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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Loving Value Add: Geek is Chique

Frozen was a great movie - amazing visuals, catchy songs and the warm humour we expect from Disney movies.  It also had great characters, a touching story and a theme of female empowerment that was both poignant and timely.

We know that Frozen was well-received; box-office numbers and glowing reviews tell us that.  How we know this snowflake of a movie had actual impact, though, was the amount of spin-off activity it generated.

My favourite is this How It Should Have Ended video that parodies, with love, some of the plots holes in the narrative.  It's cute, cheeky fun, touches on what's become a cultural touchstone, but more than that - How Frozen Should Have Ended brings a whole different franchise into the equation, making us look at the characters and their potential solutions in a completely different way.

What if Elsa's parents had a setting like Xavier School For Gifted Youngsters where she could have gotten proper mentoring?  What is Elsa had a community beyond her family she could relate to?  It makes you think, what any good mash-up does.

Beyond that though, the X-Men side of the video is brilliant, full of pop-culture geek fandom.  

Wolverine is a no-nonsense kind of guy, so of course he'd be all gruff at the pop band stuff.  But in the film franchise, he's played by musical wonderkind Hugh Jackman, so that got played in nicely.  The little gesture he does when he pops his claws out?  Same one Elsa does in Frozen while singing the same line.

Shakespeare has endured the test of time because his material is so jam-packed; there's story, character, rhyming couplets, word plays, cultural references, historical references.  

The Bard was doing Easter Eggs before it became a thing.

This How Frozen Could Have Ended video is a different take on the same theme - it's all about adding value, bringing things together, loving and trusting the audience enough to geek out as a creator.

Why is this all in my head right now?

Last night during the Twitter #RBChat hosted by the lovely @cpantazis and @cammipham, a recurring theme was "how to empower your employees to engage customers in your brand story."

By and large, this isn't what sales does.  The focus tends to be on one-way messaging, transaction and an overwhelming sense of confidence and pressure almost intimidating a client into making a buy.  You don't need to think, the message goes - just do what I tell you.

Nowhere is this more the case than in politics.  Partisans of all stripes are bullying their opponents and aggressively marketing their audiences.  You have to back me, or the barbarians will break down the gate.  Do you have our leader's back?  You should feel excluded if you don't, 'cause all your friends are doing it!

Despite their commitment to building community, these Political Parties are actually attempting to build cults - sycophantic crowds who will do as told, support without question and never doubt the infallibility of the person in charge (in theory - in practice, the mandarins behind the throne). 

When only you have the plan, they must be stopped and every-day folk are caught in the middle, you're not fostering engagement.  Your audience won't love what they do, won't feel inspired by you to do something themselves - they will follow, drift away, or actively turn against.  
You're not loving what you do and you're not encouraging them to love what you do - what more can you possibly expect?

Contrast this with the Open Data movement.  The people leading the charge aren't great salespeople, aren't competitive in a partisan sense, really believe in the concept they support and totally love what they do.  Honestly, they geek out about it.

At OpenDataDayToronto, the day's lead organizer - a non-bureaucrat, non-political guy, non-business sector leader - was able to bring individuals from all those sectors together in a government building.  

The topics were pure geek - coding stuff, programming stuff, etc - but also with themes of leadership and community engagement.  A group of Grade 10s got massive applause for owning the power brokers on the stage.  Someone wrote and sang a song that included the phrase "it must be machine-readable." 

Oh, and Rage Against the Machine got played - in the heart of a government building.

Any political expert would have walked into the room and tsked - the message was all over the place, the branding was inconsistent, the speakers didn't build to a crescendo.  No villains were identified, and we all know people don't act unless there's a threat.  No deal-closer was issued; "I hope yous" clearly aren't enough to push a sale.

But the people in that room got excited, they threw down their ideas, they tweeted their thoughts for the sheer pleasure of it.  More than that, they keep coming back.  

They know there's no established community that they get to touch from the outside.  This is a nascent community they get to play a role in building.

Frozen was a great movie; despite a title that implies fixedness and division, the key message of the movie was "love thaws, true love heals."  

Through great trials, the hero broke free from expectation and, in so doing, open up her whole community to new possibility.  They loved her for it.  The audiences love Disney for it.  And the added-value keeps coming.

Do what you love.  Love what you do enough that you want to do it with others.  Love your audience enough that you inspire them to geek out about/contribute to your service/product/idea.

Absolute message control?  Let it go - in the era of value-add, there's nothing cooler than geek-chique.

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