More RevoEvo

Let me continue with the revolution and evolution theme, A) because it struck a chord with many of you, and B) because I am fascinated by it and have done some more research. Read on…

Yesterday I went to one of my favorite “cool” content websites, jibjab.com (check it out), to see their latest satire on U.S. life. JibJab became famous for their irreverent and viral skewering of both candidates during the last U.S. Presidential election and for their subsequent continued jibjabing of George W. Bush. This stuff is good! However, imagine my reaction as the home page loaded and there on the right, taking up close to a third of the page, was an advert for Listerine mouthwash! At first I thought it was a joke – more on that later (think content/context/relevance) – but soon I realized it was for real. As I logged on and off the site to see what was up, I quickly realized they were connected to some ad server that was certainly not serving up anything viral, cool or remotely personal.

What had happened here? Had my heroes sold out? Had the revolution fizzled? Would they keep being as irreverent now that they were making money – or at least trying to?

And then it struck me. Here was an example of revolution and evolution, and the proof of success would be their ability to navigate between commercial viability and that which made them cool and desirable.

Think of all the unviable web businesses that are not even memories. Think of all the next best, latest greatest websites that are nowhere to be found. Think of all the flash-in-the-pan marvels that never really ignited. Why? Because they tried to make money (and many, many did through rip-off schemes) full stop without a real commercial application, clear consumer need or problem-solving approach.

Now check out this quote:

“We have a lot of people revolutionizing the world because they’ve never had to present a working model.”
Charles F. Kettering

What a great thought! Without a commercial application, all of the so-called revolution is worthless. And I’d argue that maybe the revolution is in the creative application as opposed to the thing itself – make sense?

And there you are. JibJab is evolving, looking for the right balance between what got them stared and what will keep them going – “revo-evo”. However, as I mentioned before, how credible is an ad that you think is really a joke? Your comments?

And the lesson for us is to understand that our clients need the commercial success too. We need to give them working models of the newest and latest – that is what they count on us for – not to recycle and not to passively pass on the new ideas of others. Rather, they need us to take content, provide the context and put it all together into a working model.

Enjoy JibJab! And JibJab a little yourself…

As I said, I received some very interesting responses from last week. Steve Noxon of Detroit found some great examples of predictions from a book called the “The Age of Spiritual Machines”. Here are a few, and ask yourselves about the “prophets” and where they are now, and whether they have evolved or not: “The telephone has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communications,” said Western Union (the Telegraph Company); “There’s no reason for individuals to have a computer in their home,” said Ken Olson (founder of Digital); “640,000 bytes of memory ought to be enough for anybody,” said Bill Gates 1981 (evolved!). Steve also recommends the book “The Brand Gap” by Marty Neumeir who points out that audiences reward the kind of guts it takes to bring about innovation. Corporations usually do not.

Pieter Vjin of Amsterdam refers us all to two sources – a book by Al Ries called “The Origin of Brands”, which holds numerous examples of Darwinism applied to our craft, and an Ad Age Article from October 2005 “Darwin – Understanding the brand Building Power of Divergence”. Look it up!

And finally, Joel Tretin of New York refers us to the music industry and their failure to embrace MP3, and the travel industry, who were late to grasp the potential of “online”. Not to mention the ad industry…

Thanks to all. What’s your view on Evo-Revo?

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