Thinktopia Explains ‘The Cult Of Cool’ On Australian Prime Time TV

Australia TV The Cult of Cool copy
In a six-minute segment on one of Australia’s most popular television shows, Thinktopia founder Patrick Hanlon explains The Cult Of Cool: how ‘fandom’ and community create beacon Brands. Using the primal code of creation story, creed, icons, rituals, lexicon, nonbelievers and leader create a belief system that attracts others who share your beliefs. It can be complicated, says Hanlon, but so are human beings. Because companies and brand managers don’t take the time and energy to fill in all the pieces of code, is why there are so few really great brands like Apple, Nike, Google, and others. People don’t want to simply buy you these days, they want to buy into you. The way to turn meaningless products into meaningful Brands is to help people feel so passionate about your success that they are willing to create it themselves.

Brands Move From Great To Good

Last week, Starbucks launched another probe onto the corporate responsibility landscape by announcing an initiative to help 100,000 Millennials land jobs. Their “100,000 Opportunities Initiative” (teamed with 17 other companies including Target, Taco Bell and Walgreens) hopes to aid the 5.5 million between ages 16 and 24 who are not working.

Lots of companies today are branded to be good and socially conscious, including TOMS, Warby Parker, The Container Store, Jessica Alba’s The Honest Company and Ethos water, among others, contribute to cause-related efforts around the world. For companies like these, the claim is an integral part of their selling proposition.

It’s not enough for brands just to be Great these days, the evolving challenge (with apologies to Jim Collins) is also how to be Good.

A reflection of this trend is that Los Angeles creative agency 72andSunny has just added its first brand citizenship officer, Jim Moriarty.

“We are proactively calling it brand citizenship,” says Moriarty. “A lot of social responsibility has been inward facing, which is amazing and great, but it’s not what we’re talking about.”

Even though corporate clusters have become more sustainable and active, it’s not enough. As Moriarty points out, there are over 2 million nonprofits in the U.S. “They are run by good people,” nods Moriarty. “But they don’t scale.” Moriarty spent the last decade bringing corporate partners to nonprofits, but at 72andSunny he can continue that role at higher altitude.

“We thought we’d have to promote the idea, but we didn’t need to. This is an aspirational piece that everyone has flocked to.”

This surge goes beyond mere goodwashing.

As you have probably noticed, products are becoming healthier and more good for you, too.

Earlier this month, Mondelez announced its new Oreo cookie. The update is now slimmer than its double-stuffed predecessor, which not that long ago came out as “double stuffed”. PepsiCo has spent the last several years reformulating its existing product line to contain less sugar and buying up healthier food contenders like Sabra, the largest hummus maker in the United States. General Mills, which for years included convenience cooking brands like Pillsbury, Hamburger Helper and Chex Mix has purchased healthier younger-Mom alternatives like Annie’s brand, Food Should Taste Good® and the organic food products company Cascadian Farm.

With organic food growing annually at 10% (versus 3% for total food sales), the billion dollar consumer packaged goods companies could no longer point to nuts and berries eaters as an anomaly. Today, they are a well-populated market.

To quote real-life MadMan Bill Bernbach, “She’s your wife.”

Product companies aren’t the only ones coming to the party. Retailers are also revealing their good side.

A trendwatching.com report notes recent “sympathetic” pricing, including resorts offering steep rebates if a guest’s vacation is rained out. Mass transportation officials in Paris offered free rides one weekend, responding opportunistically to dangerously high air pollution levels. And a British supermarket called Community Shop sells remainder products to families receiving government welfare. Retailers like Marks & Spencer, Tesco, and Tetley provide Community Shop with surplus products that don’t meet the pricier chains’ standards—and ordinarily end up in landfill.

Good stuff.

Other companies have started offering employee incentives (including higher pay) to work on weekends or under stressful conditions. Ikea just announced it will increase British worker’s wages in 2016—to over one dollar more per hour than the mandatory minimum wage. Ikea employees in London will receive even more.

There’s no question that good intentions are in the air, and that “values” are being measured in terms of not just economics, but philosophy.

Traditionally, the patron saints of such ideological change have been companies like Patagonia, Whole Foods, Aveda, Ben & Jerry’s, Stonyfield Farms and others who, within recent corporate memory, have proven that capitalism can have a conscience as well as a bottom line.

More to the point: it’s as important for a company to be responsible, as it is to be profitable.

After Enron, AIG, BP oil spills, and other misguidance, we look for action that goes beyond bee-lining toward corporate talking points, sustainability officers, and greenwashing. These days, companies who are bringing truth and values back to iconoplastic mission statements are not only cheered, they are rewarded with blacker bottom lines.

This is not new. In fact, true social entrepreneurship supported by active values has existed in American enterprise for hundreds of years. Johnson & Johnson was founded on the notion of serving the communities in which the company operated. Henry Ford, although controversial in other ways, increased his workers’ minimum wage from $2 to five dollars a day about 100 years ago, astonishing rivals and paving the way for the American middle class. Some good has always existed on the causeways of American commerce.

As Patagonia chief Yvon Chouinard reminds us, we all have a responsibility to be citizens, consumers and producers. So every time we bring “Good” back to great, we not only serve our fan communities, we become better citizens and create a holistically better (and often more profitable) company.

That’s Good for everyone.

7 Ways Bob Dylan Doesn’t Think Twice About Brand Strategy

bob-dylanThe Basement Tapes, Volume 11 from Bob Dylan and The Band will be released this week (for a free sampler click here).

These rough recordings Dylan made in Woodstock, New York during the spring and summer of 1967 (two years before the famous Woodstock Music Festival) were created, as we all know, after Dylan his flipped his Triumph motorcycle on a country road and suddenly went dark. After pushing out two albums in 1965–“Bringing It All Back Home,” and “Highway 61 Revisited” and “Blonde On Blonde” in 1966, the so-called basement tapes created between “Blonde On Blonde” and “John Wesley Harding” (also in 1967) hardly seem like down-time.

Dylan, who had already gone from folky protest singer to electrified warlock, was just resetting the table.

“Nashville Skyline,” which came out in 1969, was a kick on the side of the head for fans still getting stoned on Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35. And the album birthed an entirely new era of country rock.

The Basement Tapes have all the production value of just letting the tape roll, but include the not-yet-gelled versions of Quinn The Eskimo, and gangly but listenable takes on classics like I Shall Be Released, You Ain’t Going Nowhere, and This Wheel’s On Fire.

There is no question that Bob Dylan is a major brand in every sense. From the manufactured name “Bob Dylan” (his birth name is Robert Allen Zimmerman) to a lifetime of continual innovation and rebranding, Dylan-as-brand seizes the attention of a global fan community in the millions.

It is worth deconstructing the “Brand called Bob” to see the strategic touchpoints that lay  behind what all the fuss is about.

Like any powerful brand, the brand called “Bob Dylan” contains each of the seven pieces of “primal code” that design a narrative that attracts a community of believers, zealots, and the other advocates that create full-spectral fandom.

“Primal code” includes creation story, creed, icons, rituals, sacred words, nonbelievers, and leader that, when combined together, form a holistic belief system that attracts others who share your beliefs. These touch the emotional connections that we have with all brands, and create a template to help us understand why Bob Dylan has been attracting fans by the millions since the 1960s.

1. Creation story: As mysterious as it is famous, the spine of Dylan’s origin myth is that he made his way from Hibbing, Minnesota to New York City to visit legendary folksinger Woody Guthrie who was hospitalized in New Jersey. Along the way, Dylan shed his name Robert Zimmerman, for a hybrid based on the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. Dylan joined the folk music scene in Greenwich Village and recorded an unspectacular eponymous album of cover tunes in 1962. But the release of “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” album the following year (1963) included Blowin’ In The Wind, A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, Girl From The North Country, Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right, and rightly changed the world.

2. Creed: Probably expressed best in Dylan’s track You Go Your Way And I’ll Go Mine. Dylan has always zig-zagged across musical styles and affiliations, leap-frogging genres, and creating bridges to new times and places.

3. Icons: The fact that Bob Dylan is an icon in popular music is no question. He is in the Rock And Roll Music Hall of Fame and Songwriter Hall of Fame. His personas as Greenwich Village folksinger, masked member of the Rolling Thunder Revue and never-ending leader of the Never Ending Tour (as well as his role in the aborted film Reynaldo and Clara), are images forever imprinted on Dylan fans and music public alike. But icons are not just images. Sound is also iconic: Dylan’s voice is iconic, and so are the iconic melodies in some of his most popular songs. This “sound” instantly identifies it’s Dylan, which is what being “iconic” is all about.

4. Rituals: Concerts are rituals. And so are interviews, appearances, signings, going into the recording studio and all the other seemingly random events that are woven together to create the map that designates the Dylan landscape. Waiting to see what Dylan comes up with next is also a ritual.

5. Sacred words: “Dylan.” One word, two syllables that represent a mountain of meaning for fans. The lexicon of Dylan album titles, the incredible song lyrics (the books, articles, student papers and blogs written about the meaning of Dylan lyrics number in the hundreds of thousands), and quotes from interviews and elsewhere become part of the sacred liturgy that surrounds the Brand Called Bob. These stimulate, provoke and titillate his global fan community.

6. Nonbelievers: For every “pro” there is a “con.” While Dylan has a global fan-base of millions, like all artists there are millions of others for whom his voice is a nail scraping a tin roof. His lyrics are too incomprehensible. After decades of deification, most of these critics have been beaten down or died off. And still. I used to have a dog who howled every time he played harmonica.

7. Leader: Bob Dylan is certainly the character who set out to recreate the world according to his own point of view. And now even at age 73, he continues to push the reset button.

Or maybe all this fuss about the release of yet another round Basement Tapes is just another set-up. Following press on the Basement Tapes, producers have announced a new Dylan release in 2015. Watch for “Shadows In The Night.”

To anyone born before, well, whenever, Dylan’s role in contemporary music may seem suspect. The words to Dylan’s first hit “Blowin’ In The Wind” might seem light and insipid. Until you realize that issues of race, freedom, war, ignorance, and myopic politicos are as contemporary as it gets. The wind is timeless and the questions raised are unanswerable.

It is testimony to Bob Dylan’s stature as a songwriter and generational muse for the last 50 years that even these scrappy 138 songs in a six-CD box set deserve consideration. (Bob Dylan is the only rock musician to ever win a Pulitzer Prize: “for his profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power”.)

Last word. Bob Dylan doesn’t have to think twice about brand strategy because he has created a community so enthralled by his music and so committed to his success, they are willing to do it themselves. And that’s all right.

‘The Social Code’ Follow-Up To ‘Primal Branding’ Now Available On Amazon

The Social Code_cover_HanlonThinktopia announces the release of The Social Code, the much-anticipated sequel to Patrick Hanlon’s widely acclaimed book Primal Branding: Create Zealots for Your Brand, Your Company And Your Future, published by Simon & Schuster Free Press in 2006.

The Social Code illustrates how to design and attract social communities in the digital age, using the underlying principles that help create viral brand communities. What Hanlon proposes is the agreeable notion that 21st century social communities are created not just from digital code, but from the emotional connections that bring us together: the social code.

YouTube, the largest social engagement platform on the planet, already promotes the construct outlined in The Social Code as their recommended method for designing and attracting online social communities. The new mission? To create a fan community that becomes so passionate about your success, they are willing to create it themselves.

A build on Hanlon’s 2006 book, Primal Branding—celebrated by marketing and branding experts as the best explanation written so far on what Brands are and how to create them, The Social Code redefines the seven elements that define belief (creation story, creed, icons, rituals, sacred words, nonbelievers and leader) in today’s digitally-centered environment. Facebook “likes,” social media clicks and hashtag counts become meaningless short-term responses unless they simultaneously build the social mechanisms that create long-term community.

Those who build social code attract others who share their values and beliefs—creating community and an unfair advantage over their competition. Those who don’t, don’t.

For the last decade, Thinktopia has been working with Fortune 100 companies honing the strategic and executional principles set forth in the The Social Code. While the cult classic, Primal Branding, anticipated social communities and looked at brands as belief systems in 2006,  The Social Code is a great leap forward and the essential guide for kickstarting entrepreneurs—as well established products and services—seeking to define their community narrative in the new social economy.

This becomes a billion-dollar equation for many companies. And we get the feeling that no one will want to be left out.

The Social Code is available now through Amazon.

Thinktopia Launches New Primal Branding Website

 

Primal crowd 7 thingsThis weekend, Thinktopia® is soft launching a new site called getprimalbranding.com. The site is inspired by the success of the book Primal Branding. In the Fall, the site will launch a new service to help people put the Primal Code™ into action.

Primal Branding: How To Create Zealots for Your Brand, Your Company and Your Future was published by Simon & Schuster/Free Press in 2006 and has become (we are told) a cult classic in marketing and branding.

Branding legend Al Ries declared when the book was launched that Primal Branding was, “Not the same old branding B.S.”

For the last decade, Thinktopia has been using the construct outlined in Primal Branding to help Fortune 100 companies and start-ups alike define brand strategy, launch new brands, and help to re-engineer existing products and services.

The seven pieces of Primal Code™ are what move people, places and things from being meaningless (or unbelievable) to becoming meaningful enough to gather millions of fans. In fact, the primal construct of creation story, creed, icons, rituals, sacred words, nonbelievers and leader can be identified in the most popular and powerful brands that exist.

Even YouTube, the largest social engagement platform on the planet, teaches fledgling videographers and storytellers this primal construct. YouTube metrics show that the most-watched YouTube videos all include at least five out of seven pieces of “Primal Code.”

This is because Primal Code designs a system of belief that attracts others who share that belief, creating a community of believers: the tribe of people “like us.”

This also can be said for the communities that surround powerful brands like Apple, Nike, Google and Facebook as well as for the communities that surround Obama, Lady Gaga, New York City, Silicon Valley, the Civil Rights Movement and climate change.

The construct of Primal Code is even used in military intelligence and artificial intelligence.

“Until the concept of Primal Branding, marketers worked in a maze without a flashlight,” says Primal Branding creator Patrick Hanlon. “Thanks to this fresh understanding of how we can design and embed the emotional connections that attach people to brands, we have helped brands get unstuck, and find new markets.

“Most importantly, we have helped marketers create new social media strategies that help them attract new communities of people that want to participate with them because they are attracted to their values, their products, and their actions.

“Every tactic now becomes a long-term investment in their Brand, rather than a one-shot buzz.”

The new website which is beginning its soft launch in July, will feature articles on current events and other communications that highlight the impact that Primal Code has on Brand culture and society as a whole.

The best way to see how a community evolves is to take part in its evolution. You’re invited to come along and offer your own comments and help us make the site better for everyone at getprimalbranding.com

Thinktopia Launches New Primal Branding™ Website

This weekend, Thinktopia® is soft launching a new site called getprimalbranding.com. The site is inspired by the success of the book Primal Branding. In the Fall, the site will launch a new service to help people put the Primal Code™ into action.

Primal Branding: How To Create Zealots for Your Brand, Your Company and Your Future was published by Simon & Schuster/Free Press in 2006 and has become (we are told) a cult classic in marketing and branding.

Branding legend Al Ries declared when the book was launched that Primal Branding was, “Not the same old branding B.S.”

For the last decade, Thinktopia has been using the construct outlined in Primal Branding to help Fortune 100 companies and start-ups alike define brand strategy, launch new brands, and help to re-engineer existing products and services.

The seven pieces of Primal Code™ are what move people, places and things from being meaningless (or unbelievable) to becoming meaningful enough to gather millions of fans. In fact, the primal construct of creation story, creed, icons, rituals, sacred words, nonbelievers and leader can be identified in the most popular and powerful brands that exist.

Even YouTube, the largest social engagement platform on the planet, teaches fledgling videographers and storytellers this primal construct. YouTube metrics show that the most-watched YouTube videos all include at least five out of seven pieces of “Primal Code.”

This is because Primal Code creates a system of belief that attracts others who share that belief, creating a community of believers: the tribe of people “like us.”

This also can be said for the communities that surround powerful brands like Apple, Nike, Google and Facebook as well as for the communities that surround Obama, Lady Gaga, New York City, Silicon Valley, the Civil Rights Movement and climate change.

The construct of Primal Code is even used in military intelligence and artificial intelligence.

“Until the concept of Primal Branding, marketers worked in a maze without a flashlight,” says Primal Branding creator Patrick Hanlon. “Thanks to this fresh understanding of how we can create the emotional connections that attach people to brands, we have helped brands get unstuck, and find new markets.

“Most importantly, we have helped marketers find ways to differentiate themselves and create Brand communities that surround them because they are attracted to their values, their products, and their actions. This helps move goods and services from being meaningless to becoming meaningful. It also helps people create deliberate omni-channel engagements with their Brand community.

“Every tactic now becomes a long-term investment in their Brand, rather than one-shot buzz.”

The new website which is beginning its soft launch in July, will feature articles on current events and other communications that highlight the impact that Primal Code has on Brand communities and society as a whole.

The best way to see how a community evolves is to take part in its evolution. You’re invited to come along and offer your own comments and help us make the site better for everyone at getprimalbranding.com

Hanlon Article Tags New Robotics Launch

A new piece by Thinktopia® founder Patrick Hanlon posted in Forbes this week was picked up by a new social robotics firm headed up by MIT’s Cynthia Brazeal. Breazeal is an Associate Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at Massachusetts Institute of Technology where she founded and directs the Personal Robots Group at the Media Lab. She is a pioneer of social robotics and Human Robot Interaction. The piece reveals a new world beyond the Internet of Things—and indicates just where social robotics might be going in the decade ahead. Breazeal and her team are building robots with social intelligence that communicate and learn the same way people do.

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“What Chatterjee Said” Launches A New Conversation About Branding

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Why do some company’s products and services mean something to us, while others don’t? Why do people stand in line waiting for new iPhones, Lady Gaga tickets, or to get into Disney World? It’s not about their Facebook page, their selfies, Twitter count or hashtag program. These brands have an emotional connection that makes people feel like they’re a part of their community. They have a belief system that attracts others who share their beliefs.

It’s one thing to say that, it’s another to actually create it. So, how do you create that intangible ‘something’—that sticky soft tissue that attracts people to brands?

This is all revealed in Chapter 16 of The Definitive Book Of Branding, the new book edited by Kartik Kompella and published this month by Sage Publications, Inc.

Thinktopia ceo Patrick Hanlon contributed the article that leads the Emotional Branding section of the book, with a chapter titled “What Chatterjee Said”.

“When I wrote Primal Branding: Create Zealots For Your Brand, Your Company, And Your Future,” says Hanlon, “it was a theory I had. Since that time, the construct has been proven out, thanks to working with Fortune 100 brands all over the world.”

(The big news is that YouTube (the largest social engagement platform on the planet) did the metrics and proved that the Primal Branding™ construct works. It is now their recommended way of creating online social narratives. YouTube includes it in their certification courses at YouTube Labs.)

“We have learned a lot,” Hanlon nods. “And I wanted to share that. So when Kartik called me with his idea, I jumped at the opportunity.”

The Definitive Book Of Branding also includes chapters by Al Ries, Adam Morgan, Kevin Roberts and others. These people have written some of the best books ever written on branding, and it was great to be included, adds Hanlon.

“It was a privilege to have Patrick Hanlon contribute a chapter to The Definitive Book of Branding,” adds Kartik Kompella. “I had read Primal Branding and his perspective of brands was radical and brave. His approach is insightful and refreshing.”

Today, some people look at brands as Madmen trying to sell them something. But Hanlon, who worked on Madison Avenue, says nothing could be further from the truth.

“In today’s environment, Brands are more important than ever,” says Hanlon. “When there is a proliferation of products and so much choice, brands are the only way consumer can assess if something is real or not. The need for ‘brand’ has become larger, not smaller. Authenticity and transparency rank highly, and we want to know who we can trust.”

Hanlon’s primal branding construct includes creation story, creed, icons, rituals, a special lexicon, nonbelievers, and leader. Known as the primal code, these elements create a strategic brand narrative that is relevant, resonates with people and, at its core, is the glue that bonds social communities together.

Beats By Dre: Did Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre Create The Fastest Billion Dollar Brand Ever?

When an executive at Proctor & Gamble was asked how long it took them to build their fastest-growing billion-dollar brand, they answered seven years. The brand was Tide Pods.

Beats by Dre, the headphones and music streaming company, became a $3 billion brand in 3.5 years.

Full disclosure: MKTG, whose role you will hear about, has been a client. But we are not being paid to write this article. Some things just happen.

beats by dreBeats was the brainchild of Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre. In a world somewhere above and between Boze hypertech geekdom and simple Apple earbuds, the world of sound was ready for some cherry-red head bling.

Beats was well-funded, but clearly entered a category where they played David against two big Goliaths.

Dr. Dre and Iovine were certainly newsworthy enough. But a pivotal point in mass awareness came early on–during the 2012 London Olympics. Unwilling or unable to afford the supersmack costs of official Olympics sponsorship, underdog Beats created a lounge just outside the Official Olympics perimeter.

The Beats Lounge was a chill zone amidst the helter-skelter of the massive event taking place outside. Celebrities wandered in and wandered out. People from all over the world sprawled on couches. It had the energy of a stylish crash pad, but was more like an adrenalin pump.

It was a cool place to be, and it was a hit. (And what’s with all the crazy red headphones?)

The Beats Lounge concept was so strong, it survived the Olympics. Experience engagement firm MKTG, who had first conceived and ran the Lounge, was now in charge of prolonging the buzz on this side of the Atlantic.

Emboldened by the Olympics success, MKTG redesigned the Lounge as a pop-up in Times Square. The micro-retail concept took off again, so they moved it to another high traffic area: Soho. Staying agile, and not to burden the fledgling Beats with the headaches of managing a retailing operation, MKTG ran the entire bricks and mortar retail, from design to managing staff to turning in receipts at night. Bang bling.

The Soho shop became even more popular than the Olympics stunt. It went viral, as they say.

And the rest is big bucks.

Of course, the Brand called Beats is much more than its retail operations. It was founded by people who know something about sound, about music, about pop culture. Beats by Dre is as much creed as it is nomenclature. With three music heroes at the helm (Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails joined BbD in January 2013 when they launched music streaming), they bring street cred to a category whitewashed by engineering esthetes and plastic accessories. They have added underdog to the mix.

The question: Now that Apple and Beats have become one, will the beats go on or will their agile moxie be diffused by one of the world’s largest brands?

Stay tuned.

(And see if you can get into the Apple Corp holiday party this year. They’ll be the hottest tickets in town.)