June 5, 2009

social object: the "dream big" bumper stcker

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[Click on image to enlarge etc.]

If you walk around Alpine, Texas (my current home), you might start seeing the "Dream Big" bumper stickers everywhere, the ones I made for Stormhoek.

Alpine only has about 6,000 people. We've distributed around 1,000 bumper stickers so far. Plan to do many more. Do the math.

Why can't a small town in west Texas "Dream Big"? Ditto for a small winery in South Africa.

"Dream Big, Alpine, Texas" isn't rocket science. But it seems to resonate with folk.

Yes, the bumper sticker is a "social object".

Watch this space...


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

April 30, 2009

putting the "global" into "global microbrand"

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For years now, I've been riffing on "The Global Microbrand", something I've always wanted to create for myself:

A small, tiny brand, that “sells” all over the world…The Global Microbrand is sustainable. With it you are not beholden to one boss, one company, one customer, one local economy or even one industry. Your brand develops relationships in enough different places to where your permanent address becomes almost irrelevant.
And from what became glaringly obvious early on, a lot of my fellow bloggers had the same idea. To which I've always said, "Hurrah!":

So then the next question is, when does your microbrand become TRULY global? Where is the tipping point?

Your guess is as good as mine, it really all depends on your definition of "global". Although this blog has had readers from all over the planet for many years, most of my actual, paid business over time has come from the UK and America. So it never felt THAT global to me.

Then last week I shipped an order of signed prints to a client in Brazil...

And then today, somebody from Mainland China purchased a Purple Cow print. We're talking "Mainland". Not Hong Kong. Not Taiwan. Mainland.

Something interesting is happening, I can feel it...

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April 24, 2009

signing prints in miami

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[The "AgenciaClick" prints being signed and numbered...]

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[The "Wolf vs Sheep" prints, freshly signed and numbered...]

I'm in Miami for the weekend, mainly here to sign some more prints and do some more drawing...

Drawn in Alpine, Texas. Printed in NYNY. Signed in Miami. Sold all over the world, via the Internet. A global microbrand, if ever there was one...

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March 20, 2009

john t. unger, artist and global microbrand

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One of John T.'s "Great Bowls Of Fire".

From March, 2006:

Chris Carfi points to John T. Unger, an artist and regular gapingvoid commenter who has used his blog and the global microbrand idea to carve out a nice wee career for himself (for more money than his last day job paid him, I hasten to add).

Go read John T's take on it here. Very uplifting.

John and his girlfriend left Alpine, Texas this morning. We hung out and drank beer, and I got to take him to my favorite Mexican place in town, Alicia's. Since I first wrote about him a a few years ago, we've become great friends.

John's checking out Texas. He's had enough of Michigan winters. He's looking to buy land down here and build another studio for his sculpture. Alpine is on his short list of possible locations.

I may have coined the term, "Global Microbrand", but John has actually lived it to the full. Now it's my turn to play catch-up. Rock on.

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February 24, 2009

signing the bluetrain prints...

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[Me signing the "Bluetrain" prints earlier this evening...]

Dear Crazy, Deranged Fools,

Ok, so that's the Bluetrain edition signed. Tomorrow I take them to the art packer's, in order for them to be packed flat and shipped via UPS to their new owners.

From here in Alpine, Texas, to London, Hong Kong, Boston, Paris, New York, Austin, Seattle... all 100% enabled by our little, evil friend, The Internet. This is EXACTLY what I meant when I talked about The Global Microbrand, back in 2005. All happening for me now etc.

For those of you who have ordered one, please expect to receive an embedded PayPal button in an email from me, during the next couple of days. We were first waiting to see much an actual print weighs when fully packed, so we'd know how much to charge y'all for shipping. Thanks.

Yes, it has its complicated moments, but it's all very exciting... I hope y'all feel likewise.

Thanks Again for Your Love And Support,

Yours in Crazy, Deranged Foolishness,

Hugh MacLeod

[PS: Check out the latest limited edition coming out: "We Need To Talk".]

[PPS: Sign up for The "Crazy, Deranged Fools" Newsletter here...]

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December 22, 2008

the global microbrand riff continues

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For the greater part of the last decade, I have been using the internet to build what I'm fond of calling, "The Global Microbrand".

A small, tiny brand, that "sells" all over the world.

The Global Microbrand is nothing new; they've existed for a while, long before the internet was invented. Imagine a well-known author or painter, selling his work all over the world. Or a small whisky distillery in Scotland. Or a small cheese maker in rural France, whose produce is exported to Paris, London, Tokyo etc. Ditto with a violin maker in Italy. A classical guitar maker in Spain. Or a small English firm making $50,000 shotguns.

Here are some more thoughts, in no particular order of importance:

1. I think in many ways, the artist is the ultimate global microbrand.
She just does her thing from wherever; if she's any good and fortune favors her work, her stuff is suddenly being seen, read or heard all around the world, without her having to leave her studio too much. Nice work if you can get it.

2. The good news is, so far it's gone extremely well for me.
The bad news is, it has taken me forever to this point. Better late than never, I suppose.

3. I've had the most success helping to build Global Microbrands for other people, most notably, English Cut and Stormhoek. The idea that I should start applying what I know about this world to my own, commercial products, didn't really kick in till earlier this year. Though business has been busy enough so far [and getting busier by the day], it's still a strange feeling for me. Seems like it's easier to promote other people's stuff than one's own stuff. You don't take it so personally, somehow.

4. Being an artist has three main components- 1. Making the actual work 2. Running the business and 3. Promoting the business. It's REALLY hard to do all three at the same time. It's EQUALLY hard to find people who can take over some of the duties and responsibilities of 2 and 3. Good people who actually know what they're doing are rare and expensive.

5. I made my best work when I was relatively cold, hungry and desperate. This kind of experience tends to make one very unapologetic, years later, when the "success" eventually arrives.

6. Having a global microbrand is not about being "famous". It's about having a serious, almost tribe-like connection with a number of people who want to buy into what you're doing. If you're selling $5000, hand-made suits like Thomas Mahon, that number only needs to be a hundred or so. If you're selling $20 books or music CDs, that number needs to be much larger. I'm somewhere in the middle, because my work has a lot of price points- from the $16.29 price tag of my upcoming book, to the x-hundred-dollar prints I'm working on, to the five-figures I plan to sell my large paintings for [Yes, I've already been offered that for "DesertManhattan", even though it's still far from completion]. Somewhere early on I decided 10,000 people for me was the magic number. I may be wrong on that, though...

7. I don't believe in overnight success [mainly because it has yet to happen to me, or anyone I know]. I believe on building my "tribe", one person at a time. I also think that having a definite number in mind re. how large you want your tribe to be, is extremely helpful.

8. Results may vary depending on who you are and what you're selling, but I have always found it easier to find one tribe member willing you give you $1000, than it is to find 1000 tribe members willing to give you one dollar. The downside to that is, the more expensive and exclusive your product, the harder it is to scale further. Somewhere in there lies the sweet spot. If you find it, let me know.

9. You see this a lot, in the blogosphere particularly: People with great products but no tribe to speak of [Daniel Edlen of VinylArt fame springs immediately to mind], and people with large tribes, but no real compelling product to speak of. Again, it's all about finding the sweet spot.

10. I didn't really start building my tribe till I was well into my thirties, when blogs and Web 2.0 came along. It was a medium "I just got" right away. Man, how I wish the internet came along twenty years sooner; it would've made my life a lot easier in those early days.

11. Though I didn't have the term for it back then, back in college I always knew a "Global Microbrand" was what I wanted eventually. I always knew I was never cut out to be the corporate, office-worker kinda guy. I gave the latter an honest try, and it was a complete disaster. Like I said, better late than never.

12. If your Global Microbrand succeeds, it's not because of the brand's functionality per se, it's because what you're doing gives the end user something to believe in. To me, that's always been pretty obvious, some folk still find it a difficult idea to process.

[UPDATE: Just added this blog post to "Evil Plans".

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August 23, 2008

the ticket off the treadmill

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It's been almost two years since my "Global Microbrand Rant":

Frankly, it beats the hell out of commuting every morning to the corporate glass box in the big city, something I did for many years. Just so I could make enough money to help me forget that I have to commute every morning to the corporate glass box in the big city.

There are thousands of reasons why people write blogs. But it seems to me the biggest reason that drives the bloggers I read the most is, we're all looking for our own personal global microbrand. That is the prize. That is the ticket off the treadmill. And I don't think it's a bad one to aim for.

Though a lot of the personal details have changed since then, it still holds up pretty well.

That's one of the main reasons I started this website, back in the day. I saw it as a ticket off the treadmill. Not exactly sure how it all happened, but for the most part, my evil plan worked.

I've noticed that building a Global Microbrand, whether you're a tech consultant or a maker of hand-built guitars, is a lot like learning how to teach oneself to be a cartoonist i.e. you need the same three basic ingredients: Talent, stamina and discipline.

Like any good Kung Fu master will tell you- There are no secrets. There is no magic formula. Just a lot of hard work.

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March 16, 2008

cartooning gigs

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[A riff on the Blue Monster cartoon. Recently commissioned by Microsoft etc.]

Recently I've been busying myself with a new series of cartoons I'm doing for Microsoft. The cartoon above is one of them.

Microsoft is awash with both [A] complicated products and [B] complicated ideas, so they often use my cartoons internally to communicate them in a more, shall we say, digestible form.

I'm also talking to other large companies about doing the same kind of thing with them. The work suits me. I like the challenge, I like the mental algebra, I like being able to interface with hardcore, real-world problems. And it can all be done in Alpine, Texas, Cumbria or wherever via the internet, without me having to book an airline ticket and hotel.

If this is something that would be useful for your company, feel free to drop me an e-mail.
Thanks.

[I'm still doing the public speaking and appearance gigs, of course. More info here. Thanks Again.]

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December 23, 2007

so what's all this new marketing stuff, anyway?

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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.

[UPDATE:] Robert Scoble leaves an interesting comment:

Friends are going to be the big story in 2008. Here's a post about why it's wrong that I'm a gatekeeper between my friends and you.



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November 25, 2007

"important announcement" from gapingvoid

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After I found myself permanently exiled from the advertising business in late 2004, I found myself with only a single, unpaid gig remaining i.e. this website, gapingvoid.

Luckily this unemployed phase didn't last long. Sure, I had a month or two of being poor and desperate, but then English Cut came along, then Thingamy, then Stormhoek, then the consulting, then the Blue Monster, then the paid speaking gigs. Within two years or so I had turned the ship around quite nicely.

But somehow gapingvoid got lost in the mix. Even though the plan has always been to keep gapingvoid at the very epicenter of what I do, in the last 18 months or so it seemed to get increasingly pushed to the margins.

I guess that's not surprising. With so much going on it's hard to make a small cartoon blog [with equally small advertising revenues] the main focus of one's business.

But of course, without gapingvoid, my own personal global microbrand, the other stuff would never have been possible. Therein lies the rub.

The last three years has been without question the most exciting period of my career, but My God, it has stretched me thin. I'm worn out.

So this last week I've been telling people I work with, I'm changing the game plan. I'm going back to basics. From now on building "the gapingvoid brand" will become my first priority. Yes, I will still be working with the same people and projects I'm working with now, in much the same way, but in a much less involved capacity.

Time to regroup. Indeed.

I'm thinking now would be a good time to thank everybody who reads gapingvoid on a regular basis. Without you, the last three amazing years would never have happened.

Thanks, Everybody. You guys rock.

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November 19, 2007

london geek dinner with hugh macleod and robert scoble, december 7th, 2007

[This is just a rumor at the moment...]

[Scobleizer.com]

[Bonus Link] Great post on MicroBranding from Johnnie Moore:

"It's all an experiment."

My own take on microbranding is to realise that small stuff matters. Too many brands try to bash us over the head with their fixed propositions, values statements, idealised lifestyles etc etc. (And we're just their customers, think what it's like for people who work there.)



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November 18, 2007

the global microbrand, revisited

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It's been just over two years since I wrote "The Global Microbrand Rant":

There are thousands of reasons why people write blogs. But it seems to me the biggest reason that drives the bloggers I read the most is, we're all looking for our own personal global microbrand. That is the prize. That is the ticket off the treadmill. And I don't think it's a bad one to aim for.
It was yesterday's post, "MicroMarketing on MicroMedia" that got me thinking about the GMB again. Here are some more random thoughts, some more original than others:

1. The good news about blogs is that they're very powerful. The bad news is that they're very time consuming. So no wonder in the last two years we've seen so many other kinds of "Cheap, Easy, Global Media" spring up- Twitter, Facebook, YouTube etc etc.

2. I will be frequently quoting this line from Clay Shirky until the day I die: "So forget about blogs and bloggers and blogging and focus on this -- 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." I've been promising myself to write Clay for a while, asking him to elaborate on "Vast". I have a few ideas. You?

3. Blogs may not be around in ten years. Facebook may not be around in 10 years. What WILL be around, however, is the aforementioned "Cheap, Easy, Global Media". The latter is never going away, save for a nuclear holocaust. Whoever said "Blogs are just a fad" back in the early days was missing the point. It was NEVER about blogs. It was about something far more "vast".

4. Beware on becoming a "VaporGuru". This is the term I use for people who don't seem to do very much except write in their blogs and speak at conferences [i.e. People like me. Exactly!]. Not that what they have to say isn't always useful, it's just that it's a very crowded market. Secondly, their perspective often tends to be that of an observer, not that of somebody who has actually gone ahead and "actually done it". Which is why I stick so doggedly to the wine trade. No matter what they may say about me on Techmeme, people are always going to want to uncork a bottle.

5. We're still waiting for the Blogging Messiah. And we always will be. Doc Searls came pretty close a couple of times, though.

6. Again, I'll say it one more time: Blogging is just the tip of the Cluetrain iceberg. And it wasn't the tip that sunk the Titanic.

7. Type "GlobalMicrobrand.com" into your browser and see where it takes you.

8. I consider The Blue Monster a Global Microbrand. One that has been adopted [but not assimilated *cough*] by a Global Macrobrand i.e. Microsoft. Both feed the other. Cultural Symbiosis. Rock on.

9. In retrospect, over time I haven't written enough about the GMB as perhaps I should have. Probably because, like I said in my original post, none of it is rocket science. It's really just a case of just doing it. The only other advice I can offer is, keep reading the blogs that you admire and learn from them.

10. I plan to be thinking more about The Global Microbrand schtick for the next wee while, and hopefully writing more on the subject. If you have any thoughts or links you think could help me out, please feel free to send them my way. Thanks.

11. [Saving the best for last:] The question isn't, "How do you turn your blog into a viable business model?" The question is, "How do you turn a viable business model into your blog?"

[Update: Dr. Mani, a Children's Heart Surgeon, muses about The Global Microbrand. Nice to see when folk with "real jobs" also start thinking about this stuff, as opposed to the usual suspects etc.]

[Update:] Just got an e-mail from Terry Rock:

I think this is why you haven't talked much about the Global Microbrand: [See the 10th slide: Make Sandwiches [don't just take orders]].

Since I saw Merlin's presentation online, that's been the mantra in our
micro-organization: stop taking orders and start making sandwiches.

You don't build a global microbrand talking about building a global
microbrand.

Terry T. Rock, PhD
President & CEO
Calgary Arts Development

I added the emphasis on his last sentence.

Posted by hugh macleod at 8:24 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

October 27, 2007

thoughts on de-commodification

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Some random thoughts on "De-Commodification", in no particular order:

1. Last year I did the above t-shirt design for an advertising buddy of mine in Chicago. He's no longer at DDB, but what the heck.

2. Being in the $10 wine business, "De-commodification" is a subject dear to my heart. One thing the world is not short of is... vast lakes of unsold wine.

3. When I hit a certain age, I also learned the hard way that the the world was not short of thirty-something journeyman advertising creatives, either. Nothing like feeling a commodity oneself, to pique one's interest in de-commodification. Heh.

4. You know the phenomenon when a company gets too big and too rich, and the next thing you know, the middle-manager politics take over? Starts sucking the life blood out of the company? The start of inevitable and permanent decline? Know what I mean? The more time I spend on this side of the pond, the more I think this company allegory applies to these United States, as well.

5. Last week I was on the phone to an old friend of mine, a guy in his late forties, who was born and bred in Michigan, and is living there now. He was telling me about his uncle, who, about four decades ago, got his highschool sweetheart pregnant. So instead of going off to college, he found himself with a new wife, a child on the way, and an assembly-line job at General Motors. But even though this situation clipped his wings considerably, he still ended up having a nice life in the end, with a home, a big yard, two cars, a steady paycheck, weekends fishing or hunting deer, and vacations in Hawaii every year or so. "The days where a blue collar guy like my uncle could have a nice life without doing much," my friend said, "those days are gone. Gone forever."

And in the back of my mind, I'm thinking the same is starting to happen to white collar guys more and more, as well. But it's not quite out in the open yet. Society's not quite ready to have that conversation.

6. The best way to offset one's own commodification is to build one's own personal "global microbrand", irrespective one own employer. "Brand You", as the great Tom Peters called it way back in 1997. A good blog works about as well as anything. And no, you don't have to be an A-Lister. Just look at what people like James Governor or Thomas Mahon are doing.

7. I wish I could think of a better term than "De-Commodification". It's an unwieldy word.

Posted by hugh macleod at 11:10 PM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

January 29, 2007

the global microbrand rant 2

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[Bonus Video Link: Loic Le Meur interviewing Jeff Jarvis at Davos recently.]

I suppose one of my seminal "blogger" experiences was following Jeff Jarvis' thoughts on what he calls "Exploding Media" over the last couple of years.

For all its amazing insight, the first thing you have to understand about the Exploding Media thread is that it isn't rocket science. To quote Clay Shirky:

"So forget about blogs and bloggers and blogging and focus on this -- 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."
Yes, it really is that simple. And Jeff was one of the first people who [A] really understood it and [B] was able to explain it to large amounts of ordinary people.

Jeff gave up his career as a heavyweight big-media exec a couple of years ago in order to start up a business helping big media companies better understand this brave new world he and Shirky talk about.

And from what I can tell, he's done a damn fine job of it.

My favorite recent line of his: “I say media companies must turn from owning content to enabling networks”.

A worthy goal; it certainly gives one's brain something to chew on, although I'm not sure if it's realistic, to be honest.

Sure, if somebody like say, Time Warner wants to help sort out my social thing, bless 'em, though I'm not convinced they could do a better job than much smaller, focused companies like Six Apart or Wordpress, not to mention countless other bloggers I know personally. And the latter don't have a board of directors, nor vast armies of shareholders, celebrities and employees to keep fed and watered.

Basically, I'm not convinced this "top-down evolution of old media into new media" story, however fascinating it is to watch, is really all that useful to the average blogging schmoe, trying to make a living in the here and now.

Sure, it might be considered "news" to some that Time Warner now allows its Tom Cruise publicity nuggets to be distributed via RSS. Or that one of their companies, AOL bought out the Weblogs Inc network [the latter being a company I have nothing but admiration for]. Or that The Guardian in the UK has embraced blogs in force. But how does the average person take that information, and turn it into cash to feed his family? And do it yesterday?

Whereas, compare that to one self-employed guy I know [who shall remain nameless], who isn't even on the Technorati 1000, yet every Movable-Type-powered blog post he writes, on average, nets him $25,000-$50,000 in new business. What can I say? The latter, what I call "The Global Microbrand", in terms of my own selfish needs and ambition, is a far more powerful and useful an idea to me.

I'm not dissing Jeff or what he's doing. Far from it. He's one of my top-ten or so "must reads". But I'm not always convinced that the people he is paid to help are all that relevant to the Global Microbrand space.

I guess that's OK. "Sixty million blog, sixty million business models" etc.

Just let's say, as the blogosphere matures and more high-profile people start making the big money [e.g. Arrington, Calacanis et al], and big media companies start embracing Web 2.0 technology in all sorts of ways, sure, it makes for entertaining reading, and it's a good thing all round to be happening, but neither should we forget the little guy doing extraordinary things, quietly away in the corner. And utterly transforming his career in the process. The latter is to me where the real action is. In terms of pure selfish economic need, this is where more people are most likely to succeed.

We live in interesting times.


[Global Microbrand Archive is here.]

[UPDATE: You'll understand where Jeff Jarvis is coming from far better if you watch the Loic & Jeff video, linked above. Thanks also to Loic. Great stuff.]


Posted by hugh macleod at 6:14 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

January 8, 2007

the thingamy manifesto

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Well done to Sig, for writing The Thingamy Manifesto, which is all to do with a new generation of enterprise software he's working on i.e. Thingamy. He also includes a ton of links, pointing to where these ideas are discussed in greater detail.

The manifesto has eleven points. Here's a taster:

1. The Organisational Hierarchy is kaput - as single purpose executor of the Business Model it requires reorganisation every time you need to get better, an utterly futile exercise most of the time. Replace it.

2. Managing is a waste of time. Leadership I need, getting out of bed in the morning I can do myself.

3. Legacy software models the "way we always did things" - usually a model from the days of paper, quills and desks. Model reality instead.

4. Tree-structures are faulty. "Where it resides" is only two dimensional and suitable only for places. Use tags and any other means to enhance the knowledge and make finding easier.

Thanks, Sig!

[Disclosure: I have a small stake in Thingamy.]

[Manifesto submission guidelines are here.] [Manifesto archive is here.]

Posted by hugh macleod at 5:02 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 2, 2007

introducing tittin rinde

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Tittin, Sigurd's wife is a wonderful artist. And now she has her own blog.

Besides that, if I had to list the top 12 greatest meals I ever had, I reckon 2 or 3 of them would've been sitting at Tittin's table. Of course, she was helped along a bit by being down in the South of France, where the local fare REALLY IS that good.

Another Global Microbrand in the making, perhaps?

Posted by hugh macleod at 11:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

antibes...

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[An aerial photograph of Port Vauban in Antibes, via this post on the Fenderkicker blog.]

Last August I wrote about wanting to spend more time in Antibes. So far that hasn't happened, but I'm not too worried. It's all contingent on certain stages of the Thingamy project reaching critical mass.

Sigurd tells me this critical mass is not that far away, so I'm feeling increasingly excited about the prospect of getting down there more often. Especially with it being so dull, cold and rainy here in London all week.

[Bonus Link:] According to Fenderkicker, this yacht's masts are too tall to go through the Panama Canal, even with the new extension coming in.

[Disclaimer:] Yes, I have a stake in both Thingamy and Fenderkicker. And in suits and wine. Life is good.

[Note to Self:] I wonder if there's anything else I need to add to my Global Microbrand portfolio?

Posted by hugh macleod at 10:54 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

December 29, 2006

blogging delivers five-fold increase in stormhoek sales in less than two years?

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It's been a busy year for Stormhoek.

December 29th, 2005 [one year ago exactly]: "Blogging Doubled Stormhoek Sales In Less Than Twelve Months."

When I first started working with Stormhoek in May, 2005, they were tracking about 50,000 cases sold per year. By year's end that figure had doubled to 100,000. Right now we've doubled again, to just over 200,000 cases a year. By Second Quarter 2007 we're on schedule to be tracking around 250,000 cases shipped per year.

So that's looking like a five-fold increase in sales in less than two years. And it wouldn't have happened without the blogosphere, which is at the very epicenter of everything we do. Thanks, Everybody!

And on to 2006:

January 10th: "So what comes after The Cluetrain? Companies gladly and willingly allowing themselves to be actually changed by The Cluetrain. But don't hold your breath."

January 17th: Decanter Magazine picks up on the "Blogging Doubles Sales" story.

January 28th: An exec at one of our largest customers, a supermarket chain, refers to all this blogging stuff as "Chatroom Rubbish". I believe he's modified his opinions since then. Just a tad.

February 11th: Stormhoek launches the "100 Dinners" idea. Basically, we convince people to throw their own geek dinners all around the United States, and blog about it. Stormhoek supplied the wine. Though the story never really broke into the mainstream media [that would've been nice], it got a lot of attention within the US wine trade, which was very good for us.

February 26th: The Stormhoek blogging story makes it into The Daily Telegraph, one of the big national UK papers.

April 10th: I launch the gapingvoid widget, bandwidth sponsored by Stormhoek.

April 29: I announce the first Stormhoek cartoon labels, to be drawn by myself. You can see the results of my efforts here.

May 1st. The very first US Stormhoek Geek Dinner is held in San Antonio. I design my first set of limited edition prints for the occasion.

May 16th: Stormhoek gets a really nice write-up in wine.co.za, a very influential website in in the South African wine world.

May 17th: Stormhoek wins its first major trade award. The Drinks Business' "Best Consumer Campaign 2006".

June 5th: Spent the day in London, signing the first batch of Stormhoek "puppy" lithographs, which went on to become a very successful series.

June 27th: "The Stormhoek Guide to Wine Blogging". This got printed up as wee booklets, as trade press inserts. I loved this project.

June 29th: Stormhoek has become "The Official Wine of Silicon Valley Alcoholics", according to Valleywag.

July 7th: Jason and I make our first attempt at video podcasting, with a little help from Johnnie Moore and Lloyd Davis.

July 7th: Stormhoek makes a big appearance in Chicago.

July 19th: Stormhoek discovers "Ooze" aka "Objects of Sociability".

July 25th. Rob Lane writes "The Stormhoek Song".

August 5th: I publish my very first Stormhoek cartoon label.

August 10th: I sign my first batch of Techcrunch party lithographs.

August 15th: "It isn't just about the marketing." Stormhoek Pinotage wins a seriously major wine award.

August 18th: The lithographs make a huge splash at the big Techcrunch Party in Silicon Valley.

August 25th: Stormhoek is now available in SF and Silicon Valley.

August 31st:
The Techcrunch prints start appearing on e-Bay. Prices start exceeding $175. Yowza.

September 27th: Stormhoek launches the "Siren" series, our more upmarket wine, conceived by crowdsourcing the blogosphere.

October 6th: Stormhoek Siren sponsors the Hallam Foe bloggers' dinner. My favorite UK bloggers got see a rough cut of the movie and meet the director, my old pal, David Mackenzie.

October 18th: 1,000 lithographs were made for the Techcrunch UK launch party.

October 26th: Tom Raftery asks me all about Stormhoek, for the it@cork podcast.

October 30th: I create the "Blue Monster" design for Microsoft. This is probably my favorite Stormhoek project so far, especially as it seems to have gotten a lot of traction internally in Redmond.

November 17th: Stormhoek and myself make it on to AdAge.com's "Marketing 50". I know industry awards are usually a bit suspect, but this one meant the world to me.

November 24th: Stormhoek creates "The Thresher Virus". Within a week it has made the national news.

December 13th: The Microsoft "Blue Monster" lithographs arrive. Microsoft's Steve Clayton was well pleased.

[Update:] This post got a mention on Techmeme. Interesting...

Posted by hugh macleod at 3:23 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

September 6, 2006

off to glasgow

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I'm off to Glasgow today for a while, to work on the Hallam Foe project. I'll be there a lot for the next couple of months.

And after that? Who knows.

As the internet gets more powerful, geography gets less of an issue.

I like Dennis Howlett's set-up. His blog drives his business; the latter he runs online from his home in a small Spainish town. Where a good meal, washed down with plenty of wine costs about $20.

The older I get, the more I like this type of "Global Microbrand" business model.

Which is why I'm so obsessed with the concept. You get to a certain age, and it's no longer about the money. It's about sovereignty. To paraphrase Napolean, I can always win back lost territory. But a second of time, never.

Posted by hugh macleod at 5:55 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 26, 2006

the global microbrand: 10 questions for seth godin

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Seth Godin and I had a recent e-mail exchange. I asked him ten questions:

1. QUESTION: Your latest book, "Small Is The New Big", is not a narrative or a thesis in any sense, but a collection of your favorite writings from your blog and your old Fast Company column. A collection of synapse-firings, the way I see it. Is it important to you to have your work "immortalized" on paper? Do you find the internet and magazines just too ephemeral, and wanted to created something more "lasting"? Or was it just simply because, as you say, you wanted your ideas to reach beyond the blogosphere?

ANSWER:
It's important not to underestimate the totem value of a book. The same way a white lab coat makes a placebo more likely to be effective (or a witch doctor's hat for that matter), a book delivers an impact that a blog can't.

While there's certainly some ego in wanting your thousands of posts not to disappear, there's also a real desire on my part to give my existing readers the ability to taunt their co-workers by handing them a book instead of emailing them a link. If my job is to make change, I need to use the best tools that are available.

It's also hard to read a blog at the beach.

I want to be clear about something I just discovered though--that there IS a theme. The title really captures what the book is about. I've been amazed that reviewers (professional and pro-am) have seemed to find something that I didn't when I was busy writing it... that acting small, treating people like people, changing like an individual, not an organization... these are attributes that are essential now, and they're on every page of the book. I think I picked the right riff for the title.

2. QUESTION: As a cartoonist, I find myself quite surprised that very few of the more prominent bloggers out there are in the "Arts". It seems we have lots of business thinkers, technologists, entrepreneurs, consultants etc, but why do we have so surprisingly few filmmakers, playwrights, novelists, musicians, painters etc at the top of the pyramid? I have a few theories myself as to why this is, but may I ask what may be your take on it?

ANSWER: They're coming, for sure. Postsecret is one of the three most popular blogs in the world. I think mainstream artists are rarely the first to embrace a new medium (silkscreening, for example, took a long time to get its Andy Warhol), but they're coming. It's going to be a new generation of artists that embrace the nature of the medium, and they're just getting started.

3. QUESTION: Let's imagine, for whatever reason, you had decided not to start blogging, and keep on exclusively writing books instead. How different do you think your career would be today?

ANSWER: My books would be longer, more appreciated by critics and less popular. I'd have notebooks filled with unfinished sentences and people wouldn't mail me bermuda shorts. Thanks for the shorts, by the way, I love them.

What your readers already realize is that blogs aren't just a way to waste time at work. It's a big shift, a change for a generation.

4. QUESTION: From what I can tell, you make a pretty good living from your books and public speaking gigs. One could intelligently argue that you don't really need to set up other enterprises- Squiddoo etc- in order to maintain your current standard of living. But you do so anyway. So assuming I am correct [I may not be, but hey, it's not like it's any of my business either way], that you're not doing these enterprises primarily for the money, what do you think motivates you to increase your workload in this manner?

ANSWER: It's not a workload! Look, there are 8 million millionaires in the USA. Why do these people go to work every day? Why not downsize appropriately and just sit on the beach? Because they're too smart. They realize that the purpose of living isn't to bake in the sun until you die. I write and speak and experiment because that's what I do. I'm thrilled to have the chance to do it every day. Any day I'm not thrilled, I'll stop.

As a result of the transparency of blogging, a lot of people have realized, almost as an aside, that people do what they love to do. It's just now you get to see it on your screen. Sometimes those things appear to have no financial incentives (raising goldfish) and sometimes they do. But let's be clear... unless you work for Goldman Sachs or are selling drugs on a street corner in Topeka, you're almost certainly not in this, whatever this is, for the money.

Most of the time, for most people, in most industries, it's not REALLY about the money.

5. QUESTION: A lot of people read your books and speak highly of them. But is there any particular part of your body of work that you think is misunderstood by a surprisingly high percentage of your readers?

ANSWER:I'm not surprised that a percentage (not so big, though) of people who read my books use them and misconstrue them to justify their own strategies. Permission Marketing is not about spamming people just by claiming you have "permission." And a Purple Cow isn't purple because you think it is... it's up to the market. But in general, I'd say that the ideas are traveling pretty well.

On the other hand, my briefer riffs, cryptic blog posts and such, get me in trouble all the time. I make assumptions about people understanding my train of thought and my tone of voice, and I got caught. I'm trying to walk a fine line between clarity and pithiness.

6. QUESTION: Of all your books, which one would you rewrite, if the publishers would let you?

ANSWER: I wish I had another shot at "Survival is Not Enough". I'm not sure how I would change it, but I think it's a very strong book, and it wasn't a total failure.

7. QUESTION: I know for a fact that you inspire a lot of bloggers. Could you name a few of the bloggers who inspire you?

ANSWER: Joi Ito got me started. You challenge me regularly to rethink the limits. Tom Peters reminds me that I don't work hard enough.

I also read dozens of blogs a day, including: acleareye.com, Joel on Software, Brand Autopsy, Boingboing, Springwise, Buzzmachine, Presentation Zen, Guy Kawasaki, Kathy Sierra, Fred Wilson, Rick Segal, etc.

Most of my inspiration, though, comes from walking down the street, or working with the gang at Squidoo or reading my email every day. It's so easy for a blogger to try to be like other bloggers, merely because there's so much input available. Resist!

8. QUESTION: If you're a marketer, I believe that thriving in the old, top-down "TV-Industrial Complex" era, as you call it, and thriving in your new world of "Permission Marketing" and "Idea Viruses" require completely different skill sets. So although you may sell a lot of books, do you ever get frustrated that your ideas are slow to reach the people who probably could use them the most? [AFTERTHOUGHT: Possible title for a future blog post: "The best ideas are always last to reach the people who need them the most." Yes? No? Maybe?]

ANSWER: I'm astonished at how long it takes an idea to filter from the early adopters to the masses. What sort of person just read the Da Vinci Code or just discovered the iPod? I was standing in a nice store in a nice suburb and heard one 25 year old explain to a 30 year old what gmail was... it's so easy to assume that everyone already gets it.

9. QUESTION: Was your eventual transition from business entrepreneur to writer a long-held ambition of yours, or did it evolve slowly, perhaps almost happening by accident?

ANSWER: I wrote my first book in 1986... at first, I enjoyed the entrepreneurial nature of packaging books--the barrier to entry was tiny, the publishers gave you the small stake you needed, and if it worked, you could run with it. In fact, it was just like blogging, except it cost more. I have no doubt at all that if there had been blogs in 1986, I would have skipped a whole bunch of intermediate steps along the way.

Five years from now, there are going to be at least 2,000 (maybe 20,000) freelancers who have turned blogging into a technique to leverage a successful media business. First in have a head start.

10. QUESTION: Last year I asked you what effect having a blog has had on your book writing career. Would you mind repeating your answer here, for the benefit of my readers?

ANSWER: A year ago, I told you that blogs had killed my interest in writing books, because they relieved the pressure of ideas building up. My blog got me quick, good feedback and made it easy to spread ideas without resorting to a dying industry.

Since then I've learned that books reach a different population in a different way. I really need to do both. Live and learn!

11. BONUS QUESTION: What is your definition of a "global microbrand"? And do you consider yourself to be one?

ANSWER: A "global microbrand" is a little like a jumbo shrimp, I guess.

Brand is an old-fashioned word that was invented for marketers who couldn't measure connections between people. Brand is a collection of notions and hints and desires and wisps that allow a consumer a shortcut when thinking about an organization, product or even a person. So, I don't really know Sumner Redstone, but he has a brand, at least in my mind (scary thought).

The thing about these shortcut and placeholder ideas is that they are always slightly inaccurate, different for different people and not as subject to manipulation as most marketers would like. As a result, talking about them as a monolith is silly.

So, if you're a brand, Hugh, then I'm a brand. But we're people, too, and our only option is to paraphrase the great groupies of the 60s and reply, "I'm with the brand."

Posted by hugh macleod at 12:47 PM | Comments (23) | TrackBack

April 19, 2006

abusive editors and meagre paychecks

Oh Jeez, here we go.

"Can Blogs Make Money?"
in The Wall Street Journal.

Blogs have a lot of buzz, but there's still considerable debate about whether that can translate into profits.

While many blogs remain little more than amateur diaries, several bloggers have tried to parlay their online ramblings into branded businesses. One, Jason Calacanis, co-founded Weblogs Inc., a network of blogging sites that was acquired last year by AOL. Mr. Calacanis has been an outspoken proponent of blogs as business vehicles, arguing that quality content can drive enough traffic to attract advertisers.

But longtime Internet entrepreneur Alan Meckler is skeptical. Mr. Meckler, who is chief executive of Jupitermedia Inc., believes that some blogs may achieve a measure of success, but doubts most blogs will be able to generate meaningful profits.

Sure, it's lovely to see Jason making all that money from Weblogs Inc [Full disclosure: I'm a big Jason Calacanis fanboy], but Mssrs. Calacanis and Meckler's debate just revolves around the argument that the only way to make money via blogs is through advertising, and only for a lucky few.

The other major way to make money with the blogging platform is to use it to market your Global Microbrand, like Thomas did with English Cut. That to me is far more useful to far more people, yet it gets no mention in the Journal article.

As I'm fond of saying, blogs are good for making things happen indirectly etc.

But journalists seem to have a problem getting their head around it. "Indirectly" is too foreign to them. They're too used to living in the "directly" universe:

Wake up. Commute to office. Write stuff. Take abuse from Editor. Collect meagre paycheck. Go home. Complain to long-suffering spouse about abusive Editor and meagre paycheck. Go to bed, sleep, wake up and repeat etc.

That's not what blogging is about, Guys. Blogging, at its best, is about freeing yourself from that crap.

[Bonus link:] The neuroscience behind Robert Scoble's new blogging policy.

Posted by hugh macleod at 8:29 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

April 16, 2006

aldo coffee

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Aldo Coffee in Pennsylvania is a fine example of a global microbrand:

Aldo Coffee Co. is a new, Italian-style coffee bar and cafe located just south of Pittsburgh in the beautiful, vibrant community of Mount Lebanon, PA.

Aldo Coffee Co. serves up the South Hills' richest espresso and fine coffees and teas, all from the award-winning Intelligentsia Coffee Roasters. We feature espresso made with Intelligentsia's renowned Black Cat Blend (tm).

I'd be interested in finding out if and how their blog is helping their business. Seriously.

Secondly, if any of y'all know of any good GMB's, your own or somebody else's, please feel free to share by leaving a comment below. Or even better, add it to the GMB list I just set up on the wiki. Rock on.

Posted by hugh macleod at 9:59 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

March 10, 2006

john t. unger, artist and global microbrand

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One of John T.'s "Firepits".

Chris Carfi points to John T. Unger, an artist and regular gapingvoid commenter who has used his blog and the global microbrand idea to carve out a nice wee career for himself (for more money than his last day job paid him, I hasten to add).

Go read John T's take on it here. Very uplifting.

Posted by hugh macleod at 3:58 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

February 17, 2006

the hotbizz report

Joe Chapuis has an impressively professional, business-related video podcast called "The Hotbizz Report."

I was very honored that he devoted one of his podcast to talking about "The Global Microbrand". Thanks, Joe!

Posted by hugh macleod at 9:31 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 16, 2006

the magic middle

A groovy article in The Guardian about David Sifry and Technorati.

"This is one of those things that I think is fundamentally different about Technorati," compared to Google or Yahoo, he says, since it is based on "understanding people and understanding time" - not just on static links between web pages.
Meanwhile, in David's recent "State of the Blogosphere, Part 2", he makes an interesting observation:
The Magic Middle is the 155,000 or so weblogs that have garnered between 20 and 1,000 inbound links. It is a realm of topical authority and significant posting and conversation within the blogosphere.
I happen to agree with that. The very top blogs [The "A-List"] will start collectively resembling old media more and more, as the money involved for doing so gets more significant. But the Magic Middle [call it the B-List, if you will] will be the realm of the global microbrand.

This is because the real story of blogging, the big story, is not about blog hierarchies and blog inequalities. The real story goes back [yet again] to something Clay Shirky said a while ago:

So forget about blogs and bloggers and blogging and focus on this- 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.
[Nice follow up from Fernando Gros:]
It�s in this magic middle that we are seeing a breaking out of existing discoursive structures. It is here where the small church, the local educator, the niche business are able to find a new global market without depending up on the existing hierachies and gatekeepers. This is the really encouraging news for smaller bloggers. This is where the blogosphere is helping us break the tryanny of localism. This is the interesting news.

It is also where I would like to see us ask theological questions. Instead of being in thrall to power, to A-lists and to top -down hierachies, maybe we should start by looking at what is going on in this magic middle.

Posted by hugh macleod at 9:32 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

January 31, 2006

lift notes

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For my presentation at LIFT, I'll be citing the following links:

The Hughtrain. ""THE MARKET FOR SOMETHING TO BELIEVE IN IS INFINITE."

The Global Microbrand. "There are thousands of reasons why people write blogs. But it seems to me the biggest reason that drives the bloggers I read the most is, we're all looking for our own personal global microbrand. That is the prize. That is the ticket off the treadmill. And I don't think it's a bad one to aim for."

The Stormhoek Meme. "Blogging as a marketing tool is easier when you think of it as a chemical catalyst, not as a hammer and nail." [Bonus Link: The Stormhoek bloggers wiki page.]

English Cut. "How to create a global microbrand on a taco-stand budget." A Savile Row tailor starts a blog.

"The Porous Membrane." Why corporate blogging works.

"Bernbach was Wrong." The best advertising is not "Word Of Mouth", but "Disrupting Markets".

Bloggers Intro. "Rather than just rattling off a laundry list what to do, instead I'm going to give you a list of bloggers who I rate highly. Read them reguarly, and after a while you should discover why what they do works so well."

[NOTE TO SELF:] A lot of marketing people seem to be hoping for a proven blogging method that is (A) invented by somebody else, (B) easy to replicate, (C) easy to implement, and (D) easy to sell to their boss. Good luck.

[FURTHER READING:]

[KOOL-AID:] "Naked Conversations on a Bus." Kathy Sierra's marvellous post on why blogging works.

[KOOL-AID WITH EXTRA SUGAR:] Robert Scoble's "Corporate Blogging Manifesto".

[KOOL-AID WITH EXTRA SUGAR AND STEROIDS:] The Cluetrain Manifesto. The book that started it all.

[FOOD FOR THOUGHT:] Seth Godin's "Small Is The New Big".

My presentation is Friday at 10.40am.

Posted by hugh macleod at 1:15 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

January 5, 2006

global microbranding etc.

Interesting article by Millioniare Socialite:

"Divergent means of building a global microbrand."

Option 1. "Microbranding by strategic aggregation."["This is what I like, isn't it cool?"]

Option 2. "Microbranding by relative market engagement." ["This is what I do, isn't it cool?"]

Frankly, I think you're better off going with the latter. Unless of course, you're The Manolo.

[Bonus Link:] Millionaire Socialite's Greatest Hits.

Posted by hugh macleod at 12:21 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

December 15, 2005

horse bliss

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Horse Bliss. A real horse whisperer/trainer/cowboy started a blog all about riding horses properly.

A secret recipe to horsemanship is to create curiosity. Rather than you approaching the horse try drawing it towards you. This may take time depending on the horses� conditioning. Horses that have not been exposed to human interaction or have had negative encounters with humans may let the fear drive them away more than a horse that has been handled humanely by humans.
Here's a guy in Colorado living in a trailer, who has about a dozen or so customers, doing the global microbrand thing.

I believe that having a good product and a well-written blog is a fairly easy way to fulfil one's potential, however you define it. That's what a global microbrand is all about. It doesn't have to be big. It just has to be worth talking about.

I think it's exciting. I think we live in very exciting times.

Posted by hugh macleod at 10:00 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 26, 2005

recommended reading

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I'm in Stockholm, teaching a crash course in blogging to some students.

Rather than just rattling off a laundry list of what to do, instead I'm going to give you a list of bloggers who I rate highly. Read them reguarly, and after a while you should discover why what they do works so well.

1. Jeff Jarvis. A former journalist, Jeff is best known for his commentaries on the changing face of the media business. Very little happens in this space that Jeff doesn't notice, sooner than most.

2. Robert Scoble. The chief blogger at Microsoft. He also co-authored an excellent book on corporate blogging with Shel Israel, called "Naked Conversations". What's most interesting about him is the affect his blog has on the internal Microsoft culture, versus the "external conversation". This has all to do with what I call "The Porous Membrane".

3. Doc Searls. A great visionary. Co-authored "The Cluetrain Manifesto", the seminal book on how the internet will affect markets, and humanity in general.

4. Seth Godin. Probably the most distinctive voice on marketing in the blogosphere.

5. Loic Le Meur. French entrepreneur and European head of Six Apart, the blog software company.

6. Fred Wilson. New York venture capitalist. Writes engagingly about this most mystified of businesses.

7. Jason Calacanis. He just sold his blogging company, WeblogsInc to AOL for a small fortune. Fast-talking an highly opinionated, the one thing you can't call him is "boring".

8. Tom Coates. Probably the most respected blogger in the U.K., and rightfully so.

9. English Cut. The blog of my business partner, Thomas Mahon. Thomas is arguably one of the top dozen tailors in the world, and works on Savile Row. Last January I convinced him to start a blog, which totally transformed his business within only a few months. He's my best case study for creating what I call the "Global Microbrand".

10. Manolo the Shoe Blogger. Manolo Loves the Shoes!

11. Technorati. This is a website that tracks "conversations" in the blogosphere. If you have a blog, I'd make sure you're signed up with them.

12. What software to use: This blog is powered by Movable Type. I like it. Other software that I rate highly is Typepad and Wordpress.

13. [Bonus Link:] Robert Scoble's blogroll. Yes, he reads a lot of them.

[AND IN OTHER NEWS:] Looks like one of my wee cartoons just made Page Two of the New York Times Business Section. Rock on, Budget Rent-A-Car and B.L. Ochman.

Posted by hugh macleod at 10:13 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

November 8, 2005

golden micro-geese

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Jeff Jarvis has a nice post here on the Apple iPod now being the latest form of advertising media.

Jeff has a phrase he likes to use called "Exploding Media". This means media whose audience is fragmenting very quickly.

And with media exploding, old-style media companies are imploding. As Jeff explains in his comment section:

I think certain old-media companies are indeed imploding. Newspaper companies are having a bad time... NBC ain�t happy.

Time Warner stock isn�t moving for a reason (he said unhappily since he still owns the shit-on-a-certificate): cable will shrink v. the internet; magazines are stagnant; AOL is hot again only compared to how deathly cold it was�

Some will be smart. Some will be stupid. Media as a whole will expand and explode and that doesn�t mean that the old players will or won�t be playing in the future.

Everything is up for grabs. And that�s why it�s so damned much fun to watch.

Jeff, it's more than just fun to watch. It can be extremely profitable to watch. With the internet, you can advertise your product on a global level without needing to feed the coffers of Time Warner or NBC. For pennies on the dollar. As Clay Shirky said last year:
So forget about blogs and bloggers and blogging and focus on this -- 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.
Of course, Big-Mediaville not too happy about it. Their golden goose is turning rusty before their eyes.

But what's far more interesting to me is how small businesses, in their millions, can now move in and fill the gap, finding their own "Global Microbrand". Their own golden micro-geese.

Posted by hugh macleod at 4:39 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

October 21, 2005

english cut and american growth

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English Cut just wrapped up its third, and by far its most successful U.S. visit. Poor Tom and Lucy are exhausted. Heh.

While he was there, Tom was interviewed by Businessweek's Stephen Baker, for an upcoming podcast. He was also interviewed by Public Radio's "Marketplace" for an upcoming segment. Full credit goes to our PR man in New York, Dave Parmet for setting those up.

Meanwhile, yesterday English Cut was briefly mentioned yesterday in the same breath as The Manolo Shoe Blogger (one of my favorite blogs) in The Guardian. I was so happy. [You can see the print version here. Thanks to Phagnat for scanning it.]

The Manolo, of course, is an anonymously-written character blog based on the famous shoe designer, Manolo Blahnik.

So it turns out the real Manolo's press secretary isn't too pleased with her good employer being parodied, as written here in the London Times:

It�s a good thing that I checked with Lesley, Manolo Blahn�k�s trusted press secretary and right-hand woman, that Manolo, sorry Mr Blahn�k (she calls him this), isn�t in fact the same Manolo who described John Galliano in his online blog as a �freaky little fashion troll�, or captioned a picture of Hugh Hefner looking old in a Hawaiian shirt with the words �someone call the coroner�. That Manolo, says Lesley, is an impostor, some guy in New York who is obsessed with shoes and uses the pseudonym �Manolo the Shoeblogger� to launch his bitchy sartorial bombs.
If English Cut ever got around to buying advertising, would we buy space in a magazine? A newpaper? TV and Radio? No way. It would be a blogad on the Manolo Shoe Blog. No question.

The amusing thing is, a certain tailor I know (I won't say who) used to cut suits for the real Manolo Blahnik, back in his Anderson & Sheppard days. Small world.

Yep, so there's been plenty of English Cut stuff happening recently. That's always the case when Tom's in America.

The good thing is, we're not trying to compete with the designer labels. Let them worry about the factories in China, the $40K magazine ads, the celebrity freebies, the politics involved with getting Bloomingdale's to carry their lines, their ever-more hollow methods of trying to convince the uneducated that their stuff is the real deal.

In America, the common perception (and an erroneous perception, in my opionion) is that the Italians make the world's best suits. We've created a niche for people who beg to differ. We've created a niche for people who are anti the generic globalisation of fashion.

And America is easy for us. You turn up, you attend to your appointments, you sell some suits, you return to England a few days later, you make the suits, a few months later you get back on a plane, you try the finished suits on your customers, and you keep repeating the process.

Whether we sell twenty suits or two hundred on a single U.S. tour, it takes about the same time i.e. 7-10 days. Then it's just a question of getting back to England and getting the suits made in time for the next trip.

But when the London business gets busy, things are far more disruptive. Suddenly Tom is spending half his time on the London train (a four hour journey), going back and forth between Savile Row and his tailoring studio here in Cumbria, staying overnight in a hotel. In short, the London selling process doesn't scale as well, and at least when it gets busy, it seriously delays his U.S. delivery schedule.

So the immediate plan is for English Cut to spend more time building our trade in the USA, and less time worrying about the other markets, including London.

Of course, we'll still keep a regular foothold on Savile Row. Tom is a Savile Row tailor, and needs to be there, period. But that doesn't mean that's where all the business' growth has to come from.

Ah, the joys of creating a Global Microbrand. I highly recommend it.

Posted by hugh macleod at 2:36 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

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[Bonus Link:] Nice wee quote from ThinkJose:

The Global Microbrand is so much more than being self-employed or even putting yourself on the web. It is all about finding the one thing that makes you dramatically different, that one story that you can tell better than any one else. The beauty is that we all have that power to do one thing really well and gather an audience that is looking to hear that story.

As the global audiences become more savvy on finding the one niche they are looking for, and the web 2.0 tools make it easier to find that one individual, the Global Microbrand will become more and more powerful.


Posted by hugh macleod at 12:51 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 11, 2005

the global microbrand rant

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[UPDATE: My "Global Microbrand" archive is here. Thanks.]

Since I first used the term here in December of last year, I have been totally besotted with the idea of "The Global Microbrand".

A small, tiny brand, that "sells" all over the world.

The Global Microbrand is nothing new; they've existed for a while, long before the internet was invented. Imagine a well-known author or painter, selling his work all over the world. Or a small whisky distillery in Scotland. Or a small cheese maker in rural France, whose produce is exported to Paris, London, Tokyo etc. Ditto with a violin maker in Italy. A classical guitar maker in Spain. Or a small English firm making $50,000 shotguns.

With the internet, of course, a global microbrand is easier to create than ever before. A commercial sign maker in New England. Or a sheet metal entrepreneur in the U.K.

And with the advent of blogs this was no longer just limited to people who made products. We saw that any service professional with a bit of talent and something to say could spread their message far and wide beyond their immediate client base and local market, without needing a high-profile name or the goodwill of the mainstream media. People like Jennifer Rice, Johnnie Moore and Evelyn Rodriguez come to mind.

But it's not just limited to cottage industries. The great Tom Peters talks about "Brand You", a personal brand that transcends your organisation or job description. The grand-daddy of this space is probably Robert Scoble, who may work full-time for Microsoft, but whose brand is much, much larger than any job description they could give him; that's worth far more than anything they're ever likely to pay him.

Once I created my own fledgling global microbrand (i.e. via this weblog) I started helping other people do the same. A bespoke Savile Row tailor. A Master Jeweler. A small vinyard in South Africa. It was something I really wanted to know about. It was professionally the most compelling idea I had ever come come across. I was hooked.

Of course, "The Global Microbrand" is not conceptual rocket science. You don't need a Nobel Prize in order to understand the idea. What excites me about it is the fact that I now live in a small cottage in the English boonies, and careerwise I'm getting a lot more done than when I lived in a large apartment in New York or London, for a fifth of the overheads. For one fiftieth of the stress levels.

This year I've been spending a lot of time in London. Any more than 2-3 days down there I start feeling really stressed out. For years I thought it was just me. No, actually, everyone down there is really stressed out. It's just considered normal. And the same applies in all the other big cities I know well.

I was talking to a friend on the phone about this yesterday.

"There's only two ways to deal with life in the big city," he says. "Alcohol and high prices. Immersing yourself in high rent, luxury items, trendy, overpriced cocktail bars, flashy restaurants, tall leggy blondes who don't give a damn about you, just to act as a buffer zone between you and the abyss."

"Which you pay a lot for," I say.

"Which you pay a hell of a lot for," he says.

It seems to me a lot of people of my generation are locked into this high-priced corporate, urban treadmill. Sure, they get paid a lot, but their overheads are also off the scale. The minute they stop tapdancing as fast as they can is the minute they are crushed under the wheels of commerce.

You know what? It's not sustainable.

However, the Global Microbrand is sustainable. With it you are not beholden to one boss, one company, one customer, one local economy or even one industry. Your brand develops relationships in enough different places to where your permanent address becomes almost irrelavant.

With English Cut, both Thomas and I are selling $4000 suits to Americans, Canadians, Australians, Europeans, Asians, Arabs etc. Neither one of us cares much for the high-maintenance lifestyle. Sure, we travel all over seeing clients and speaking at conferences, but the day-to-day is far more low key. We go to the pub twice a week, we go to the local cheap-and-cheerful Chinese restaurant once a week, we have dumb hobbies we like to do, like taking the sailboat out on the weekend, or drawing wee cartoons. We both drive second hand cars and pay cheap-as-hell rent.

Again, it's not rocket science. But as long as we keep blogging, avoid high overheads and keep making the best suits in the world, nobody can take it away from us.

And the same principle applies to the other projects I work on.

Frankly, it beats the hell out of commuting every morning to the corporate glass box in the big city, something I did for many years. Just so I could make enough money to help me forget that I have to commute every morning to the corporate glass box in the big city.

There are thousands of reasons why people write blogs. But it seems to me the biggest reason that drives the bloggers I read the most is, we're all looking for our own personal global microbrand. That is the prize. That is the ticket off the treadmill. And I don't think it's a bad one to aim for.

Posted by hugh macleod at 3:58 PM | Comments (46) | TrackBack

August 10, 2005

nobody genuinely wants to hand over their hard-earned money to lawyers and consultants

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(click on image to enlarge etc.)

Paul Hatton over at Hard Diamond talks about a watch he was comissioned to design.

This watch is made of 18ct white gold, with an 18ct rose gold face, and is stepped at the sides. As it was for a woman, and a celebration, I chose to set the ends of the watch with pink, yellow and blue sapphires, and white diamonds. As it was her 50th birthday, I also decided to highlight the 50th minute.
Just so you know, I receive a small commission for every piece of jewelry that sells via Hard Diamond. I suppose if I wanted to go into the jewelry business, I could.

We'll see. Right now it interests me less as a money spinner, and more of a good example of how blogs are the prefect medium for building a "Global Microbrand".

Hard Diamond and English Cut have an added advantage over other business blogs, in that they actually sell stuff people actually want. People actually do want fine jewelry and clothes, and in my experience it seems that if they can afford it, they don't mind spending the money.

Other professions- lawyers, accountants, consultants, marketing schmoes etc- they may have embraced the blogosphere more avidly than the traditional craftsman, but in many ways their job is harder.

Because nobody genuinely wants to hand over their hard-earned money to lawyers and consultants [believe me, as a marketing consultant, I know]. We just happen to live in a world where it has become a pained necessity.

We'll see how this bejewelled story unfolds. Watch this space.

Posted by hugh macleod at 2:44 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 9, 2005

husband & wife

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Yesterday I found this rather charming husband & wife business blog:

Together Misty and Bill make your computers, hardware, software, network, Internet, email, website, and blog work like magic.

What got my attention was they seem to have taken the "Global Microbrand" concept on board rather seriously.

It's cool to see. In the last six months I've dealt with customers from all over the planet, the amount of individual nationalities would easily exceed a dozen, maybe two. I find it remarkably liberating.

Thanks Misty and Bill for the kind words. Hope it works for you.

Posted by hugh macleod at 5:13 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 21, 2005

global microbrands etc

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From Trendwatching: The Nouveau Niche.

Consumers are more individualized than ever, expecting every good, service and experience to be addressing their unique and oh so important selves. Gone are the traditional demographic segments, the distinct consumer classes: this is all about being MASTERS OF THE YOUNIVERSE. Gone too are the days when, as BusinessWeek so eloquently put it; "the ideal was not merely to keep up with the Joneses, but to be the Joneses." In a NOUVEAU NICHE world, where the demise of institutions and their stifling conventions has unlocked latent hyper individualization, where it is all about 'me' (for better or worse), where being special will lend consumers status, to be mass is now every consumer's nightmare. Witness GRAVANITY, witness MASSCLUSIVITY. Even the few mass objects of desire that still manage to unite large groups of consumers -- iPods, Nokia handsets, or the Mini Cooper -- are likely to be customized and personalized the moment they leave the warehouse, website or store.

Consumers are also more experienced than ever. They expertly cut through the crap, ignore advertising, and know which quality and price levels are fair. They actively hunt for the best of the best, [my italics] and the best of the best is often NOT mass. (The only mass they're willing to put up with is the stuff they don't really care about and can get on the cheap at Aldi or WalMart). As Chris Anderson, author of the excellent Long Tail article points out, the only reason mass used to equal 'hit', had to do with the now outdated perception that if something sells well, it must certainly be good.

Yep, I can relate. Last February (before English Cut had taken off) I wrote:
We have gone beyond the tipping point. We are not blogging because it's cool or hip. It's now mostly about survival.

We have entered an age where anyone who wants to make a living above minimum wage will have to get used to the idea of building and owning their own "global microbrand". If you're not blogging already, I would start. Seriously.

Re. All this sort of stuff I like to write about- blogs, English Cut, The Hughtrain, Seth Godin and his Purple Cow, the slow death of Madison Avenue and Big Media, The Cluetrain, etc etc:

It's all connected. In the last week or so English Cut got e-mails from people wanting appointments, from all over: Dubai, Japan, San Francisco, Washington, Atlanta, New York, India, etc.

It's all about The Global Microbrand. English Cut is my way of expressing it. But had it not been suits, had I not had a friend who was a Savile Row tailor, it would've been something else.

Posted by hugh macleod at 2:24 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

April 7, 2005

post-hughtrain

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Thanks, Brian, fot the lovely post. I hope you won't begrudge me posting it here in its entirety:

How Does Your Global Microbrand Grow?

Take one savvy tailor in the UK. Niche the offering. Niche it again. Mix one manic, disaffected dreamer as marketing instigator. Fold one open-to-happenstance PR type in NYC. Drop crumbs along the way.

Yield one midnight reader/writer in Louisiana, who, against all odds, knows the value offered by said English tailor, who only a few months ago made the counter-intuitive move to take to the IntarWeb.

Flatearth? I'd call it NowTime.

The Hughtrain was all about advertising and branding. As I was holding down an advertising job when I wrote it, that's not surprising.

"Post-Hughtrain" is slightly different. Post-Hughtrain is all about building what I call a "Global Microbrand".

Three things things triggered this evolution.

1. The bitter emptiness and economic unfeasibility of being just one more semi-desperate marketing evangelist schmuck with a "new exciting" marketing schpiel needing to be sold to the usual aspiring-corpses-corporate-numpties. Snake Oil? Perhaps. I prefer Monosodium Glutame as the metaphor.

2. Working with English Cut, obviously.

3. A letter I wrote a couple of months back to Doc Searls. Hughtrain was all about "Smarter Conversations". Post-Hughtrain is about "The Smartest Conversation", which to me is what English Cut is all about. Go read the letter.

Posted by hugh macleod at 12:47 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 20, 2005

this is why blogging matters

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In a recent gapingvoid post, Jon made an interesting comment about the effect of globalisation on the Hollywood entertainment industry:

Oddly enough, many of the people who do get out of the advertising business and into the movie business, spend most of THEIR time trying to figure out how to make enough money in the business to get OUT of the creative BUSINESS altogether.

It's an entertaining merry-go-round in itself.

And we see the "creative" jobs getting outsourced in the film and television business as well. From hiring Canadian, German, Czechoslovakian, or whatever-ian directors, production designers, editors or what have you in order to qualify their productions for foreign tax breaks or even better, foreign investment in the productions themselves - it is a part of living in the "global economy."

Unfortunately, global economy often = local pain. Especially in cases where technology (in the motion picture business, cameras, stages, etc.) or even locale "hipness" (e.g. New York, Chicago for ad execs) become the reasons for doing business in a specific place. As the tools to create become more and more accessible, and obtainable, and as exotic locales become more accessible via the internet, it will continue to dilute the power of the old guard talent.

What I think this means for those of us in businesses like this, is that we need to find a way to become our own open standard, global commodity or brand.

I know it sounds crazy when I talk about turning gapingvoid into a "global microbrand", but this is precisely why I'm doing it. There must be no square inch left on this earth where what I have can be taken away from me.

And I really, truly, sincerely hope you feel exactly the same way about your work.

This is why the internet matters. This is why blogging matters.

[FURTHER LINKS:] Tom Peters writes wonderfully on this subject. Here's a Fast Company article he wrote about "Brand You". And in a similar vein, another person you must, must, must check out is Evelyn Rodriguez.

[JUST NOTICED:] Tom Peters has added me to his blogroll. Rock on!

Posted by hugh macleod at 12:10 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 27, 2004

turning the hughtrain into a global microbrand

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Though I've been mostly silent on it, these last weeks I've been working on a really interesting project:

"Turning The Hughtrain into a global microbrand."

Been looking at ways to commercially extend The Hughtrain into markets in London, Europe, Asia, the US West Coast and the US East Coast.

Successful? Depends who you ask. Right now it's spreading me pretty thin. I'm doing it for ZERO money. Hell, I wouldn't even call it "Shoestring". "Second-hand Dental Floss" would be more accurate.

But it's WORKING.

There are 3 conversations in the US. There are 3 conversations in Europe, and there is 1 or 2 conversations in Asia. Add to that, there's about 6 conversations to do with the whole cartoon-merch-publishing thing. Besides that, there's a whole sea of B-List conversations happening as well. My fingers are numb from writing so many e-mails.

You can divide the B-List into two distict categories:

1. Here's how we can help you.
2. Call us when you've got lots of money and we'll be pleased to take great chunks of it away from you in exchange for doing bugger-all.
Guess which one works best for me?

As always, it's about deliverables.

The standard Ad Agency biz model doesn't work for this. Nor does the standard Knowledge Management model. And yes, the "Blogs are really cool, please can we build you one and you pay us" model is pretty bloody awful, as well. Methinks the action is elsewhere.

What I'm seeing is a massive disconnect between the cultural and technological, between the internal and the external markets.

Very few people outside the blogosphere know what the hell I'm talking about. They get it in theory, but invariably they've been working for too long in specialised industries that actively discourage seeing the big picture. Too busy guarding their own patch to be anything other than secretly hostile.

Right now I'm using a blog and some drawings to impose my ideas upon the world. Soon I hope to be upgrading to much heavier artillery.

Much heavier.

(Email me: hugh at gapingvoid etc.)

Posted by hugh macleod at 11:47 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack