7. In “Creative Age”, you destroyed a very sacred cow of the agency world, The Brand. With your second book, “Herd”, you successfully went after an equally massive agency sacred cow: The Idea of Consumer as “Heroic Individual” [Embodied by cultural icons like The Marlboro Man, or the existential athlete wearing Nike’s]. Your message seemed to be, actually guys, we’re social animals. We’re social primates; we behave more like chimps and gorillas, more than we behave like lone, cigarette-smoking cowboys. Care to explain the idea further?
[Mark’s Answer:] Again to simplify: Human beings are to independent action, what cats are to swimming. We can do it if we really have to, but mostly we don’t… Instead, we do what we do because of what those around us are doing (Whatever our minds and our cultures tell us).
So if you want to change what I’m doing, don’t try to persuade me- don’t try to make me- do anything. Instead, enlist the help of my friends…
But not crudely (as in “Recommendation”). That’s just persuasion by another name: another “Push” tactic. I’m convinced the answer lies in creating “Pull” (i.e. Social) forces.
When I wrote that question for Mark, I’d been thinking a lot about the “Heroic, Lone Individual” schtick in mass media, particularly with mass marketing.
Most mass-market messages are consumed alone. Most of the ones we see are so unremarkable- think of a late-night TV commercial for a local car dealer, for example- they’re not Social Objects, they don’t warrant us doing the social, they don’t warrant us sharing them with people. Sure, we can gather in groups around the TV and be watching the same commercial, but the commercial is not genuinely addressing us as a group. It’s trying trying to pick us off, one by one.
Ergo, the world of mass marketing is basically a lonely place. Which makes the Marlboro Man– think riding the range with no other people for miles around- or the existential athlete- think Tiger Woods, about to make the amazing putt- the perfect citizen for it.
Then along comes the internet. Along comes interactive. Along comes “sharing”. Along comes media that actually creates real social behavior, as opposed to just trying to create idealized, theatrical versions of it..
Suddenly Mr. Lonesome Heroic seems a bit out of place.