Welcome to the home of Noah Brier. I'm the co-founder of Variance and general internet tinkerer. Most of my writing these days is happening over at Why is this interesting?, a daily email full of interesting stuff. This site has been around since 2004. Feel free to get in touch. Good places to get started are my Framework of the Day posts or my favorite books and podcasts. Get in touch.

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“Buzz Giant Poster Boy”

My article from the June issue of American Demographics titled “Buzz Giant Poster Boy” has been posted by Renegade Marketing, one of the companies featured in the piece. For those that haven’t read it, the article discusses Shepard Fairey’s Obey Giant campaign as a blueprint for understanding how viral/experiential marketing works and succeeds. For those who don’t know about Obey Giant, it’s all those stickers or stencils you see around cities with the highly stylized picture of Andre the Giant (as you see below).

Credit: Noah Brier

Anyhow, if you’re interested you can read the full text of the article on the Renegade site. Here’s the conclusion (which I’m most proud of):

For Fairey, it’s about connecting with all these people. That’s why he says the ultimate goal of a brand “is to be the equivalent of the Beatles. You’ve got the dumbest guy and the smartest guy in the room singing your song.” Fairey continued, “I want something that resonates and affects people on different levels, but connects with everyone.” For this reason, most of the products that he designs for his Obey clothing line blur and break traditional cultural rules. “I intentionally make hybrid products,” he explained. “We’re always trying to flip stuff up.” Fairey then revealed his “truth”: “If Public Enemy can sample Slayer, I can do that [make hybrid products].” For those not on top of late ’80s music, Public Enemy is the archetype for political hip-hop. On their 1988 album, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, they sampled the heavy metal band Slayer, fusing two very different styles of music. For Fairey, the crossing of those two genres symbolized the dissolution of boundaries, not just in music, but in all culture.

Fairey grew up in a generation that has consistently rejected traditional limits. Turntables were no longer just tools to play music on, they became instruments with which to make music. Songs of the past became a giant database of samples and inspiration for reconfigured mixes. The Internet, phones and cable were not just means of talking or watching television, but parts of a complex network connecting telescoping groups of individuals, and cultures throughout the world. On top of it all, as Neisser notes, “The fact that kids watch TV, talk on the phone and IM all at the same time is a behavioral change that no marketer can afford to ignore.” With access to such a plethora of information, he says, “The mass market is crumbling before our eyes. As a result, you are talking about 280 million individuals.”

To say that times have changed hardly does this transformation justice. Imagine: no future generations will have ever lived in a non-digital world. Marketing to current and future generations will require a continuous reevaluation of strategies to connect with consumers who think and consume media in a completely different way than their parents did.

The ability to connect hip-hop, youth culture and marketing into a magazine article was a proud moment for me. All of a sudden it was like those four years of studying who knows what came together to create this moment of zen. So basically, go read it if you want, I think it’s pretty interesting stuff and I’m excited that it’s out there and freely available (because I don’t feel comfortable posting it myself).

Also, one last note: This doesn’t mark the end of the politics on the site. I know that I have a whole lot more people reading the site now than I did before and I don’t want to lose you. I will continue to keep a political slant if that’s what people want to read, but I will also go back to posting on some other topics that interest me. My line is still open for submissions, though, so if you want to write something for posting email me at writing@noahbrier.com (I maintain the rightto post or not post anything I feel like, please don’t be offended if you don’t get posted, I will do my best to inform anyone who writes of the reasons they have or have not made the site). If you just have general comments you can email me at nb@noahbrier.com. Thanks to everyone that contributed over the last week and I hope you continue to comment and help build the community that has developed. It’s exciting to reach an even larger audience and I hope you all stick around. Thanks for everything.

November 10, 2004