Marketing ideas as a means of social change

For whatever reason I was not motivated to post yesterday. I wanted to post, but I couldn’t get myself to do it. What I wanted to do was to post a positive story about Arabs and/or Arab Americans and make that sort of a tradition on this anniversary, here at Alt Text.

When this idea was conceived I was thinking in these specific terms but wanted to change the way people thought of this day – a day now linked to a war that had nothing to do with Al Qaeda or making us safer. I wasn’t looking to start a meme or actively market my idea, just post some positive news.

Reading Seth Godin’s site today I came across his post about how we can market our way closer to an end to terrorism. In the post Seth writes how you cannot beat terrorism with guns and prisons – those consequences do little to affect the terrorist’s mind and could do even more to fuel the creation of new terrorists. After all, terrorists are just people who subscribe to a particular idea – an idea that America and the West are immoral – heathens that are bent on destroying their culture and robbing them with the resources.

For all I know, we may never be able to eliminate terrorism and animosity towards us (especially as we are sitting atop the world in terms of wealth and consumption). But what we can do is try to create another idea that can combat those to which the terrorists subscribe.

We have not been very successful invading and bombing our way to changing minds but we do know how to market our ideas. The problem right now is that somewhere along the line, our leaders decided that the time for crafting this sort of idea, had passed and they have been busy reinforcing the old ideas that terrorists have of us.

We are already at a place in time where many people are fearful of expressing racist thoughts and that may eventually give way to the idea of racism finally disappearing. In the same way, maybe some day, the idea of attacking innocents as a means of affecting change an the idea that the Western countries only want to hold down and plunder the rest of the world may seem crazy. Unfortunately, for now, there are far too many people willing to do participate in the former and far too much truth to the latter. Even powerfully crafted and marketed ideas need to eventually mirror reality.

Mundane post title here

The design of dissent

Having cancelled my DirecTV service some months back and with the summer network schedule lull I have had a good deal of time away from the TV. Because shows like Lost, 24, and Arrested Development don’t resume again until fall, there is nothing to watch, which is generally good, it being summer and all. This break has given me a chance to rediscover some of the great PBS programming that I have been neglecting. In addition to some excellent travel and cooking shows, and of course NOVA, there’s the weekly news show: NOW – previously NOW with Bill Moyers – currently just Now.

Last week’s show, NOW: The Design of Dissent was an interview with graphic designer Milton Glaser – famous for designing the I (heart) NY imagery, the buttons created for The Nation (and shown at right) and more. Amidst some political waxings, Glaser mostly discusses how graphic design can and does change people’s perspectives.

That’s the thing that makes you most crazy the idea of this passive acceptance of an authority. We thought we weren’t that kind of people.

The show’s themes correspond with a like-named exhibit at the School of Visual Arts and a similarly like-named new book by Glazer.

I think it’s a rather simple-minded idea that if you examine government, those that have the least dissent are those that are most totalitarian. That is, in fact, the manifestation of dissent that defines democracy, (because) it means that there are oppositions to power that are freely expressed and that minority opinion is also considered to be worthwhile. Generally speaking, dissent comes out of a sense of fairness that something is wrong. Power is being used unfairly, and there has to be some manifestation or complaint about it.

I’ll try not to quote the entire interview and instead encourage you to read the full interview transcript. I will mention however, that this is what I have always believed – that dissent does not equal disdain. On both a national level and in terms of jobs I have had, I always felt the greatest need to voice dissent, when I cared the most. It isn’t worth arguing for thing A to improve, if you don’t give a damn about thing A. It surprises me upon how many people this point is lost.

Another interview with Glaser on a similar topic.


Say it isn’t so!

Sucky new NWA logoI cannot believe that Northwest Airlines is rebranding themselves (or have been for several month I guess) – complete with a new bullshit logo! I have held up NWA’s logo for years as an example of elegant simplicity. It says so much in such a small space; you have the N or W depending upon how you look at it and then the little arrow pointing, as if on a compass, in the North West direction. Beautiful. Now what they currently have is just horrendous.

A comparison:



Sucky new NWA logo


Which do you think is better?

Weblog conversations

I think Mark and I are having a conversation here. Though I am not sure if he knows it. In his post on April 23rd, Mark gave a quote by Richard Dawkins that I mentioned far less eloquently in my post on the 20th. Here is the quote:

“Out of all of the [religious] sects in the world, we notice an uncanny coincidence: the overwhelming majority just happen to choose the one that their parents belong to. Not the sect that has the best evidence in its favour, the best miracles, the best moral code, the best cathedral, the best stained glass, the best music: when it comes to choosing from the smorgasbord of available religions, their potential virtues seem to count for nothing, compared to the matter of heredity. This is an unmistakable fact; nobody could seriously deny it. Yet people with full knowledge of the arbitrary nature of this heredity, somehow manage to go on believing in their religion, often with such fanaticism that they are prepared to murder people who follow a different one.”

– Richard Dawkins

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Fun Friday time killer:

If you haven’t heard these Budweiser Real American Heroes Radio Spots you should go there now. Favorites? Mr. Really Bad Toupee Wearer, Mr. Pickled Pig’s Feet Eater, Mr. Driving Range Ball Picker Upper, and of course Mr. Garden Gnome Maker.

Won’t it be great!?

I have a passion for consumerism that isn’t really very healthy. Just ask my (very understanding) wife. I like to think about different ways to buy things and sometimes even fantasize about creating and patenting the systems I think about.

It doesn’t take a visionary however to realize that the way we buy things is going to evolve. But how?

We will start to see more and more on-demand services. Using technologies that are available today we could already be viewing movies and TV shows and listening to music whenever we want it.

Here’s a scenario:

I’m driving and I really have a hankerin’ to hear that new Christina Aguillera ditty. Do I wait for 5 minutes until the radio station’s regular rotation fulfills my need? Hell no! I simply state the song’s title and it begins playing; right then, right there. This is how it’s going to be. The technology is here, or will be here, very shortly to allow this. But…

The problem is always in changing the way people think about purchases and how averse industries are to change. Do you think advertisers are going to like losing another way to reach you? Do you think the recording companies are going to be pleased about not selling CD’s? Well, no. But will they eventually have to?


Some alternative ways to think about purchasing this music might focus on rights being purchased to listen to that song. This could be accomplished by allowing for micro payments (something that will definitely be in our future) of a fraction of a cent per listening, or possibly by purchasing a lifetime license to listen to that song.

The mindsets are the first things that need to change. When it does, we will have the technology available to us to process these transactions and track the usage of copyrighted material.