The Future of All Media?
The language and energy of Ashton Kutcher's Katalyst are right, but the goals seem fuzzy ("Want a Piece of This?"). Perhaps the best news is that Pepsi's top guns see that less control of the brand means more contact with the community. Let's hope Kutcher & Co. don't run out of celebrity capital!
Kutcher's strategy effectively answers key questions about how to achieve true marketing success by leveraging social-media platforms. Among them: Who do we want to talk to? What conversations are those people already having? How can we add value to the conversation without coming across as "too salesy"? At what point can we earn their trust so that we can get their input regarding our product or service? When and how can we actually pitch them?
I glanced at the comments on FastCompany.com that say Ashton is the next hot thing for the entertainment industry. I say: Think bigger. He's developing a model that could be the next big thing for the political industry. Shouldn't our politicians be so accessible that we know what they're doing every moment of the day via Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube? Yes, and, if you agree there, couldn't Ashton be the next big thing in Congress? Or the White House? What he had to say in this article proves he has more sense than the knuckleheads running our country. Go Ashton! You've got my vote!
Angela "Gertie" Refsland
This is a great piece and a glimpse into the future of entertainment, as Ellen McGirt noted. It's fascinating to see Katalyst working on feature films and big-budget productions while simultaneously developing things like Zegura's fantasy-football property. This is a team that "gets it" and traditional media/agencies/brands will continue lining up to collaborate with them.
Manchester, New Hampshire
Food for Thought
"The Miracle Worker" hit at the center of so much I try to consider (and rationalize) via work, substance, social impact, and ego. Most people in this space are loaded with that conflict but fall into the trap of espousing a sense of certainty. Whole Foods' John Mackey clearly has lurched through a journey of anything-but-certainty. In truth, I think we're all stumbling forward, likely aware of the integrated ideal that heroes like Paul Hawken uphold, but nicked by compromises of "reality." Then again, even Hawken had to leave a company selling absurdly priced English gardening tools to stand at the pulpit and address the clergy.
New Orleans, Louisiana
I found your article on John Mackey puzzling. It seemed less like objective reporting and more "tainted" with value judgments from a position of suppositions and presumptions of a business paradigm that may or may not be occurring. Just because a lot of people believe that if we all step off on our left foot facing west at once we will slow the rotation of the earth doesn't make it so. Likewise, just because many intellectuals believe capitalism is dead does not make it so. It may be that we do not completely understand it and cannot articulate its dynamics in our complex world.
I really liked how Danielle Sacks laid out the tension between the philosophical and the practical. I was left wondering how much of a libertarian Mackey really is, however. Does he think that the profit motive will naturally lead to ethical practices, or just that ethics and the market are compatible?
Several weeks after we published Danielle Sacks's article, Whole Foods Market founder and CEO John Mackey resigned as chairman of the company. "I have decided to voluntarily give up my title as chairman of the board," Mackey wrote on his blog on Christmas Eve. "Whole Foods, along with many other companies with combined CEO/chairman roles, has been targeted by corporate-governance activists for several years now seeking a separation of these roles." However, some Mackey supporters didn't buy his explanation. "You may spin it any way you want, but I see your resignation as succumbing to the pressure exerted by liberals," one fan responded to Mackey, adding, "We will no longer be shopping at Whole Foods."
It's the hardest lesson to learn and extremely hard to teach: "a complete indifference to established structures" ("Attitude Is Everything"). Older executives are hung up on traditional methods and younger up-and-comers are stuck in the junk knowledge taught in MBA factories. Teach them a process and all thinking stops.
Bigger Isn't Always Better
Nancy Lublin's column, "B-List Star, A-List Do-gooder," hit the nail on the head! More often than not, the younger celebs end up being a better choice for a foundation specifically because they have a fresh interest in the cause, boundless energy, and the time to dive in on the projects that need it.
J. Tayloe Emery
Another Student-Loan Gap
I appreciated Anya Kamenetz's "The Student-Loan-Default Gap." Private student loans are going to be the next downfall of my generation. There are private student-loan companies that back loans and allow you to borrow up to $40,000 per school year. This check comes straight to you and requires no direct school verification. The loans become almost an addiction. The worst part is these loans are coming from mostly reputable sources.
I don't have cable and I don't watch much TV, so it would be devastating if TYT moved to a cable slot ("Young Turks, Indeed"). YouTube is responsible in large part for its success, so I hope it sticks to its promise of not abandoning the YouTube community in favor of the glitz and glamour of cable.
New York, New York
Design Out of Reach
Much of my fascination with "A Modern Mess" stems from a recent Design Within Reach experience very much cut of the same cloth. My wife and I have always been enamored with the Cellula chandelier. We finally bit the bullet and decided to purchase this pricey but exquisite light fixture that features beautifully cut Swarovski crystals draped over a polished aluminum base. My search started at the Jackson Street DWR store in San Francisco. The conversation started out on a professional level, and after viewing their offering, I told them I needed to do some further research. My digging turned up the following: About two years ago, DWR stopped selling the original lamp, which was designed by Nunzia Carbone and Tiziano Vudafieri and made by Anthologie Quartett, and began offering its own "inspired" version under the exact same (copyrighted) product name. Its aluminum lamp body is made in China (not Germany, like the original), though the Swarovski crystals are real. I bought the original at House of European Design, down the street from DWR, for hundreds less than the Chinese knockoff.
San Francisco, California
Unfortunately, this is exactly the standard for U.S. business. I really wish that today's "leaders" would wake up and start running their businesses by treating their employees, customers, and vendors as assets. Lots of talk; no actual actions in that direction.
Trudy G. Wade
Besides the obvious management crisis noted by the writer, it is worth mentioning that the DWR business model still does a poor job of engaging the real interior-design and architecture professionals who could drive a lot more volume its way.
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A version of this article appeared in the March 2010 issue of Fast Company magazine.