Originally posted on PRWeek.com.
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Originally posted on PRWeek.com.
Originally posted on the Holmes Report.
We’ve watched protests around the world all year, but where were the 24/7 television cameras when a little sit-in began in my neighborhood, right at the site of what many in the U.S. identify as the biggest petri dish of injustice? Occupy Wall Street (@OccupyWallSt) began two weeks ago and is still raging strong (700-plus arrests came this weekend as protestors blocked the Brooklyn Bridge), and even though a trigger-happy media is more than enthused to report on staggeringly important events such as the number of times Kim Kardashian changed outfits at her nuptials, there was nary a camera capturing our very own Spring.
If I weren’t a Twitter addict, I’m not sure I’d be up to the minute on the developments around Wall Street, because there is nothing on CBS, NBC or ABC, at least, to speak of. I have often wondered why we haven’t seen more protests on our own shores in recent times. We sure have lots to march about.
In many ways, Occupy Wall Street and its denizens need to think like brands and focus on their message; it needs honing to address the crowded field of angry in this country. (When I first heard of it, it reminded me of the early days of tofu at the health-food store: a great idea, but at that time it was called bean curd. Nothing like “curd” to turn off a big, bold marketplace. And speaking of the ’70s, where are John and Yoko when you need them? Susan Sarandon and Michael Moore are poor substitutes, though both showed up; and the protest lost merit points when a rumor that Radiohead would perform didn’t materialize.)
But talk about a brand that needs a rethink on messaging: How about Wall Street itself?
In the past few years, we have come to hate the devil in the Italian suit. He’s the Antichrist who did in Main Street. And three or four of them have, in most of our minds, been at the root of the evil resulting in everyday despair. We all know somebody who has lost either a home or a job. The gluttony. The greed. The lack of respect for values. It has always been that way, but as soon as it began to affect how we live our lives, we stopped believing in Wall Street. (I saw a T-shirt two years ago that said “Kill the Rich.” Although I’m not advocating the message, it did resonate with me at that moment, as my house had started losing equity and my investment property went from “retirement asset” to huge personal liability.)
Regardless of whether Occupy Wall Street will have any real impact (though protests are spreading to places as far away as Albuquerque and L.A.), it’s mind-blowing that Wall Street, as a brand, has had no response. No apology. No promise to make things better. As thousands occupy the hallowed ground of green, were the Gordon Gekkos feeling guilty as charged? Or does their lack of response smack of ignorance, symbolize blind hubris?
With social media weighing in on everything news (#nowonsteroids), it seems that Wall Street could launch a campaign that acknowledges that greed is not, well, good. And that Wall Streeters are not greeding. Because there was a good deal of dissent on the topic of the protest itself, and the proof was in tweets like this one: “You can occupy wallstreet all you want, I challenge you bottom-feeders to occupying a damn job.” Wall Street had a real opportunity to sound its own bell of change, and I don’t mean the one they ring each morning.
The overwhelming message—not the timing of mainstream media coverage (or lack of it) and the celebrities in attendance (or not)—is the point: People feel that Streeters are no better than common criminals and should be punished for robbing us all of our homes, our dreams, our futures.
What will Wall Street do to not only rebound but also rebrand as more and more protestors take to the streets, cameras watching or not? (#whoneedsthemwhenwehaveyoutube)
Photo Credi: flickr/PaulS
Originally posted on the Huffington Post.
In my travels around the world, I’ve (over)heard a lot of ways for people to say they’ve reached a point of no return with their frustration, feeling so full of stress that they’re stirred from passive acceptance to action. Some cultures say it’s “the drop that makes the jar overflow.” Others, “the straw that broke the camel’s back.” And the buzziest now: “the tipping point.” (#theyreasmadashellandtheyrenotgoingtotakeitanymore)
Regardless of which cliché you use, there’s no arguing that we’re seeing more and more jars that runneth over, more camels that need good chiropractors.
Take the world events happening at the time of our publication of a One Young World white paper called “Beyond the Long Spring of Dissent.” Just one week after we finished it in July, Britain was shaken by riots. And by the time we published it in August, rebels in Libya had ended the 42-year reign of Moammar Gadhafi. (#tothecoreoftripoli)
The paper serves as a temperature check on the millennial generation, which is facing increasing obstacles—inheriting difficulties ranging from massive public debts and stagnant economies to high unemployment figures and growing environmental concerns—and challenging the current global situation. It follows research conducted by YouGovStone on behalf of the #OYW2011 global youth leadership summit and was based on more than 9,000 interviews with young people aged 20 to 29 from 21 countries on important global issues. Among the findings from the U.S. survey:
Before I left for One Young World in Zurich, which recently concluded, this is among what I read from older people about why a sea change of dissent is happening across the planet:
As someone who has always studied consumer behavior, I can put this collective anger through the lens of perception and see how behavior is influenced by not just circumstance but also by other humans in this world gone 24/7/365 in terms of communications.
With social media giving a digital soapbox to all, objectionable behavior is vented about and talked about and ultimately shared, and that’s where perceptions about worldview come into play. People take their cues from each other, especially from influential others. It’s known as “social norming,” and it’s all the rage from Main Street to Wall Street—and it’s not going anywhere, regardless of whether the rich bail us out or not.
As a trendspotter and brand steward, I’m seeing growing numbers of people in the media (and in private life) wondering out loud whether the good old American dream has turned into a nightmare. They’re wondering whether “the system” is rigged against the little guy or, as the Pew Research Center put it: “Most [Americans] see government policies as helping banks, corporations and wealthy people while doing very little for the middle class and small business.” To me, this kind of anger has been bubbling for years, but the pressure cooker that is modern life has finally exploded, and now we are trying to figure out (loudly) how to clean up the mess.
In the mix are thoughts from die-hard opponents of free-market capitalism, such as Naomi Klein and Michael Moore; their critical views are well known to the relative minority who agree with them and ignored by the majority who dismiss them as lefty loosies. Then we have billionaires such as Warren Buffett questioning the status quo, coupled with the CEO of global investment giant PIMCO, Mohamed El-Erian, warning of the dangers of failing to promote social justice. Writing on the Reuters blog, he said: “It is not just about fairness; the rich have genuine self-interest in reversing the country’s economic malaise and the worsening of income and wealth inequalities.” Citing the actions of Buffett and Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and others like them, he observes: “They know that national prosperity cannot, and should not, be sustained without social justice.”
And that’s also where the optimism and hope (but realism) of One Young World comes in. Young delegates were inspired by a distinguished panel of counselors (Desmond Tutu, Bob Geldof, Jamie Oliver, Crown Prince Haakon of Norway and many others) who supported them as they discussed a range of challenging global issues, from leadership and interfaith dialogue to the role of global business and changing media, with a view to taking actionable resolutions for change. A few of the delegates (aged 15 to 25) launched a worldwide #WakeUpCall social media campaign at the closing ceremony. They want to get the planet’s political and business leaders to wake up, stop talking and take action on some of the most pressing issues we’re all facing today.
Good times or bad, things are getting to the point where something has to give. As Sam Cooke once said, “A change is gonna come.” And like it or not, that change is here. Every influential questioning voice gets picked up, echoing and amplifying dissent through social media. The era of quietly accepting in solitude the decisions of lawmakers and policyholders is over, and today’s global citizens are speaking loud, and decidedly clear, regardless of what side of the ideological fence they’re on.
Corporations and brands and public figures need to be aware that they are communicating with ordinary people who are beginning to think that they’re competing in a game that is rigged, and as a result they are playing defense daily. They’re less interested in the next shiny, high-tech piece of entertainment and most interested in simply surviving on this unsteady playing field.
It should be an interesting season, with the next election looming. Start thinking of some new clichés now. (#gameon)
Photo Credit: google/bigideastobigresults.com
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