, I'm getting more into the fine art print business. Social Objects at their finest. Rock on.

I hope Gary likes the design...

Posted by hugh macleod at 12:13 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 23, 2008

social media specialists


[Click on images to enlarge etc.]

[Bonus: A little badge for your sidebar. Click on image to enlarge etc.]

Posted by hugh macleod at 3:27 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

i'm not addicted to twitter


Posted by hugh macleod at 2:12 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

November 21, 2008

marketing as transformation


Back in 2004, I came up with probably my favorite marketing-related insight ever:


We are here to find meaning. We are here to help other people do the same. Everything else is secondary.

We humans want to believe in our own species. And we want people, companies and products in our lives that make it easier to do so. That is human nature.

It was a real EUREKA! moment for me. Meaning. A-HA! That's what we are always going to be willing to pay for. And somehow, even in a small way, your product has to be aligned with your customer's never-ending search to find meaning in his or her own life.

Why does most marketing fail, or at least, create unsatisfactory results? Because most marketing is oblivious to this real human drive to find meaning.

Instead, most marketing appeals to rather trivial aspects of human existence. Your bum will look smaller with this product. Your shoulders will look bigger with this product. Your friends will be impressed if they see you using our product. Your living room will smell nicer with this product. You'll save $13.42 if you use our product, instead of their product. Yada, yada, yada...

But as we know, that's not why we really buy most products. Like I said in 2006:

If people like buying your product, it's because its story helps fill in the narrative gaps in their own lives.

Human beings need to tell stories. Historically, it's the quickest way we have for transmitting useful information to other members of our species. Stories are not just nice things to have, they are essential survival tools.

And yes, the stories we tell ourselves are just as important than the stories we tell other people.

Ergo, marketing is not about selling. Marketing is figuring out where your product stands in relation to personal narrative.

So where does your product fit into other people's narrative? How does telling your story become a survival tool for other people? If you don't know, you have a marketing problem.

Narrative gaps. It's all about the narrative gaps.

We find meaning, we fill in the narrative gaps, when we transform ourselves. When we transform from unemployed single mother to world's richest woman [Like what happened to Harry Potter's JK Rowling]. When we go from a size-12 dress to a size-6 dress. When we land our first real job promotion. When we go from single horny guy to happily married father of six. This need to constantly transform ourselves, from one state of being to another, never goes away. We are fluid creatures. We crave re-invention like we crave food or sex. And when we lose the capacity to transform ourselves, when we get stuck in a rut, is when life's meaning starts to dry up.

Fine, I hear you say, that's great if you're selling "transformative" stuff like exercise equipment or Tony Robbins seminars, but what about more prosaic products, like snacks or toothpaste?

Simple: Then your product exists in context of a much bigger story- your custumer's. Like being an extra in a much bigger movie. Or a single sentence in a much bigger book.

It's OK to play a minor role. As social animals, we are happiest when we feel we belong to something much larger than ourselves. A faith. A movement. A tribe. A noble calling. A Purpose-Idea.

And what is true for people, is also true for products. They too are happiest when they belong to something much larger than themselves. A faith. A movement. A tribe. A noble calling. A Purpose-Idea.

The people who inspire us the most are the people who aim higher than the limitations imposed upon them. Triumph over adversity; it's the oldest story in the world.

The products that inspire us the most are the ones that also aim higher than the limitations imposed upon them. Triumph over adversity; it's the oldest story in the world.

So what's your story going to be?

[Bonus Link:] Harold Jarche left a neat quote in the comments. From Neal Stephenson's Anathem, page 414:

"So I looked with fascination at those people in their mobes [cars], and tried to fathom what it would be like. Thousands of years ago, the work that people did had been broken down into jobs that were the same every day, in organizations where people were interchangeable parts. All of the story had been bled out of their lives. That was how it had to be; it was how you got a productive economy. But it would be easy to see a will at work behind this: not exactly an evil will, but a selfish will. The people who'd made the system thus were jealous, not of money and not of power but of story. If their employees came home at day's end with interesting stories to tell, it meant that something had gone wrong: a blackout, a strike, a spree killing. The Powers That Be would not suffer others to be in stories of their own unless they were fake stories that had been made up to motivate them."

Posted by hugh macleod at 2:58 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

November 20, 2008

marketing evolves when language evolves


I loved the comment my friend, James Cherkoff left in my last Dell-related post.

Almost all commercial copy increasingly sounds like something from the 1950's when compared to the bazaar of the live web. The example I use is one very close to my heart - Arseblog, the super-popular blog about Arsenal FC [London's largest pro soccer team].

While Arseblog offers insightful, balanced football analysis his colourful language is very much of the terraces - not the boardroom. For instance, here's a description of the morning-after his return to Dublin, following a long stay in Barcelona :

"My brain is discombobulated and I have had to send Blogette off to her new school wearing my runners which are at least 4 sizes too big for her because all of our stuff is in a box coming from Spain. I now have no shoes at all but I am wearing her fleecey red dressing gown. So all of you who might have a hangover today at least be thankful you have some shoes. I have no shoes. I am like a bag lady in a red dressing gown without any bags."
You would be forgiven for thinking that such rhetoric wouldn't ingratiate him with the club, a famously conservative organisation. In fact, the opposite is true and the Arsenal Chairman, an old-Etonian, and Amy Lawrence, a journalist at The Observer, are both regulars on the blog's Arsecast podcast.
[N.B. "Arse" is English slang for "Ass", "Butt", "Rear End", "Bum" etc. Fun bit of wordplay etc.]

I've been saying this for a while: Art is Language. Marketing is Language. Art evolves Language, Language evolves Art. Same with Marketing. Your marketing will evolve once your language evolves.

My three big marketing successes, English Cut, Stormhoek and The Microsoft Blue Monster didn't work because I had some clever, rocket-science metric for them to play with. They succeeded simply because I convinced all three parties to talk to their markets in ways they simply hadn't been talked to before.

English Cut is probably my most lucid example. My friend, Thomas Mahon is one of the top bespoke tailors in the world, certainly one of the top on London's Savile Row. His handmade suits fetch upwards of $5,000 if, and only if you can get on his waiting list for an appointment.

Instead of the usual high-end, mahogany-paneled, men's fashion blether ["Imagine yourself draped in the luxury only a privileged few can aspire to yak yak yak... The highest standards of quality, tradition and service maintained since 1852 yak yak yak..."], what did he do? He started praising his competition. And he used informative, helpful, friendly, straight-talking language in the process:

Kilgour's (formerly Kilgour French & Stanbury). I have a very soft spot for this firm, as their old cutter, George Roden offered me a job when I was very young and just starting out in the trade. An excellent pedigree in classic tailoring (Carey Grant was a favourite customer), but even though they keep one foot firmly in the past, they're not frightened to move forward. This is shown in the new contemporary facelift their shopfront just had. They also have an excellent ready-to-wear collection.
And it worked. Sales went from a steady trickle to through-the-roof in less than a year.

Whether we're talking about a large company like Dell, or a small cottage industry like English Cut, the first marketing question to ask is not what tools and strategies we want to use- the first question to ask is, "How do we wish to talk to people differently, than how we were talking to them before?"

Once you can answer that, the tools and strategies will quickly and easily reveal themselves.

Language. It's all about Language. You want me help you with your marketing, you have to be willing to talk to me about Language. Exactly.

[Disclosure: Dell are clients of mine.]

Posted by hugh macleod at 3:25 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

November 19, 2008

cluetrain was right.


["Edges 7". Part of The Edges Series. Click on image to enlarge etc.]

My buddy over at Dell, Richard Binhammer left me some food for thought in the comments section of my latest Dell-related blog post. Worth checking out.

Richard points out that yes, although Dell is best known for its "Efficiencies" i.e lowering the cost of making and selling computers to people, he personally thinks there's another primary drive of Dell which he feels often gets overlooked: "Getting closer to the customer".

That direct connection with customers contributed to the impetus for much our involvement with blogs, Ideastorm, Twitter...and so much more.
Well, as we all know, human beings don't scale. Micahel Dell can't have a friendly game of golf with EVERY PERSON who wants to buy a $450 laptop. Maybe if your company is buying 25,000 servers off him globally next year, he'll free some time up in his diary, but...

Doc Searls brilliantly quipped in the Cluetrain, "Markets are Conversations". But markets are also about getting stuff done. Often by lots of people at the same time. In the real world. Harder than it looks.

I take Doc's use of "Conversation" primarily as a metaphor. Take it too literally and the metaphor starts losing its power. Religious metaphors often run up against the same problem: Virgins have babies, really? Gosh, I did not know that! Wow, dead people rising from the grave after three days? Cool, where can I get some?

That being said, for large companies like Dell there is a sweet spot in here somewhere- a place that allows your company to "converse" like a human being, that lets you [within reason] get closer to the customer, while still allowing you to scale. It's devilishly hard to get there, though. If it were easy, case studies wouldn't be so thin on the ground as they currently are.

The good news is [and from my first-hand observation, Dell have also found this to be the case], that "Marketingspeak" doesn't work very well on the internet. That acting like a drone doesn't work very well, either. That human beings respond far better to other human beings on the internet, than they do to faceless, corporate spokesmen. And as more and more of large businesses' communication moves to direct, two-way online conversations with their their end-users, companies will have no choice BUT to act increasingly human.

And this increasingly human voice won't just affect the marketing, it'll affect the entire organization. For the better, I believe.

Sure, corporate conversation may never scale to the level of intimacy some of my crazier blogger friends hope to live to see. That being said, today there's still a tremendously large opportunity for the people who can lead the way, who can, like the cartoon above implies, keep pushing the edges. That's why Dell interests me. Same with Microsoft. As far as big companies are concerned, in this department, they're leading the pack.

[Afterthought:] None of this is anything new to those who read the Cluetrain in the early days, of course. What pleases me is, how Cluetrain is gradually being proved right over time. And I remember vividly how, in our hearts, we all wanted it so BADLY to be right, even if proof was somewhat lacking, all those years ago.

[Bonus Link: My old advertising buddy, David Carlson, who now lives out in Vietnam, writes an interesting and upbeat blog post about attending Barcamp Saigon.]

Posted by hugh macleod at 10:50 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

November 15, 2008

so what’s a crazy-ass cartoonist in alpine, texas going to do about dell, anyway?


["Edges 6". Part of The Edges Series. Click on image to enlarge etc.]

I've spent a lot of time in the last few days thinking about Dell Computers, a tech hardware company from Round Rock, Texas. Here are some notes:

1. When I developed The Blue Monster idea for Microsoft, a wee voice told me there was a business model in there somewhere. Some kind of post-advertising, Purpose-Idea, social-object, marketing-disruption kind of thing. Something that would scale, something one could turn into a little cottage industry, creating TONS of value for the fraction of the cost of the traditional advertising agency model. Dell liked the idea, and let me have a meeting with them. Since then I've been having this little back-and-forth with them, trying to get know the company better, trying to figure out an "Angle of Alignment" with them that would hopefully allow me to create something interesting.

2. So far it's been a great experience. Working mostly with Richard and Lionel, they've been introducing me to tons of people, while I've been trying to get my head around the company- what they do and why they do it.

3.Though I find it a bit simplistic [nor do I agree with much of it], I love this article from Fake Steve Jobs, "Why Dell Won't Bounce Back"

Bottom line is this: the only innovations worth making are the ones involving product ideas and product design. I mean, Duh. Right? It's pretty obvious. What's amazing to me is how few companies actually seem to realize it. To sustain an edge in any market you must make better products than your competitors, consistently, over and over and over again. Just making the same products as everyone else but taking a little friction out of the system can give you an advantage, but only a temporary one.
The article basically lines up all the most obvious challenges Dell faces. Like I said a while ago, I see Dell's challenges fall into four main categories:
i. Evolution of customer service. Sure, they have a ways to go. Then again, don't we all etc. They've certainly come a long way since Jeff Jarvis and the whole "Dell Hell" episode, which gives me reasons to be cheerful.

ii. Design. Ten years ago, I didn't own a computer. I really didn't. The company I worked for gave me one- a Mac desktop. The internet was still relatively still in its infancy back then, so besides using Word to do my job, sending emails, and surfing the net occasionally, I didn't really have a lot of use for it. Now I can't imagine life without my laptop.

To use a Real Estate allegory: When your company sets you up with a temporary accommodation in a new town, you don't really mind too much that it's Embassy Suites. It serves a function. But let's say you're looking for a new house for you and your spouse and young children to move into, your needs become A LOT more exacting. Not to mention, a lot more expensive in terms of both square footage and decor. There's a reason why commercial real estate tends to be cheaper than residential etc.

More and more people are using their own computers to do their work. Their "Own Homes" for their data, as it were. Dell has long been been in the "Temporary Accommodation" business, for other people's data. And now as the market changes, they're having to make the move from building "Embassy Suites", to building actual "Private Dwellings". There's a contextual headshift to work through. And it won't happen overnight- it's a big company.

iii. India & China. In 2007 for the first time, Dell made more money from outside the USA than from inside it. 50.2% vs 49.8%, I believe are the figures. The question is not about how one get more business from the West Coast, Mac-using hipster crowd. The big question is, how do you get technology into the hands of people who THIS SIMPLY WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN AN OPTION FOR, even a couple of years ago?

iv. Culture. To me this is the biggest issue of the four. You can't thrill your customers until you thrill yourself first. Let's face it, a big part of the Dell schtick is built around processes- sales, manufacturing, controlling costs and all that lovely, corporate back-office stuff. That's fair enough, most big companies operate like this. I would very much like to know, what percentage of Dell employees feel "This is just a paycheck", versus how many feel, "Dammit, we're frickin' changing the world here"...?

4. Somebody at Dell once described his employer as "Ordinary people doing extraordinary things." Though my granny always told me that it's good to remain humble, and to a large extent, I do agree with that sentiment, I did scratch my head a wee bit at that one. Does Microsoft see themselves as "ordinary"? Does Apple? I doubt that they do.

5. Though it's still early days, I think Michael Dell coming back from retirement to captain the company [like Steve Jobs did at Apple] is a big deal. I think the effects are only just beginning to show themselves. Personally, I'm glad to have him there.

6. Part of my motivation for working with Dell is simple patriotism. For 20 million Texans to prosper long-term, we need large, world-class creative powerhouses. Same as every other state in the Union, same with every other nation on Earth. We've done the efficiency thing for three hundred years, and have gotten quite good at it. Like I said in my talk at StartupEmpire the other day, the future of wealth is now all about "Creativity". Embrace it, or die.

7. They're called PCs, they're not called BCs. They're called personal computers, not business computers. That being said, the demands of an affluent, creative American are different from the needs of an IT manager in a large widget factory. As the lines that separate business and personal get ever more blurry, I see all major computer companies [including Gosh! Yes! Apple!] struggle to bridge the gap.

8. I asked somebody at Dell what she thought made the company so special, what separated it from the others. "Basically, we're tenacious sons-of-bitches," she said. Good answer! As I spoke to more and more Dell folk during my many visits to their Round Rock campus in the last 6 months, this "tenacity" started to become easier and easier to sense. I find that encouraging.

9. The Edges cartoon series came directly out of my talking with Dell. They spent the last 20 years "pushing the edges" of manufacturing, supply, distribution and pricing [and the world, frankly, would be a lot poorer had they not done so]. Where else can they push outwards? Design? Customer Service? I have no idea. Only they can answer that. [Note to Dell Employees: If you can shed any light on this question, I want to talk to you. Please feel free to ping me at, Thanks.]

10. "Live on the edges or not at all" are pretty empty words, unless you can actually live by them. Harder than it looks. Maybe "Live on The Edges" is the right choice of words to articulate Dell's Purpose-Idea, maybe it isn't. At the very least, it'll start a conversation internally, maybe externally as well. I don't really care at the moment. All I'm trying to do is get my head one step closer to understanding the collective drive of the company. And I don't mind failing a few times in order to get there.

11. Trying to create a "Blue Monster" for any company, be it Microsoft, Dell, or whoever, is basically an act of futility. That's what makes it interesting. That's what makes it potentially powerful. That's what makes me love doing it.

[Backstory: "Blue Monster: Why Social Objects Are The Future Of Marketing"]

[Written at Harry's Tinaja, Alpine, Texas.]

Posted by hugh macleod at 4:46 PM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

November 14, 2008

"stormhoek. made In south africa. drunk in west texas."


Stormhoek finally got a distribution deal here in Texas, and so now I'm back on the case.

Two problems: 1. No marketing budget to speak of, and 2. I live in Alpine, Texas, 400 miles west of Austin in the high desert mountains.

Looks like I'm going to have to improvise...

No matter. Like I told the folks at Stormhoek, if I can sell South African wine to West Texas cowboys, I can sell it to anybody.

So last week I got me a 4-by-8-foot piece of masonite, and painted a billboard, which I'll soon be putting up by the roadside.

"Stormhoek. Made In South Africa. Drunk in West Texas."

Expect photos and videos to follow... Rock on.

Posted by hugh macleod at 11:18 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

November 12, 2008

hugh's big blue monster/social object page etc


In my previous post to this one, "Blue Monster: Why Social Objects Are The Future Of Marketing", I've just updated it with some re-postings of some of my favorite old blog post connected with Social Objects and Blue Monsters.

A wee bit of a read- just under 8,000 words.

In its current form it's a bit messy, but what the hell, this is the same way that How To Be Creative and Hughtrain started out. I may have to tidy it up later, but it'll do for now. Enjoy.

Posted by hugh macleod at 8:00 PM | Comments (2)

November 9, 2008

blue monster: why social objects are the future of marketing


As a marketing blogger, I get asked a lot, "What is the future of marketing?"

I always answer the same: "The Blue Monster".

What's The Blue Monster?

A Blue Monster is a Social Object that articulates a Purpose-Idea.

What's a Social Object? What's a Purpose-Idea?

Sit yourself down, pour yourself another glass of whisky. This might take a while to explain...


In the late 1990’s I was living in New York, working as a mid-level copywriter at a mid-size advertising agency, when for whatever reason I started drawing cartoons exclusively on the back of business cards, just to give me something to do while sitting at the bar. Like I wrote on my blog:

All I had when I first got to Manhattan were 2 suitcases, a couple of cardboard boxes full of stuff, a reservation at the YMCA, and a 10-day freelance copywriting gig at a Midtown advertising agency.

My life for the next couple of weeks was going to work, walking around the city, and staggering back to the YMCA once the bars closed. Lots of alcohol and coffee shops. Lot of weird people. Being hit five times a day by this strange desire to laugh, sing and cry simultaneously. At times like these, there's a lot to be said for an art form that fits easily inside your coat pocket.

The freelance gig turned into a permanent job. I stayed. The first month in New York for a newcomer has this certain amazing magic about it that is indescribable. Incandescent lucidity. However long you stay in New York, you pretty much spend the rest of your time there trying to recapture that feeling. Chasing Manhattan Dragon. I suppose the whole point of the cards initially was to somehow get that buzz onto paper.

I started my blog, in 2001. I was back living in the United Kingdom, where I grew up and where my mother and sister still lived.

By this time I had accumulated a couple of thousand business-card cartoons, and just started posting them on a semi-daily basis.

Fast Forward to 2006. By this time my blog is pretty well known- one of the largest in Europe-getting over a million unique visitors a month. My cartoons are all over the internet, it seems, especially around the tech blogger scene.

It’s around this time that I meet Steve Clayton, at one of the many “Geek Dinners” that have begun sprouting around the London tech scene.

Steve works for Microsoft, at the time he was running the UK Partner Group [I could tell you what that actually means, but that would take too long. Suffice to say, he’s one very clever and talented chappie].

Steve’s not the first “Microsoftie” I’d met before, but he was the first one I got on really well with. Over the next few months, we start seeing each other around a lot. He’s a really super nice guy, highly intelligent, and fun to hang out with. Good times all round.

Early on, he tells me something that really struck with me: “I could be making a lot more money, and taking a lot less social grief if I worked somewhere else. But I choose not to, simply because at Microsoft, you get to work on some REALLY cool stuff, sooner than anywhere else.”

Why was that so interesting to me? Because I had heard that very same reason cited to me by EVERY single Microsoft employee I had ever met up until that time. Secondly, like every other Microsoft employee I had ever met before, Steve was a really nice, open, fun guy. He did not typify the stereotype “Evil Borg Hive Member” that Microsoftees were often accused of being.

I pondered this for a while. Why did these folk work at Microsoft? It wasn’t the money, it wasn’t the social kudos. Something else was motivating them

So in October, 2006 I posted a cartoon on my blog that tried to express this drive, at least to myself. It went on to be called “The Blue Monster”:

["The Blue Monster". First blogged in October, 2006.]

I posted it in high-resolution, the idea being that people at Microsoft who liked the idea, could download it and print it out poster-style, if they wanted. Like I said on my blog:

I just designed this poster for my buddies over at Microsoft [you know who you are]. Feel free to download the high-res version by clicking on the image, and print it out onto - posters, t-shirts etc.

The headline works on a lot of different levels:

Microsoft telling its potential customers to change the world or go home.

Microsoft telling its employees to change the world or go home.

Microsoft employees telling their colleagues to change the world or go home.

Everybody else telling Microsoft to change the world or go home.

Everyone else telling their colleagues to change the world or go home.

And so forth.

Microsoft has seventy thousand-odd employees, a huge percentage them very determined to change the world, and often succeeding. And millions of customers with the same idea.

Basically, Microsoft is in the world-changing business. If they ever lose that, they might as well all go home.

I chose the monster image simply because I always thought there is something wonderfully demonic about wanting to change the world. It can be a force for the good, of course, if used wisely. It's certainly a very loaded part of the human condition, but I suppose that's what makes it compelling.

What happened next was quite extraordinary. Steve saw the cartoon, and really liked it. He immediately started using the image in his e-mail signature. He stared talking about the cartoon on his blog. Next thing you know, other folk inside Microsoft start doing the same. The “idea-virus” is unleashed.

Today, if you’re ever invited onto the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Washington, if you walk around the offices, chances are you’ll see the Blue Monster poster, hanging on somebody’s wall. Or you might very well see someone with a Blue Monster sticker on their laptop, wearing a Blue Monster t-shirt, or handing you their business card with the Blue Monster on the back. Though the Blue Monster wasn’t created by Microsoft, for many people working there, it seems to articulate why they work there. It’s also been written about in the UK National Media, as well as countless tech blogs.

It's not that everybody inside Microsoft "gets" The Blue Monster. It's never been officially endorsed by them. But the ones who do get ito, REALLY get it. For them, it's a cult object. It represents the conversation they INDIVIDUALLY wish to be having with the world about their company and technology in general, not what the corporate "Brand Police" upstairs want to be having with the world. They may be loyal employees of Microsoft, but they're also individuals. Somehow The Blue Monster allows them to express both roles at the same time, allows them to navigate the blurry lines that separate the two.

I was just playing around with a cartoon idea at the time, not really expecting too much to come from it. I never expected the idea to get as big and well-known as it did. Life is full of surprises.

As the months went by and I started to see The Blue Monster story growing and growing, I had another insight: The Blue Monster wasn’t a one-off. The Blue Monster represented a fundamental shift in how marketing will be conducted in the future.

[One of the drawings I did for Seth Godin's latest book, "The Dip".]

[UPDATE:] In order to help me order my thoughts, I decided to put all my favorite social object posts onto a single blog page below. Enjoy.]

[From "KULA": June 15th, 2007]

The Guardian's Kevin Anderson [who also attended last night's screening] has a nice synopsis of Jaiku Founder, Jyri Engstrom's "Social Objects" idea.

Something about sites like Flickr that you will be using these sites for years to come.

The sites that work are built around social objects.
[...] MySpace. What is the real focal object? Music. Once they lose that focus, it is in trouble.

How does one build a useful service around social objects? Five key principles.

1. You should be able to define the social object your service is built around.

2. Define your verbs that your users perform on the objects. For instance, eBay has buy and sell buttons. It's clear what the site is for.

3. How can people share the objects?

4. Turn invitations into gifts.

5. Charge the publishers, not the spectators. He learned this from Joi Ito. There will be a day when people don't pay to download or consume music but the opportunity to publish their playlists online.

Besides being a web 2.0 entrepreneur, Jyri is an anthropologist. So at the London Jaiku geek dinner last Tuesday, I asked him about the connection between Social Objects and its correlation with Malinowski's "Kula" [Malinowski was the father of modern Anthropology, by the way]. Jyri repsonded that this was very much the case. So much so, in fact, that one of his great friends and mentors, the aforementioned Joi Ito bought an island in Second Life and named it "Kula".

Kula. Social Ojects. Objects of Sociability. Call it what you will, I think so much of what we're trying to understand about the web, the future, and yes, MARKETING, stems from this very profound insight from Malinowski in the early 20th Century, that good folk like Jyri and Joi are now helping to shed new light on.

[Bonus Link:] Video of Jyri's talk on Social Objects at the geek dinner. One of the best talks I've heard for a while.

[Starbuck's Coffee Cup: June, 2007]

Somewhere along the line I figured out the easiest products to market are objects with "Sociability" baked-in. Products that allow people to have "conversations" with other folk. Seth Godin calls this quality "remarkablilty".

For example: A street beggar holding out an ordinary paper cup cup won't start a conversation. A street beggar holding out a Starbucks cup will. I know this to be true, because it happened to me and a friend the other day, as we were walking down the street and a guy asked us for some spare change. Afterwards, as we were commenting about the rather sad paradox of a homeless guy plying his trade with a "luxury" coffee cup, my friend said, "Starbucks should be paying that guy."

Actually, my friend is wrong. Starbuck's doesn't need to be paying the homeless guy. Because Starbucks created a social object out of a paper cup, the homeless guy does their marketing for free, whether he knows it or not.

Although I suspect he does. I suspect somewhere along the line the poor chap figured out that holding out a Starbucks cup gets him more attention [and spare change] than an ordinary cup. And suddenly we're seeing social reciprocity between a homeless person and a large corporation, without money ever changing hands. Whatever your views are on the plight of homeless people, this is "Indirect Marketing" at its finest.


[October, 2007:]Anyone who has heard me speak publicly lately will know that I'm currently very focused on the "Social Object" idea, which I was turned onto by Jaiku's Jyri Engestrom. Here's some more thoughts on the subject, in no particular order.

1. The term, "Social Object" can be a bit heady for some people. So often I'll use the term, "Sharing Device" instead.

2. Social Networks are built around Social Objects, not vice versa. The latter act as "nodes". The nodes appear before the network does.

3. Granted, the network is more powerful than the node. But the network needs the node, like flowers need sunlight.

4. My overall marketing thesis invariably asks the question, "If your product is not a Social Object, why are you in business?"

5. Yesterday at the Darden talk I explained why geeks have become so important to marketing. My definition of a geek is, "Somebody who socializes via objects." When you think about it, we're all geeks. Because we're all enthusiastic about something outside ourselves. For me, it's marketing and cartooning. for others, it could be cellphones or Scotch Whisky or Apple computers or NASCAR or the Boston Red Sox or Buddhism. All these act as Social Objects within a social network of people who care passionately about the stuff. Whatever industry you are in, there's somebody who is geeked out about your product category. They are using your product [or a competitor's product] as a Social Object. If you don't understand how the geeks are socializing- connecting to other people- via your product, then you don't actually have a marketing plan. Heck, you probably don't have a viable business plan.

6. The Apple iPhone is the best example of Social Object I can think of. At least, it is when I'm trying to explain it to somebody unfamiliar with the concept.

7. The Social Object idea is not rocket science.

8. How do you turn a product into a Social Object? Answer: Social Gestures. And lots of them.

9. Products, and the ideas that spawn them, go viral when people can share them like gifts. Example: gmail invites in the early days.

10. Social Object can be abstract, digital, molecular etc.

11. The interesting thing about the Social Object is the not the object itself, but the conversations that happen around them. The Blue Monster is a good example of this. It's not the cartoon that's interesting, it's the conversatuons that happen around it that's interesting.

12. Ditto with a bottle of wine.

13. Once I get talking about marketing, it's hard for me to go more than 3 minutes without saying the words, "Social Object".

14. The most important word on the internet is not "Search". The most important word on the internet is "Share". Sharing is the driver. Sharing is the DNA. We use Social Objects to share ourselves with other people. We're primates. we like to groom each other. It's in our nature.

15. I believe Social Objects are the future of marketing.

["Social Gestures beget Social Objects": Novemeber, 2007]


Chris Schroeder riffs on my whole "Social Object" marketing schtick with this very salient thought:

If your company wants to succeed, it needs to have a social object marketing plan.
Amen to that. But note what Chris also says:
I don't know about you, but when somebody walks by with an iPhone, I notice. If I see a kid stroll by me in some limited edition Nikes, that registers with me too.
Therein lies the rub. The Social Object idea is easy to get if your product is highly remarkable, highly sociable. An iPhone or the latest pair of Nike's are both fine examples of this.

But I can already hear your inner MBA saying, "Yeah, but what if you don't work for Nike or Apple? What if your product is boring home loans, auto insurance or... [the list of boring products is pretty long].

My standard answer to that is, "Social Gestures beget Social Objects."

Which is another way of saying, maybe the way you relate to somebody as a human being plays a part in all this. Maybe describing the product as "boring" is just one more bullshit lie we tell ourselves in order to make the world seem less complicated and scary. Hey, my product is inherently dull and boring, therefore I get to be inherently dull and boring, too. Hooray!

Nowadays, thanks to folk like Nike, we think of sneakers as "non-boring" brands. This wasn't true when I was a kid. Back then sneakers were those bloody awful $3 plimsolls we wore in Phys Ed. But it took companies like Nike and Adidas to come along and by shear force of will, raise the level of conversation in the sneaker department, before sneakers became bona fide global social objects, bona fide global powerhouse brands.

The decision to raise the level of conversation isn't economic. Nor is it an intellectual decision. It's a moral decision. But whether you have the stomach for it is up to you.

Like I told Thomas almost 3 years ago re. English bespoke tailoring, "Own the conversation by improving the conversation." And hey, it worked. His sales went up 300% in 6 months.

It wasn't the change in product that made Thomas' suits Social Objects. It was changing the way he talked to people. The same applies to Stormhoek, which 3 years ago was an $8 bottle of South African wine nobody had ever heard of. Conversation. Matters.

So all you corporate MBAs out there, here's a little tip. When you planning on how to embrace the brave new world of Web 2.0, the first question you ask yourself should not be "What tools do I use?"

Blogs, RSS, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook- it doesn't matter.

The first question you should REALLY ask yourself is:

"How do I want to change the way I talk to people?"

And hopefully the rest should follow.

Think about it.

[Bonus Link: For a more academic take on social objects, check out this post from Anthropologist, Jyri Engestrom.]


[From "So What's All This New Marketing Stuff, Anyway?": December, 2007] Some people call it "The New Marketing". Some people call it "Marketing 2.0". Whatever name you care to give it, I get asked about it a lot. Here are some random thoughts, in no particular order.

1. "The New Marketing" came about because of two unstoppable forces: [A] The invention of the internet and [B] the beginning of the demise of what Seth Godin calls the "TV-Industrial Complex". Thanks to the internet, as Clay Shirky famously stated in 2004, "the cost and difficulty of publishing absolutely anything, by anyone, into a global medium, just got a whole lot lower. And the effects of that increased pool of potential producers is going to be vast." While this was going on, large companies found out that people were starting to ignore their ads. We have too many choices, too many good choices, and we've gotten too good at ignoring messages.

2. Seth Godin is quite rightly the world's most respected writer on marketing. That being said, a lot of people haven't heard of Mark Earls yet. They're both friends of mine, so I don't want to compare them too much. Seth is a master of taking complicated ideas and presenting them in a way that any Average Joe can understand. Mark is more of a Marketing Geek's geek. His stuff makes uncomfortable reading for anyone in marketing who hasn't been stretching himself lately.

3. The most important asset in The New Marketing is "having something worth talking about". This makes certain marketing people squeamish. A lot of us grew up in an era of flashy commercials for rather uninspiring products, and something in our DNA makes us believe that's the proper way to go about things.

4. If I had one big insight from the last year, is how The New Marketing has everything to do with how your product or service acts as a "Social Object". Kudos to Jyri Engestrom for turning me on to it.

5. My second big insight from this year was learning that, even with a fairly everyday product, you can create social objects simply by using your products to make social gestures. That's what we did with Stormhoek. The message wasn't, "Here's why you should buy our wine". The message was, "We think you're kinda cool, and we like what you're doing. We'd like to be part of it, somehow." And much to everyone's surprise, it worked rather well.

6. Blogs were the big story for 2005. YouTube for 2006. Facebook for 2007. What's the big story for 2008? I have no idea. Nor do I think it matters. For the big story, really, is always going to be the same. Websites comes and go, but "Cheap, Easy, Global, Hyperlinked Media" will be with us forever, save for Nuclear Holocaust.

7. A lot of what fuels The New Marketing is quite simply, the most important word in the English Language: "Love". It's hard to get someone to read your website if you're not passionate about your subject matter.

8. I'm trying to train myself to avoid "Microsmosis" i.e. mistaking of a microcosm for the entire cosmos. If you got all your news from blogs, you'd be forgiven for thinking that there are just two phone companies- Apple and Nokia. But Sony, Motorola, LG and Samsung sell a lot of phones, too. Just not to our friends.

9. My Definition of "Web 3.0": Learning how to use the web properly without it taking over your life. I'm not holding my breath.

10. Why is it so hard to explain The New Marketing to large companies? Because the people who work there are simply not prepared to relinquish the idea of control. Live by metrics, die by metrics etc.

11. I find all this more interesting when I don't take it too seriously. Like all things internet, it's far too easy to get carried away.



[From "Social Objects For Beginners": December, 2007] As y'all will know, I'm fond of talking about "Social Objects" and how they pertain to "Marketing 2.0". Even so, some people still get confused by what a Social Object actually is. So I wrote the following to clarify some more:

The Social Object, in a nutshell, is the reason two people are talking to each other, as opposed to talking to somebody else. Human beings are social animals. We like to socialize. But if think about it, there needs to be a reason for it to happen in the first place. That reason, that "node" in the social network, is what we call the Social Object.

Example A. You and your friend, Joe like to go bowling every Tuesday. The bowling is the Social Object.

Example B. You and your friend, Lee are huge Star Wars fans. Even though you never plan to do so, you two tend to geek out about Darth Vader and X-Wing fighters every time you meet. Star Wars is the Social Object.

Example C. You’ve popped into your local bar for a drink after work. At the bar there’s some random dude, sending a text on this neat-looking cellphone you’ve never seen before. So you go up to him and ask him about the phone. The random dude just LOVES his new phone, so has no trouble with telling a stranger about his new phone for hours on end. Next thing you know, you two are hitting it off and you offer to buy him a beer. You spend the rest of the next hour geeking out about the new phone, till it’s time for you to leave and go dine with your wife. The cellphone was the social object.

Example D. You’re a horny young guy at a party, in search of a mate. You see a hot young woman across the room. You go up and introduce yourself. You do not start the conversation by saying, “Here’s a list of all the girls I've gone to bed with, and some recent bank statements showing you how much money I make. Would you like to go to bed with me?” No, something more subtle happens. Basically, like all single men with an agenda, you ramble on like a yutz for ten minutes, making small talk. Until she mentions the name of her favorite author, Saul Bellow. Halleluiah! As it turns out, Saul Bellow happens to be YOUR FAVORITE AUTHOR as well [No, seriously. He really is. You’re not making it up just to look good.]. Next thing you know, you two are totally enveloped in this deep and meaningful conversation about Saul Bellow. “Seize The Day”, "Herzog", “Him With His Foot In His Mouth” and “Humbolt’s Gift”, eat your heart out. And as you two share a late-night cab back to her place, you're thinking about how Saul Bellow is the Social Object here.

Example E. You’re an attractive young woman, married to a very successful Hedge Fund Manager in New York’s Upper East Side. Because your husband does so well, you don’t actually have to hold down a job for a living. But you still earned a Cum Laude from Dartmouth, so you need to keep your brain occupied. So you and your other Hedge Fund Wife friends get together and organise this very swish Charity Ball at the Ritz Carleton. You’ve guessed it; the Charity Ball is the Social Object.

Example F. After a year of personal trauma, you decide that yes, indeed, Jesus Christ is your Personal Saviour. You’ve already joined a Bible reading class and started attending church every Sunday. Next thing you know, you’ve made a lot of new friends in your new congregation. Suddenly you are awash with a whole new pile of Social Objects. Jesus, Church, The Bible, the Church Picnics, the choir rehearsals, the Christmas fund drive, the cookies and coffee after the 11 o'clock service, yes, all of them are Social Objects for you and new friends to share.

Example G. You’ve been married for less than a year, and already your first child is born. In the last year, you and your spouse have acquired three beautiful new Social Objects: The marriage, the firstborn, and your own new family. It’s what life’s all about.

There. I’ve given you seven examples. But I could give THOUSANDS more. But there’s no need to. The thing to remember is, Human beings do not socialize in a completely random way. There’s a tangible reason for us being together, that ties us together. Again, that reason is called the Social Object. Social Networks form around Social Objects, not the other way around.

Another thing to remember is the world of Social Objects can have many layers. As with any complex creature, there can be more than one reason for us to be together. So anybody currently dating a cute girl who’s into not just Saul Bellow, but also into bowling and cellphones and Star Wars and swish Charity Balls as well, will know what I mean.

The final thing to remember is that, Social Objects by themselves don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Sure, it’s nice hanging out with Lee talking about Star Wars. But if Star Wars had never existed, you’d probably still enjoy each other’s company for other reasons, if they happened to present themselves. Human beings matter. Being with other human beings matter. And since the dawn of time until the end of time, we use whatever tools we have at hand to make it happen.

[Afterthought:] As I'm fond of saying, nothing about Social Objects is rocket science. Then again, there's nothing about "Love" that is rocket science, either. That doesn't mean it can't mess with your head. Rock on.

[Link:] Mark Earls has some nice thoughts on this, as well. "Things change because of people interacting with other people, rather than technology or design really doing things to people."

[N.B. "Social Objects" is a term I did not coin myself, but was turned onto by the anthropolgist and Jaiku founder, Jyri Engestrom.]


[From "Why The Social Object Is The Future Of Marketing": January, 2008]From my previous post:

The Social Object, in a nutshell, is the reason two people are talking to each other, as opposed to talking to somebody else. Human beings are social animals. We like to socialize. But if think about it, there needs to be a reason for it to happen in the first place. That reason, that "node" in the social network, is what we call the Social Object.
I've often gone on record with the statement, "Social Objects are the future of marketing". This post will attempt to explain further why i believe that.


We have just come through a hundred-year long era, called the “Mass Era”.

Mass Media and Mass Production came of age at the same time. We try to separate the two, and we cannot.

A few decades ago, the local car dealers in town gave you a choice of four or five models. Now your choice is in the many dozens. There are well over a dozen varieties of Coca Cola. And thousands of different drink combos you can buy at any Starbucks on any given day.

I can sing you jingles for Nestle chocolate bars, from commercials I haven’t seen in over twenty years. That’s how cluttered my mind is. And yours is probably not that different.

Why would any sane person think that swimming in a polluted sea of commercial messages was fun for people? Messages are not information.

In this hyper-cluttered landscape the mediocre marketer will say, “I know! Let’s add another item of clutter to the cultural landfill! Lets increase the noise-to-signal ratio!!!”

And then he wonders why it doesn’t work.

It doesn’t work because we’re ignoring you now. You had our attention for a while, but as you know, it was more a cultural accident than anything you really had any true control over.

The world has moved on, and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it. Your boss also suspects this may be the case, but thankfully for your career, he hasn’t brought it up in a meeting. Yet.


I can’t help wondering if the internet coming along at the same time as the Hyper-Clutter Era reaching critical mass was a historical accident, or did the internet evolve as fast as it did in order to circumvent the Hyper-Clutter? I’m guessing the latter. If the purveyors of one-way conversations had offered something more sustainable and satisfying, maybe our need to “talk to real human beings” again would not have been so pronounced.

Now, when you buy something, you don’t phone up the company and order a brochure. You go onto Google and check out what other people- people like yourself- are saying about the product. In terms of communication, the company no longer has first-mover advantage. They don’t ask your company for the brochure until your product has already jumped through a series of hoops that SIMPLY WERE NOT there twenty years ago.


Human beings are much better at recognizing the linear, rather than recognizing the random and exponential.

1 Oh No! There’s a sabre-tooth tiger heading my way!
2. Run!

That is linear. Our caveman ancestors found it a most useful quality.

We run an ad. Sales go up. So taking the Caveman cue, we frame it in a linear fashion to explain to ourselves the cause and effect.

“People liked our ad so much, they dropped what they were doing, sped down to Wal-Mart and bought our product!”

If only.

What happened was probably more random. You saw an ad for Brand X. A few days later you’re having coffee over at your friend, Pam's house. She has Brand X on her kitchen counter.

“I saw that ad for it the other day,” you say. “Is the stuff any good?”

“Yeah,” she says. “It’s not bad.”

So the next time you’re in the supermarket, you see the product, and buy it. Ker-chiing.

The ad didn’t make the sale. Your friend made the sale, not the ad. The ad merely started a conversation.

This is what they call “Word-Of-Mouth”. When it works, it works very, very well. The main problem is, it rarely does. The marketer has little control of the outcome.

But the marketer’s boss doesn’t want to hear it. The marketer wants to tell his boss this, even less. So we construct mythologies to disguise the fear. Disguise the unknown. Disguise the random, in the world where UNCERTAINTY AND RANDOMNESS MUST NOT BE ALLOWED TO TAKE OVER THE MATRIX. EVER.


Pam just sold you a box of Brand X. Pam doesn’t work for Brand X, Pam gets no commission from Brand X, so why did she make the sale, inadvertently, or otherwise?

Go back to what I said in my last post about Social Objects:

The final thing to remember is that, Social Objects by themselves don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Sure, it’s nice hanging out with Lee talking about Star Wars. But if Star Wars had never existed, you’d probably still enjoy each other’s company for other reasons, if they happened to present themselves. Human beings matter. Being with other human beings matter. And since the dawn of time until the end of time, we use whatever tools we have at hand to make it happen.
When you and Pam met for coffee, you interacted with each other in the context of what anthropologists call “Object-Centerd Sociality”. In other words, you did not socialize in a vacuum, you socialized around objects, you socialized around things. You talked about the Cubs game last week. You talked about how Billy was doing in Third Grade. You talked about this great movie you just saw. You talked about great Pam’s coffee was. And yes, you talked, however briefly, about Brand X. All these things you talked about, an anthropologist would call “Social Objects”. And the thing is, you came over just to chew the fat with Pam. Talking about Billy or the movie or the Cubs game was not part of any pre-agenda. You could’ve talked about other things- books, records, home furnishings, it doesn’t matter- and you would’ve enjoyed your coffee with Pam just as much.

Yes, a lot of socializing is random. Ergo, yes, a lot of marketing is also random.


From now on you won’t have the TV Commercials to rely on to start your conversations. People are ignoring you. Mass media has simply gotten too expensive. The only way your product is going to spread is by word of mouth. The only way it’s going to get word of mouth is if there is something in it for the person talking about it.

The person you want talking about is not doing it for the money. She'll only talk about it if it serves as a Social Object. A "hook" to move the conversation along. A hook she can use it as a way to relate to her fellow human beings.


If you’re an average marketer, chances are that Alas! you don’t sell Mercedes’ or Apple iPods for a living. You probably sell some fairly prosaic, utilitarian product. Like Brand X.

Obviously, if your product is more conversation-worthy, like a Mercedes or an iPod, your job will be easier. Nice work if you can get it.

But let's face it, average people are never going to sit down and have a deep and meaningful conversation about Brand X. But hey, maybe over coffee, a couple of little soon-forgotten sentences from somebody like Pam, is enough to make the sale.

I’m fond of saying, “If your product is not a Social Object, why are you in business?”

But of course, as Pam just proved, your product, Brand X, IS INDEED a social object. Just maybe your team needs to hone its thinking a little bit.

[Bonus Link from Jyri Engestrom:] "Why some social network services work and others don't — Or: the case for object-centered sociality."


[From "The Social Marker- The Social Object on Steroids etc." January, 2008] You all will be familiar with my writings on Social Objects by now.

The Social Object, in a nutshell, is the reason two people are talking to each other, as opposed to talking to somebody else. Human beings are social animals. We like to socialize. But if think about it, there needs to be a reason for it to happen in the first place. That reason, that "node" in the social network, is what we call the Social Object.
Increasingly I've been using a term, "Social Marker" to describe a certain type of Social Object. I've found it especially useful for explaining certain ideas to marketing folk.

When two people meet, the first thing they try to do is place each other in context. A social context. So they insert some hints into the conversation:

"I used to know your Uncle Bob."
"I work at Saatchi & Saatchi's.
"I've been reading Malcolm Gladwell for years."
"I'm a member of Soho House."
"I was reading Doc Searls' blog the other day."
"I was college roommates with your ex-girlfriend."
"I was sampling some fine Islay single malts the other evening."
"I bought some Versace shirts from Barney's last week."
"You're a Red Sox fan too?"
"I think Andy Warhol is overrated."
"I think Led Zeppelin is underrated."
"I was having dinner with some guys from Goldman Sachs."
"My wife thinks the Upper West Side is really good for schools."
"San Tropez is too expensive in February."
Let's say, for sake of argument, that you never heard of me before, but I knew all about you. And let's say, for example, you were also the world's greatest Boston Red Sox fan. And let's say I saw you in a coffee shop. And let's say I went over to your table, like a stalker [You don't know me from Adam, remember].

And let's say the first thing out of mouth was a short list of five names:

"Carl Yastrzemski. Carlton Fisk. Rico Petrocelli. Fred Lynn. Dwight Evans."

Yes, granted, that would be pretty strange behavior. That being said, because you knew every single factoid about the 1975 World Series there was to know, you would know exactly who and what I was talking about. Right away, you would know that we shared a context, even though I had only given you five names and nothing else. Which would make you more likely to invite me to sit down at your table and start a conversation.

Every ecosystem has its own, unique set of social markers- nouns that serve as social shorthand, stuff you use to let other people know ASAP that you know what you're talking about, that you are a fellow "citizen" in a certain space.

When I visit San Francisco I am always surprised how often the name of my friend, Robert Scoble comes up in random conversation, unprompted by myself. Why is that? Why is he so well known? Is his blog REALLY that good? Is he REALLY that smart and interesting?

Well, I could give a whole stack of reasons to explain why I think Robert's success is well-deserved. But one major reason that his blog's traffic is so high, and his name so well-known, is that his personal brand has somehow managed to become a Social Marker inside the Silicon Valley ecosystem. The same could also be said for Mike Arrington, Loic Le Meur or Mark Zuckerberg. Dropping their names into random conversations allows people to quickly and efficiently contextualize themselves.

Something similar happened to me a couple of years ago. A artist friend of mine was hitting on a girl, another artist, in a bar in New York's Lower East Side. For whatever reason, the subject of "Art and the Internet" came up. So my friend started telling the girl about this other friend of his, this guy living over in England, who drew these weird little cartoons on the back of business cards...

"That is SO unoriginal," the girl interrupts, rolling her eyeballs. "Who does he think he is, Hugh MacLeod?"

Heh. Small world. Yes. She was using me as a Social Marker.

Social Markers are a prime form of social shorthand, that people use to STAKE OUT the ecosystem they're occupying. So why do I find this such a useful term for marketers? Because obviously, if your product is a Social Marker in your industry ecosystem [the way the iPhone is in the mobile world, or Starbucks is in the coffee world, or Amazon is the book world, or Google is in the search world, or Whole Foods is in the supermarket world, or Virgin is in the airline world, or English Cut in the bespoke world etc etc] you will have an AMAZING competitive advantage to call your own.

And if the product your company makes is not a Social Marker, I guess the first question would be, "Why the hell not?" Quit your job and start over.

[Update:] Neal makes a really good point in the comments: Really interesting thought, Hugh, but bad products could also be a social marker - "ah, yes, I was ripped off by that building company too" or "oh - you'll be disappointed by that mobile phone as well". I'd suggest there's also a variable here about positive v negative that you should think about before quitting that job :)

[Bonus Link] US News & World Report: "Selling in a Post-Meatball Era- The quest for 'social objects' that create their own Web buzz." Seth Godin in a great interview to plug his new book, Meatball Sundae. "Social Object" given a small mention etc.


[From "Free Cartoons As Social Objects": May, 2008] When I first started putting up cartoons onto gapingvoid in 2001, they were in a small, 400-pixel-wide format, just like the "Love Letter" cartoon you see above.

Then about 2 years ago, I started posting them in high-resolution, like the "Dinosaur" cartoon below [Click on the image and the high-res version will pop up].


This meant people could actually download the images and start using them for their own stuff. Like I said in my licensing terms,

Hey, if you want to put the work up on your website, blog, or stick it on paper, t-shirts, business cards, stickers, homemade greeting cards, Powerpoint slides, or whatever, as far as I'm concerned, as long as it's just for your own personal use, as long as you're not trying to make money off it directly, and you're giving me due attribution, I'm totally cool with the idea.

As a "Social Object", a cartoon that one can actually print out and hang on their cube wall, or put on a t-shirt, a business card etc is far more powerful and useful than say, YET ONE MORE IMAGE you can find on the internet and e-mail en masse to your friends.

i.e. The cartoon itself hasn't changed, but the interaction between it and the "End User" is suddenly far more meaningful.

So of course, the next layman's question is, "Yes, but... how do you monetize it?"

And of course, the answer is, "Indirectly".

For example, in October, 2006 I post the Microsoft Blue Monster cartoon. Within a few months Microsoft is somehow paying me a lot of money to do other drawings for them. Without the former, the latter would never have happened. And without the latter, Sun Microsystems would never have approached me. Everything feeds into everything else. Exactly.

In other words, I don't create the online cartoons as "products" to be sold. I create the cartoons as "Social Objects", i.e. "Sharing Devices" that help me to build relationships with.

As with all things, the REAL value comes from the human relationships that are built AROUND the social object, not the object in itself.

I'll quote my friend, Mark Earls one more time. This is from his second book, "Herd":

"Cova is surely right to suggest that much of modern consumer behaviour is social in nature. We do it not just in a social context (tangible and immediately present or over distances) but for social reasons -- that is the object or activity is the means for a group or tribe to form or interact. This also echoes a lot of what Douglas Atkin describes in his study of cult brands -- brands which have developed a cult status (like Apple, and Ford's bestselling pickup) seem to serve an underlying social need within each individual (just as religious cults do): a need to belong. The real draw is probably not the brand but... other people."
And I'll also ask my favorite question, one more time: If your product is not a "Social Object", how on earth do you manage to stay in business?

(Cartoon taken from The Hughtrain etc.)

Like I said in my interview with Mark Earls, The Blue Monster is a "Purpose-Idea". As Mark, the man who first coined the term explains it:

Put really simply, the Purpose-Idea is the "What For?" of a business, or any kind of community. What exists to change (or protect) in the world, why employees get out of bed in the morning, what difference the business seeks to make on behalf of customers and employees and everyone else? BTW this is not "mission, vision, values" territory - it's about real drives, passions and beliefs. The stuff that men in suits tend to get embarrassed about because it's personal. But it's the stuff that makes the difference between success and failure, because this kind of stuff brings folk together in all aspects of human life.
Real drives, passions and beliefs. Exactly.

The Blue Monster line, "Change The World Or Go Home" is not rocket science or literary brilliance. It just articulates a simple belief, a simple passion, a simple drive THAT ALREADY EXISTED, long before The Blue Monster ever came on to the scene. That's all it was ever meant to do.

[The Microsoft Blue Monster etc.]

Whether you agree or disagree with it doesn't matter, the important bit is that people within Microsoft believe it. Unlike a conventional ad campaign, it's not about you. It's about them.

Why is something like this potentially valuable to a business? Simply put, if you believe something passionately enough, for long enough, articulate it well enough, and your actions are aligned, credible and consistent with your belief for long enough, it's just a matter of time before other people start believing it, too. And next thing you know, you have an interesting conversation going on, both inside and outside the company. And as Doc Searls famously said, "Markets are conversations". Ker-Chiing.

Again, none of this is rocket science. Talking to people never is.

When people ask me what exactly is a Blue Monster, I tell them, it's not necessarily a cartoon. It's simply a social object that allows one to more easily articulate the Purpose-Idea. No more, no less.

I've been asking myself for years, what comes after conventional, Madison-Avenue-style advertising, now that we live in a post-TV, post-advertising, post-message world? "Creating Blue Monsters" is the closest I've ever come to finding an actual answer.

Besides drawing the cartoons, helping other companies create Blue Monsters is how I intend to spend the remainder of my career.

Cartoons and Blue Monsters. I really do have the world's greatest job. Rock on.

[To Be Continued....]

Posted by hugh macleod at 5:21 PM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

November 6, 2008

the cocktail party rule


True Story: A friend of mine, call her “Jane”, is a really good corporate blogger. Really good. She’s won awards. Her work has been featured in the mainstream media. She’s a pioneer. She’s a rockstar.

Anyway, last week one of her company’s major competitors started their own blog, basically trying to emulate Jane‘s work, or perhaps more importantly, Jane‘s success.

What did Jane do? She was cool about it. On her blog she wrote them a “Welcome to the neighborhood” post. “Good luck with your new blogging adventure” etc. Oh, and she also praised one of her competitor’s products, which truth be told, is a really good product for that industry.

Well, no sooner had she posted it, than one of the senior suits wrote a group email to everybody, berating her for “Advertising one of our competitor’s products, instead of talking about our own excellent products”.

Sigh. What the poor suit doesn’t realize, of course, is that on a basic, primal level, how you talk about your competition actually says a lot more about you, than talking about yourself ever will.

I call this The Cocktail Party Rule- what’s true at cocktail parties is also true in marketing: "If you want to be boring, talk about yourself. If you want to be interesting, talk about something other than yourself."

If you have the cojones to actually say “Nice job!” in public to somebody in the same business as you, it means you’re probably secure enough about your own schtick. It means you’re not exactly worried about your own product. And people can tell. Animals can smell fear, or the lack thereof.

I’ve seen this happen in the art world, many times. It’s the great artists who are the biggest fans of other great artists. It’s the hacks and no-hopers who go around calling the great artists “overrated”.

Jane explained her actions to the suit, and the logic behind them, the suit grumbled a bit, then conceded. Crisis averted.

Nothing I haven’t seen before. It's human nature to want the benefits of this brave new world of ours, without wanting it to have to actually exist, without having to do anything differently themselves. At least at first. Education is expensive.

Posted by hugh macleod at 7:03 AM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

November 5, 2008

election cartoon: waiting in line


Posted by hugh macleod at 9:58 AM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

November 3, 2008

"crowd surfing": ten questions for edelman's david brain


When I lived in London last year, one of my best pals was David Brain, CEO of Edelman Europe [The largest private, global PR firm in the world]. Our schtick was to meet for breakfast about twice a month, and just talk about the crazy world happening around us. Sometimes we'd invite other friends along, like Steve Clayton or Lee Thomas. Other times we'd meet at The Groucho Club after work, drink some beers, and hatch new secret evil plans. It was fun times all round.

"Crowd Surfing": 10 Questions for Edelman's David Brain

1. Let's cut to the chase. You just co-authored a book with Martin Thomas, "Crowd Surfing". Please give us the schpiel.

Martin and I were interested in how companies and organisations were managing to deal with the new empowered consumer. There’s been a lot written about the crowd, but less about how the people inside big companies deal with it. As you know we have some experience of this with Edelman clients, so at the heart of the book is a series of interviews with some interesting people who have to juggle the often conflicting demands of the crowd and the company.

2. What made you want to write this particular book? You're already busy enough, you're already doing well enough professionally, so what was the motive? What was the conversation you wanted to start with people, that wasn't happening already?

Well, someone once told me that a great way to start a conversation was to create a ‘social object’....and to some degree this is my social object. There is something about publishing a book that allows you to have a different type of conversation with clients, colleagues and prospects, and that has proven to be the case. We are now talking to many clients for whom this stuff was in the ‘too difficult’ basket, and somehow talking about case studies from the book has made that easier. I also felt that the corporate side of the story has been underplayed. The heroes of this book are not bloggers or consumer activists but the people inside firms who have changed their companies (sometimes at significant career risk) to better serve the new consumer. People like Microsoft’s Steve Clayton and Dell’s Richard Binhammer.

3. It seems both the Microsoft Blue Monster and the folks I'm currently working with at Dell [Lionel, Richard, Bruce etc] feature heavily in the book. What was it about these stories that sparked your interest?

Sometimes it is easy for an entrepreneur or small business to be in tune with their customers or stakeholders, because their scale (or lack of it) means everyone is close to the customer (an obvious point I know, but size does sometimes matter). The bigger a firm gets the more difficult that becomes . Big companies need robust processes and structures to organise, to do what it is they do, and that can mean that the people inside can sometimes begin to focus on those processes and structures to the exclusion of the customer or the crowd. Dell and Microsoft have both worked really hard to find ways to bring the crowd inside the firm (at the cost of significant disruption) so that they don’t make that mistake. For me, where the crowd meets the organisation is where the real action is.

4. We've had this conversation many times before in private, allow me to take it public: You and I both believe that in this hyper-digital, post-Cluetrain world of ours, the PR industry has a huge opportunity, simply by taking huge chunks of business away from what was traditionally the domain of the large advertising agencies. I'm thinking the work Edelman did for Dove's Campaign For Real Beauty would be a good example of this. Care to elaborate on the business model?

Everything these days is work in progress. Customers and stakeholders know that about the companies and brands that are part of their life, and yet many of those companies still seem to over-use the mass communication vehicles of the industrial age, presenting a perfect ‘image’ or a ‘lifestyle’ and looking for aspiration or approval. So much advertising, direct marketing and promotion (and some PR to be fair) is a one-way street and that just does not fit the world I see around me. PR, or good PR at least, was always about things like relationship, influence and dialogue (in the old days focused more on the elite few maybe, but now with the many as well) and so PR now has an even more central role in helping companies align with stakeholders and customers by properly engaging with them. Thankfully many firms and brands are seeing this and many PR people (in agencies and in-house) are embracing this new mandate and the responsibility that comes with it. Every day the false certainties peddled by the old-school advertising agencies look more and more out of place and time.

5. You weren't always in PR. You also have backgrounds in advertising and journalism. Like you once told me, "Anybody who's any good at this business, usually ended up working in it by accident." What's your story? How did you end up in it?

You have a good memory. It was indeed a distress purchase. I was briefly in journalism but got turfed out by the recession of the mid 80s, and had to parlay my training into something to pay the bills. I have also been in advertising (in Asia in the 90’s) and client side, but have always come back to PR, which I guess shows a lack of imagination to some extent.

6. You're not just a PR flack, you actually run a pretty sizable business. What's the toughest part of your job as CEO?

Finding good people. At Edelman in Europe, Middle East and Africa we now have just under a 1,000 people across wholly owned offices in 14 countries, and we always have vacancies for talent. You have helped us find people in the past as you remember, and one of the best things for us about social media has been the ability to spot talent and people who ‘get it’ by what they say and do online.

7. When we think of PR, we think of the stereotypical smoothie in an Italian suit, schmoozing away at some fancy sponsored event [See "Pickaxe" cartoon above]. But as we both know, Global PR is actually a pretty sophisticated business. Again, back to a conversation we've had more than once, the big challenge for PR firms in the next decade is all about becoming more culturally and technically diverse, AWAY from the typical smoothie archetype, towards something more hardcore, valuable and interesting. How does Edelman Europe see the challenge? Do you see a "new breed" of PR practitioner emerging?

I do see a new breed. PR used to be based on the top-down principle of managing a few relationships with senior journalists or stakeholders. These respected authorities would say good things about your business or firm and the world would gratefully receive their view and act accordingly. Well as you know, that world got blown up and the new democratised world of the enfranchised consumer and the occasional angry crowd has forced businesses (and the PR people and firms that advise them) to open up. It used to be in this business that you could trade on who you know, and now it has swung much more to what you know as well. I can’t imagine hiring people these days who are not actively engaged in the conversation or community in some form . You can’t fake this stuff. And so that means we always look for technical skills, people with a wide set of interests and a passion for something (other than work). Richard Edelman calls this 'Living in Colour....the idea that if you only live for the office and home you become a little grey. And if you cut off from the world in that way, you are much less use to our clients, who are looking for insight and advice and connection.

8. Of all the global players, it seems to me that Edelman got seriously interested in the implications of Web 2.0 sooner than the other big guys. Hence Richard Edelman hiring Steve Rubel etc. What was it about 2.0 that initially got Edelman all excited, where did you see the opportunity for your business, and what was particularly unique about the company that allowed you to arrive there first?

It really was Richard Edelman. He was banging on about this stuff five years ago when I joined the firm, and I was probably the leading naysayer at the time (I may even have expressed the view that blogging was like CB radio). The Trust Study, the big survey we do each year, had given us some clues when it showed that a ‘person like me’ was becoming a credible source of information on companies and organisations. ‘A person like me’ is now globally the number one credible source of information on companies...the CEO is the seventh most credible! And once we got our heads around that and the seismic changes of which that was just one part, the rest was about putting our money where our mouth was. And Richard hired people who got it, like Steve Rubel, and we invested in research and we bought digital agencies for their technical and creative skills, and we adapted their ways into the mainstream of the firm and invited in people like you who addressed our teams and our clients. And of course training, training, training. But we did make some bloody big mistakes along the way as everybody knows, and boy, did we ever learn from them!

9. Edelman is privately-owned. All your big, main competitors [Weber Shandwick etc] are subsidiaries of the large, publicly-owned advertising conglomerates [Interpublic, WPP etc]. Pros? Cons?

Every shareholder is in the firm, and that means that what’s right for the clients, the people and the business is never diluted by Wall Street or some bully-boy advertising suit. When I worked at some of the advertising-company-dominated, publicly-owned firms you could never point out advertising’s were muzzled. We can say precisely what we think is right for the client without worry- and no other PR firm of scale is in that position. On the money front, because we don’t have outside shareholders bleeding cash out of the firm, we can re-invest in intellectual property like research, and in new products and training. I really can’t think of any cons.

10. What advice would you give to a bright young thing wanting to break into the PR business? More specifically, what advice would you give today, that you wouldn't have given say, a decade ago? In other words, for a young person just entering the trade, how has the world changed in the last ten years?

Be involved and have a voice. When I got into this business in the early Jurassic period those two things were much more difficult to do. But society has changed and it is easy to express opinions and debate and join with like-minded people to pursue your interests. It does not all have to be online, but obviously much of it is now. And we look for that. Someone who is interested and passionate about something and who contributes. I still expect new joiners to be passionate about news, culture and politics in the traditional senses too, but what you read through your aggregator and via your community is as important as what you can buy at the news stand (OK not the most original point, but you would be amazed how many people still come to interviews with no views on news and no understanding or participation in social media). One other thing that has struck me about people joining the business now, especially in the US and the UK, is that they are amazingly conservative about their careers. Many look to progress through the ranks in small linear steps, I guess because the business has become so big and so structured. One of the most difficult things is to find people who will take a risk and go live in the Middle East or Moscow or China and I find that so hard to understand having lived and worked outside my country for seven years . . . something which broadened my horizons significantly.

Posted by hugh macleod at 12:44 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

the dell mini


The kind folks at Dell recently gave me a new Mini to try out. Here are my notes.

1. It's inexpensive, light, small, and fun to use. I call it my "coffee shop computer"- it's good for traveling, it's good for surfing the web, writing docs and sending emails from Starbucks. It's good for very basic programs- Mozilla, Skype, etc, it's not designed for something heavy like Photoshop. It all depends on what your needs are. I use it as an on-the-go alternative to my main computer, not a replacement for it. The small keyboard I found a bit fiddly at first, but I soon got used to it. Now I'm fine with it. I like it A LOT more than I thought I was going to. I own four computers- it turns out this is the one I now use the most, without question.

2. Before this came along, my main workhorse was a Mac laptop. I toted that everywhere. Now I just leave it my office. Macs are great computers, don't get me wrong, but they're expensive and with the exception of the Macbook Air, a lot heavier to lug around than the Mini. Because of the price, the prospect of losing a Mac on the road is a lot more daunting than losing a Mini. Last month when I flew to Amsterdam I just took the Dell Mini along with me- I left the Mac behind- and got on just fine.

3. Of all the computers I've ever owned, this by far has gotten the most attention from random members of the public. People come over to me all the time when I'm out and about, amazed that a proper computer could be so small. It gets the most attention from women- they like that a computer could fit in their handbag. They like the prospect of not having to lug something larger and heavier around with them.

4. As Dell is a client of mine, I find it encouraging that they could come up with something that credibly competes with Macbook Air on its own terms, rather than just making a cheaper, less elegant version of the latter. Before I got the Mini, I was thinking of buying a Macbook Air. I no longer am.

5. From what I know about the iPhone and the Blackberry [i.e. quite a bit, but nothing too extreme], I'd much rather surf the web with the Mini, than with a phone. Sure, the Mini doesn't fit into my jeans pocket like a phone can, but it does fit easily inside my denim jacket's inside pocket. That's not a bad compromise.

6. A lot of the time I simply don't feel like schlepping my backpack around. I have this much smaller bag that I use most of the time, just big enough to carry around some pens, a small notebook and blank business cards to draw cartoons on. The Mini is small enough to fit into that, which I'm REALLY pleased about.

7. All in all, I'm very happy with it. I think Dell might have a wee hit on their hands with this one. Good news.

8. I was under no obligation from Dell to blog about the computer. They didn't ask me too, nor did they even drop any subtle hints my way. I certainly wasn't planning on blogging about it, but I mentioned on my Twitter feed a few times that I had a new Mini, and a lot of people started asking me questions. In order to answer them properly, I decided a blog post was in order.

9. Would I buy one myself with my own money, had Dell not be so generous? Sure. Having used it for just over a month, I now can't imagine not having it around. Rock on.

Posted by hugh macleod at 10:13 AM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

November 1, 2008

creating blue monsters: "social objects" that articulate the purpose-idea

(Cartoon taken from The Hughtrain etc.)

Like I said in my interview with Mark Earls, The Blue Monster is a "Purpose-Idea". As Mark, the man who first coined the term explains it:

Put really simply, the Purpose-Idea is the "What For?" of a business, or any kind of community. What exists to change (or protect) in the world, why employees get out of bed in the morning, what difference the business seeks to make on behalf of customers and employees and everyone else? BTW this is not "mission, vision, values" territory - it's about real drives, passions and beliefs. The stuff that men in suits tend to get embarrassed about because it's personal. But it's the stuff that makes the difference between success and failure, because this kind of stuff brings folk together in all aspects of human life.
Real drives, passions and beliefs. Exactly.

The Blue Monster line, "Change The World Or Go Home" is not rocket science or literary brilliance. It just articulates a simple belief, a simple passion, a simple drive THAT ALREADY EXISTED, long before The Blue Monster ever came on to the scene. That's all it was ever meant to do.

[The Microsoft Blue Monster etc.]

Whether you agree or disagree with it doesn't matter, the important bit is that people within Microsoft believe it. Unlike a conventional ad campaign, it's not about you. It's about them.

Why is something like this potentially valuable to a business? Simply put, if you believe something passionately enough, for long enough, articulate it well enough, and your actions are aligned, credible and consistent with your belief for long enough, it's just a matter of time before other people start believing it, too. And next thing you know, you have an interesting conversation going on, both inside and outside the company. And as Doc Searls famously said, "Markets are conversations". Ker-Chiing.

Again, none of this is rocket science. Talking to people never is.

When people ask me what exactly is a Blue Monster, I tell them, it's not necessarily a cartoon. It's simply a social object that allows one to more easily articulate the Purpose-Idea. No more, no less.

I've been asking myself for years, what comes after conventional, Madison-Avenue-style advertising, now that we live in a post-TV, post-advertising, post-message world? "Creating Blue Monsters" is the closest I've ever come to finding an actual answer.

Besides drawing the cartoons, helping other companies create Blue Monsters is how I intend to spend the remainder of my career.

Cartoons and Blue Monsters. I really do have the world's greatest job. Rock on.

[More Blue Monster background reading here.]

Posted by hugh macleod at 8:00 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

notes on russian kettlebells


For the last few weeks, I've been having fun with my latest hobby- Russian Kettlebells. Here are some random thoughts:

1. They're pretty brutal to play with; the good news is they're great for both cardio and strength. Unlike gyms or exercise classes, they're cheap and don't require huge amounts of time. 30 minutes and a bit of flat grass in the park is all you need.

2. Back in New York in 1998, I was working with free weights and doing Kung Fu classes, pretty much every day (My Kung Fu teacher rocked). I was a monster. I liked it. Since then, I've been looking for that groove again, and failing for the most part. I think the reason is, to train that obsessively for so long is unsustainable. That being said, it was a good coping mechanism for the stress of that city. Now my needs are much simpler.

3. I was turned on to kettlebells by a master blacksmith in Scotland, who makes his own. "A gym in the palm of your hand", is how he described it. Like the "cartoons drawn on the back of business cards" format, the utter simplicity of the idea appealed to me. Life is complicated enough.

4. Kettlebells are easy to hurt yourself with, if you're not good at respecting your limitations. The few few weeks I had them, my initial enthusiasm for my new hobby taught me a few painful lessons. Now I watch my lower back like a laser.

5. Unlike free weights, they have a certain quality that makes training with them rather "Playfull". I like that. So much of modern exercise is sheer drudgery. Instead, here's a fun YouTube video of some guys on a beach, "playing" with kettlebells. It's like watching a bunch of guys tossing around a frisbee, only heavier [No, you don't need to toss them around like the guys on the beach. For the more basic kettlebell moves, go here. And for super-advanced, "Kettlebell Juggling", look at this video.].

6. I use 35-pounders for upper body stuff, 55-pounders for lower body. Doesn't sound too heavy until you try it, then you find out really quickly.

7. There's a wealth of good learning material online, but this book, besides being an amusing read, I found very helpful. My favorite line: "Burn fat without the dishonor of aerobics." Heh.

8. They're called "Russian" kettlebells, although they've been used all over Europe for centuries. They're still used in Scottish Highland games, for instance, but the Russians are the ones who use them the most, it seems. A 55-pounder has been a basic, traditional training tool in the Russian Military for well over a hundred years.

9. Kettlebells are more about "the importance of functional strength, rather than purely aesthetic gains". Hence their appeal to the Russian military.

10. I have no big plans with this. No massive ambition re. feats of strength. I just want an exercise that (A) works for me and (B) easy to do every day. So far, so good.

11. Yes, Russian kettlebells are social objects.

[Update:] To qualify as a RKC Instructor, you have to pass the RKC Snatch Test with a 24 kilo kettlebell. This YouTube video shows what's involved. Harder than it looks etc. Also, Snatch Testing video at the 2007 World Championships in Miami. Ouch.

Posted by hugh macleod at 4:36 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack