Remember when Nirvana ‘made it’ big? It was bittersweet for Kurt Cobain, a super-creative, talented person, who I saw more as a vehicle for his musical messages than the clay-patterned ‘misunderstood’ rock star caricature spun by the media.
I celebrate his self-penned t-shirt message, which read ‘Corporate Magazines Still Suck,’ while posing for the cover of Rolling Stone. Maybe he was just being ironic. Maybe he was ‘playing’ the ‘against the grain’ image the mainstream expected. Or maybe he meant what he wrote. Maybe he thought ‘corporate’ inextricably meant a loss of ‘soul’ and ‘original intention.’ It wasn’t on scale with what was real to him.
I recently watched a documentary on Kurt. Within, he used the metaphor of engaging ‘second-hand’ shops to explain how he felt about fame. He explained how he enjoyed the perusal, the hunt, the need of the second-hand experience. He explained the intrinsic value contained in the experience itself. He mentioned the genuineness of the experience. He then explained how going into a store, knowing one had the resources to shop elsewhere as well as purchase everything within the second-hand shop changed the experience. He yearned for and respected the feeling of the former scenario.
“Mark has retained nearly absolute control over his board of directors,” said Joe Green. “Facebook would have been sold a zillion times over if not for Mark…” The quote is taken from a NY Times story on Zuckerberg back in February. Let’s forward to recent Zucker-news. Oh. Much revolves around Zuckerberg’s choice in fashion.
@content_muse haha nice! Yeah, it’s funny how big the whole thing got. I think it should be looked at as nothing more than bad fashion.
Of course, the hoot about the hoodie stems from Zuck’s decision to ‘sport’ one while making big business rounds, shaking hands, allowing IPO investors to kiss him like presidents do babies, and all the other big-business things Zuck will have to attend to moving forward, regardless of the duds he’s donning.
I’m a fan of Zuck’s personality. I think he’s like Cobain in regard to his original purity toward ‘the game.’ I just worry that he’s going to experience growing pains regarding the ability to ‘stay true’ and not conform to the needs of big business; because those needs are often different from those associated to people. It may already be too late for him and his behemoth brand.
So You Wanna Be a Hip, Blog Superstar?
Let’s get down to why I’m writing this post. I believe the principle of ‘scale’ is a huge problem for ‘big business.’ I use the quotations because I speak of big business both literally and figuratively. In short, big business can’t exponentially expand on the original passion and purpose it was founded upon. It’s impractical. Sure, you can pen as many mission statements as you’d like. I’ve penned some for businesses as a copywriter. Does that mean it reflects the essence of the catalyst sentiment? Can you scale the passion of the creators, the original vision of the brand? Maybe for some, only one vision was there.
Recently, a dude I highly respect, Neil Patel, wrote a post, How to Become a Blogging Superstar. (I was actually going to link Neil’s name to his Twitter; yet, Jon Cooper, another homeboy with a respect-warranted mind, suggested in his latest post to ask people to link to an internal Twitter profile page, which is a pretty good idea methinks…but I digress) Neil’s post does what the title says. However, like all things in life, there are exceptions.
Another brilliant chap, Tadeusz Szewczyk, called shenanigans on the notion; he doesn’t think it is so easy these days. Bigger brands have more resources and publishing power. I think I saw where Tad was coming from; but, I was curious of the notion. I have MORE respect for smaller brands. I tweeted at Tad for further explanation.
@onreact_com I liked your point on moz today, but do you think one-man gangs still can make great peer/client traction? I see that as a +
Tad, being the cool, intelligent peer he is, wrote a post to help us better wrap our heads around his understanding. I agree with both minds. Neil’s post gives you the tools and suggestions to make it work. Can he be Neil Patel for you? No, you have to be your own brand of superstar. Tad is pretty much saying the same; yet, he’s saying don’t so readily expect to compete with brands with more resources. I agree; yet, ‘compete’ is the operative word. In a game of numbers, you can’t compete with big business. In a game of quality…well that’s a horse of a different color.
All brands want to ‘make something people want’; people who are more realistic know that’s not happening. I believe it’s due to two things. One, the brand does not operate to make things people want; they operate to make money. Secondly, the brand initially started with the intentions to make something people want but could not build their promise, their original intention to ‘scale.’ Because it’s impractical; because the concerns of big business alters the original visions of people, those who began a ‘business.’
I’m not debating whether big businesses can operate well…in terms of making money. I can show you countless examples of such. I’m debating whether big business can compete on scale with the quality, passion, and attention to original vision individuals and small boutiques can offer. I don’t think big business can compete in that regard.
Big business still sucks regarding people. It’s a numbers game and not a people game. I’m not a number. I’m Anthony. Sure, big businesses have the sales/marketing resources to outnumber competition; but, I think such a numbers game conversely alienates people. The numbers game doesn’t have my respect. Brands that leverage the numbers game don’t have my respect. What’s more valuable in regard to business tenacity, numbers or respect? I guess the answer depends on who you ask. I think those who respect numbers are going to have to compete harder moving forward; and, I’m not sure all the numbers in the world can cover for a lack of quality.
Does the source of the information, the product, the service, still matter to anyone? I know it does for me. I presently get smart phone swindles services from a major brand. I love to hear, “‘Not Provided’ appreciates your business.” WHO appreciates my business? The rep on the phone, the one hating life, a pawn for the machine? Is it the CEO? Does he/she appreciate me or my dollars? That goes for investors too.
Let’s consider another service, like getting a surfboard shaped. Would I want to go to a big-business shop, laying down some coin for a brief encounter, amidst a busy store, buying from a kid with zero connection to the owner and me, the customer, other than indirect obligations? Or would I rather buy one from a guy who’s seen me surf, made suggestions, and willing to craft something specifically for me? Give me the surfing partner all day. I know it’s a particular scenario; but, I’m a particular dude; I’m a particular customer. What I’m getting at is personal brand experience. I know the source and the source knows me. I like that…a lot.
Let me switch roles and be the service provider. I write. I love to write. I hope you notice. Your opinion matters. It’s everything. I’ll never lose that. I think Cobain never wanted to lose ‘that.’ This past week, I received two writing compliments from peers (peers, yes, but they also double as consumers of my product…my writing). That’s the ether that keeps me going. I want to create something people want. Through personal connection, I know, in part, I’m on the right road. What if I reached kinda big deal proportions? Maybe I’d try to multiply my satisfaction of the masses. I’ll hire 50 content muses! Then I’ll be 50x what I am now. But wait. Can I replicate such an experience? Am I on a wild number chase?
Maybe, I’d just want to keep things more Anthony, more what got the attention to start. Maybe If I were to expand, it would strictly be with a small band of like-minded souls. Two heads are better than one; yet, too much expansion dilutes original fires. In order for original visions to stay relevant, so does the interaction of the original authors. The people are the crafsman/woman and not the ‘brand.’
I’m a big believer in the notion of branding because I think it’s the process of personifying the company, making it reflect the character expressed in the original vision. The brand was people made. Big business has a relevant author problem. It’s too distant from the essence of the human experience. People are real. Businesses are concepts. My needs are real. I want a real business. My passion is real. In order to deliver, I need to operate on a real-to-life scale.
I guess it depends on how you want to define “compete.” Last week, Joe Hall, who may be funniest dude to follow on Twitter, who doubles as an intensely-sound marketing mind, wrote a piece on “scumbags.” I “inbounded” it; excuse my colloquial speech… In the comments, I celebrated the sentiments of Joe’s post. I don’t dig scumbags either, but, like us all, sometimes I must tolerate them. I did respect the Wizard of Moz’s dose of realism:
“I love the premise of the piece and I agree that it’s how I wish the world worked. That said, I’m not sure I can fully agree. The marketers I love, respect and want to emulate definitely fit this mold, but there are at least a handful who are very successful despite not embodying many of the qualities Joe points out. Perhaps that success is only temporary, but I suspect that it is possible to be a raging asshole and still achieve big marketing wins.”
I agree, Rand. One can be a successful ‘asshole.’ We all probably know one or a few. I like what Rand said: “Perhaps that success is only temporary.” Right on, Rand; it’s ‘only’ and ‘temporary.‘ Perhaps some don’t see it that way; but, those like-minded to me, who think ‘big business’ still sucks, know what smells like the right spirit.
Thanks for reading – Anthony Pensabene