The Third Brain

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One Degree’s own Ken Schafer moderated the first AIMS ThinkTank session last week featuring Blast Radius CEO Gurval Caer and Organic VP and Managing Director, Detroit, Chuck Russo (subbing for an ill Mark Kingdon). Their discussion covered the gamut of ‘customer power’ and business models, and introduced a new concept necessary to today’s business: the Third Brain. Here are my favourite takeaways even if I didn’t agree with them:


Corporate blogging smells of fishy PR tactics. No one in the room believed the CEO actually writes the blogs being published (example: Sun Microsystems runs several blogs, including CEO Jonathan Schwartz‘). (My question: are they reading them? Blogs by their nature are conversational, making it harder for a staff writer to fill them in, especially when much of what they cover comes from the person’s daily experience. At least that’s what I think a good corporate blog should do, as it shares not only insight into the company and its decisions and development process, but helps consumers to really understand the brand. When it’s the CEO or other executives sharing their thoughts and opinions, you can bet we start to get a real picture of how smart a company is and how much they are thinking about the good of their customers… But the presenters and the audience were really skeptical.)
Marketing messages must contain something of value. Too many of today’s marketing messages fail to give the audience a reason to tune in, they simply shill product without rewarding the viewer for their attention. Gurval’s example: Nike’s requirement that their ads must inspire and empower the audience, they must do more than just show off a new shoe.
The DNA of any company is in its history. A question was asked about the types of agency and development shops that exists. Gurval said its easy to understand any company by looking at their DNA. He cited Apple and Google and how they have evolved their product strategies. If you look at both these companies they continue to innovate due to their founders’ exploratory natures.
The Third Brain. Ken used Daniel Pink’s new book, A Whole New Mind (author of Free-Agent Nation) to spark discussion on whether right-brain thinking needs to dominate web projects and applications. Both Gurval and Chuck said, “no,” that there needs to be some balance between left-brain input required to provide a sound technology base and creative input from the right brain. Gurval went further however to propose that what’s really needed is the Third Brain: Business Strategy.
I shared this idea with Lee Carter, an e-business consultant and educator; she said she likes to think that the juncture where the left and right meet is in strategy.
She takes this analogy further for her e-business students in trying to explain the divide between the techies and marketers. She tells them to close their eyes and “think back to high school.” What did the kids in computer and chess club end up as? Techies. And what did the dancers and drama kids end up doing? Marketing. Would either group be caught dead mingling at the school dance? No! Hence today’s divide we still find in many companies and agencies. But when they do mix, when creativity and technology are unleashed on the market and backed by a sound business strategy (think iPod), the results can be more than simply sales, but business transformation.
The BIG question: is spending really up? The session finished up with a question regarding the health of online spending and whether we’ll see an increase in mergers and acquisitions of online companies. Both Chuck and Gurval concurred we’re in another wave of online spending, only this time around the client is better educated and respectful of the online channel – but also more demanding.

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