Back in 2008 on this blog, David wrote two separate articles, here and here, on StrawberryFrog and its founder Scott Goodson’s notion of creating “cultural movements.” I didn’t think to check the AdPulp archives until I made my way through a copy of Goodson’s new book, Uprising: How to Build A Brand And Change The World By Sparking Cultural Movements. As it turns out, the discussion points raised then (and good reader comments, including one from Goodson) are still relevant as Uprising hits the bookstores and the desks of CMOs.
Goodson’s book is the product of several years of thinking and creating. And let’s be honest, he’s very good at promoting himself and his agency. So it’s no surprise that his new book makes an effective new business tool for his agency. While Goodson lays out the case for brands, causes, and organizations of all kinds to enlist people to be part of something bigger than themselves, the many examples he uses are all over the map: Non-marketer-based ideas like The Tea Party and ‘It Gets Better’ get mentions, as do more branded efforts like Tom’s Shoes, Livestrong, and SF’s work for Mahindra. But so do peculiar examples like the Wii (which appears to be losing steam as a gaming system despite being portrayed as a movement in the book).
The core issue for me here is the same one I had with Kevin Roberts’ Lovemarks many years back: The idea of creating something transcendent on behalf of a brand or marketer is one many advertising and marketing agencies would love to do, but simply don’t have the power to do. Imagine walking into a new business pitch and telling a CMO or CEO that they don’t just have a brand, they have a bigger, earth-shaking idea behind their widget or service, which consumers are prepared to evangelize. What marketer wouldn’t lap that up? But getting ordinary consumers or citizens to participate, in any long-term fashion, isn’t guaranteed, so falling short of expectations becomes much harder to take.
What’s going to be interesting as Uprising makes its way into general release this month is that the book has been OTBE (overtaken by events.) StrawberryFrog has been bought by APCO Worldwide, a global public relations and advocacy firm. APCO works on behalf of marketers, causes, politicians, industry groups and even countries and their governments. And According to Wikipedia, APCO isn’t above creating “astroturf” lobbying groups—one example is as “The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition,” created on behalf of tobacco companies.
The merger signals to me that the future of cultural movements, as Goodson practices it, may well be orchestrated by integrated PR and marketing efforts regardless of consumer sentiment. At the end of the day, the point of Uprising seems to be that any movement, cultural or otherwise, needs a serious, deliberate push forward by professionals to get it going and keep it sustained. Isn’t that what marketing communications has been doing all along?
Special thanks to McGraw-Hill for providing me with a review copy.