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May, 2007

Thursday Conversations

On Thursday I had three great (separate) great conversations with Sara, Johnny and Charlton. I thought it might be great to capture some insights from each of them.

On Authenticity

Sara had recently met Drew and the topic of marketing for good had come up (not entirely surprising). Sara, like many of us, had wondered whether it was still meaningful for a company to do good if it wasn't for authentic reasons. Drew's answer, which had stuck with Sara, was who cares. Authenticity or not, good is good. What's the difference if Wal-Mart is giving away generic prescription drugs for next to nothing in order to beat the competition? Sure there are issues with this attitude, and nothing exists in a vacuum, but it's an interesting point of view.

On Consumption

Funny enough later that day I had a conversation with Johnny, who just happens to be on a very similar good in marketing crusade. He recently spoke at Wildfire and walked me through his deck, which was all about doing what's right (which included not thinking about 'the target' but rather about your mom or your best friend, since that's really who you're talking to). Anyhow, Johnny and I got onto the topic of groupthink (after briefly discussing Paul Graham's excellent "What You Can't Say" essay). The question posed was "is capitalism groupthink?" We didn't settle on an answer (not a huge surprise), but we did begin discussing the possible effects of digital technology on consumption.

Will our digital consumption habits effect our physical ones? When you consume in the digital world it takes up no space, there's nothing to touch. You can download and download to your heart's content (within reason) and acquire unthinkable amounts of stuff (I have 4,508 songs in iTunes). For a while people were buying bigger and bigger iPods to store all this stuff: Everyone wanted everything all the time. But I feel like we're turning a corner (a shift that will intensify with the release of the iPhone). People seem to be buying fewer giant iPods and instead going for shuffles. As anyone who has a giant iPod can attest to, you never actually listen to all that stuff.

The question, then, is whether this behavior will manifest itself in the physical realm. When mass consumption becomes easy as pressing a button will it eventually make us immune to the satisfaction of consumption in general?

On Being Offended

So the day ended with drinks/dinner in front of a wide open window in the East Village. Charlton and I discussed lots of stuff, but especially notable was what he said about being offended. Just as background, Charlton is a professor at NYU and a leading thinker on race (check out his Race Project and accompanying blog This Week in Race). Anyhow, somehow Charlton and I got onto the topic of offending people. He lived in the south for a long time and he told me people often ask him how he dealt with it. His answer is always that it was a lot easier. When someone had something to say to him (about his race or anything else), they said it. Being offended was a good thing, it allowed him to immediately assess the situation. There's not grey area when you're offended, you don't need to make a decision about whether someone likes you or not.

It made me think about driving in New York. One of the wonderful things about driving here is that you expect everyone will cut you off, so you're always on the defensive. It's a whole lot more dangerous when you're driving in some other place and you don't know what they're going to do. You can be lulled into a sense of security only to get cut off at a moment you weren't prepared. I am actually constantly amazed at how few accidents I see in New York and I think it's for this very reason.

Anyhow, that was my Thursday. Hope there's some interesting nuggets in there.

May 12, 2007
Noah Brier | Thanks for reading. | Don't fake the funk on a nasty dunk.