Enlightened Conflict

how hacks misuse images to make less than truthful points

January 10th, 2017

………… 2016 Presidential Election Results by county …..



If I were to look at this map I would believe the majority of the country, overwhelmingly, was conservative <or Republican>. That is false.


If I were to look at this map I would believe the majority of people, overwhelmingly, was conservative <or Republican>. That is false.


If I were to look at this map I would believe the majority of counties were, overwhelmingly, conservative <or Republican>. That is false.




If I were to look at this map I would believe this was representative of all of America. That is false <only about 60% of voter eligible people actually voted>.




I am not a data wonk nor do I give a rat’s ass about politics and who is conservative and who is liberal.


seek_truthAll I care about is truth and good ideas which benefit the majority.


So what would be better than this incredibly misleading asshat of an image?


I would imagine if I were to ‘dot map’ the country coded by zip codes I would most likely get a better sense for how even in some rural areas liberals lived side by side with conservatives, in urban areas there were neighborhoods of conservatives buried amongst the wackjob liberal and that zip codes reflect a mixed bag of people who think different thoughts and desire a varied list of things <and have a variety of legitimate issues>.


And then I would imagine if I tinted my colors by % split between Republican & Democrat we would find that it is very rare for some county <which may be coded in the above image as “red”> to be 100% ‘red’ but rather anywhere between 51% red to 80% red.


And how about if I figured out some color coding to show the % split between Independent & Republican & Democrat …. & non voters … well … I imagine we would find that zip code by zip code, maybe even county by county … all the colors are a shitload less bright and a helluva lot more lighter.


Yeah. This kind of shit is important.


Doesn’t it matter to anyone thinking about this if I have a 1,000 person county that voted 95% Trump and a 100,000 person county that voted 39% Trump <but he still won the county? <answer: yes>


And then I would imagine that if I even went down into a household zip cluster we would find that there is a mixed bag of people even living in the same neighborhoods let alone a house.


But, no, some hack wanted to make some point and shoveled this shit image round for people to gobble up and spew out platitudes of mandates and elitism voting and working class bullshit.

This map is shit. If only the world were this simple. But it is not.




I admit.


In my past business life I have not been above not only using selective information to make a point nor am I not guilty of creating an image to showcase a vivid metaphor for the point.




It doesn’t take you long in business to recognize that decisions are made based off of some simplistic net conclusions. And if you are not careful you could … well … present an image like the one I opened this piece with and make some really important overarching conclusions and, ultimately, some fairly important decisions are made.


Here is what I know about that.


In the business world people get fired for presenting shit like this and misleading people to make some misguided decisions. I know for sure I would get fired if I tried this crap.




Disingenuous use of information is what hacks do. They don’t know any better.no brains stupid people jellyfish


Purposeful disingenuous use of information is what assholes do. They know better.


And maybe this is where I get grumpy with people like FoxNews. In general I think they have some really smart journalists … particularly in the day time when it is more journalism rather than opinion. That said. I think they, as do all major news outlets, have a responsibility to their audience to not only say what people want to hear but to also nuance it with some perspective so people don’t walk away with a misguided simplistic thought.

Their responsibility lies in exactly the same responsibility I, as a business presenter, has … managing the net conclusion <because inevitably I know someone is going to make some decision based off of that>.


And, yeah, the burden of responsibility does vary depending on the entity & person. While I do believe everyone has the responsibility to use information properly, factually not selectively, and portray it in a way that makes your point in a non-disingenuous way … your burden increases or decreases depending upon who is dependent upon your information.


Someone like FoxNews knows they have a diehard conservative viewership therefore their burden to enlighten is higher than say someone who has a mixed viewership like an ABC, CBS or NBC.


Worse than maybe Fox? Republican Politicians. They are chosen to be honest representors of truth so that we, the people, can be better informed and more enlightened as to real issues rather than ‘false flag’ issues <which permits us to better evaluate what is being done and what is important and what are the real issues>.


<note: to be clear … I could choose a different topic and make the same point about Democrat politicians and their lack of responsibility on that topic>


Here is what I know.


Hacks play to their audiences’ worst devils and play to existing perceptions & attitudes.


It is the cheap way to use good information <and cheapens not only the information but cheapens the truth>.


It is the lazy way to present.


And it is admitting no personal responsibility for portraying the real & total truth.




As for this stupid map and stupid <but somewhat important> information.


Would I use an image showing voting districts? Sure.

But only internally.

If my job was to elect someone and therefore I had to figure out where and how to spend my money, I would use it.


But everyone should be clear that voting districts have been bastardized to maximize their party voting base so much that voting districts are meaningless to anyone outside of those who are looking to get someone elected. They misrepresent general takeaways.

gullible CharlieBrown

I say that because I think it is not only disingenuous but also misleading to people by showing shit like this in a mainstream way. People who know better should be better than this. Its crap like this that not only divides people even more but encourages further discussion on elitism versus ‘working people’ when the truth is significantly more nuanced than that.


Using images like this only hurts the discourse and increases the sense of divide between the haves & the have nots, the intellectuals versus the manual labor and the city folk versus regular folk.




Set the maps aside.


A shitload of ‘elitist’ rich people voted for Trump.


A shitload of ‘creative artsy types’ voted for Trump.


A shitload of smart blue collar hard working people voted for Clinton.


A shitload of smart hard working ‘intellectual’ people <who poorly articulated their thoughts> voted for Clinton.


A shitload of rural/suburban people voted for Trump and a shitload of urban/suburban people voted for Clinton.


I have written far too much and far too often on the real issues behind the most recent election in frustration over the simplistic bullshit people throw out as for ‘why Trump won’ and ‘how Trump won.’


If I were to reference one thing I have written for people to think about it would be ‘the death of the malls’ which, to me, reflects the complexity and nuances of what hollowed out non-urban America and created some attitudes which

.......... searching for water ......

………. searching for water ……

governing officials have ignored <and Trump hasn’t acknowledge either … but a camel dying of thirst will drink any water … even poisoned>.


That said.


It is using information improperly in images like this that actually convince some of us everyday camels we are actually dying of thirst … when we are not <that is a warning to citizens and politicians>.


It is using information improperly like this that actually convinces some of us to make some fairly important misguided decisions <that is a warning to business people>.


I hate crap like this.


Fucking hate it.

elitism versus experience

December 20th, 2016




“Success is a lousy teacher.

It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.”


Bill Gates


“We’re all working together; that’s the secret.”


Sam Walton



Original commenter:

It isn’t scientists’ role to package facts and theory for the general public, let alone the most willfully ignorant.



Response commenter:

Surely scientists have some responsibility to make their findings understandable to the public?

Otherwise how do their findings get incorporated into policy?







With so much discussion going on about “the working class” it may become easy this-is-the-part-you-find-out-who-you-are-contrarianto ignore the implicit backlash against ‘intellectualism’ or ‘the out-of-touch elite.’


I do not believe there is an anti-intellectualism crisis.


I do not believe we have reached an era where any influencers who are smart, or intellectual, are dismissed as the reigning voices of truth & expertise.



I do know that elites, or so-called elites, are despised and the opinions of experts are disregarded in favor of emotions or gut feelings, i.e., feelings are as important, if not more important, than facts.


And I do know that Michael Gove said “people have had enough of experts.”



Not only is that a bullshit quote … it is a scary thought.


I could walk into a crowded blue collar bar and after some discussion I could be construed as ‘thinker not doer’ … despite the fact I have over 30 years of doing practical experience.

And therein lies the issue.


Depending on how you articulate your experience you can sound intellectually elitist <too smart for your own good> or you can sound pragmatically hard working. And within those two bookends is a fairly wide spectrum.


There has become a blurring of … well … everything actually … but in this case … true experience & expertise and ‘elitism.’


This is creating a horrible thing in society and our culture. If you have gobs of experience you are labeled as out of touch with the everyday schmuck.


If you are an everyday schmuck you are immediately labeled as anti-intellectual and, far too often, less educated.


This is a horrible situation for everyone <because no one wins>.


Simplistically … education and experience are two different things. I can certainly intellectual-elite-asimov-false-notion-ignorance but it shouldn’t diminish experience wisdom <and vice versa>.


And that is where the whole communication and communicating aspect comes into play.

For if neither side can clearly communicate their value then … well … everyone assumes the worst.


It would be far too easy for me to suggest that if someone has the experience, and the wisdom that comes with it, they should be able to articulate it and communicate it in a way that anyone would not feel condescended to or diminished or simply out-of-touch with either hard working or ‘thinker’.


But experience doesn’t necessarily translate into effective communication.


And it gets even more challenging when both sides have a pair of perception filtered glasses on as they view the opposite they are seeking to communicate with.


My prime example is easy … climate change.


The simple fact is that climate activists cannot sell their story effectively – they fall back on … well … facts and numbers. This is deemed as ‘arrogance’ because they get frustrated you don’t see the truth in the numbers and you are deemed ‘ignorant’ as you get frustrated because you aren’t a scientist and don’t want to extrapolate numbers … you just want a simple truthful story.


Even non-science people  recognize that cherry-picked statistics and trends & projections are not the same as long-term accurate predictions and effects. But if the case is so strong it must be possible to bring it forth in a compelling way combined with compelling measures to address it.


That said.


intellectual-behave-as-intelligenceThe most egregious act with regard to elitism versus experience actually takes place when people smart enough to know … undermine other people smart enough to know … within the leadership we seek to take our cues from <or let’s label them what the everyday schmuck would call ‘the ruling intellectual elite’>.


They sacrifice acceptance of the value of their ‘competitor’ for undermining the value. And in doing so they undermine everyone’s value. Some would suggest this is ‘not seeing the forest for the trees.’


I would suggest this is actually a doom loop. If every day people have no one to trust with regard to their experience they become anxious. And, then, in this state of anxiety, many of those same people no longer trust the experts <let alone anyone attempting to lead by thought leadership>.


If you cannot trust experience it all falls apart. Because then gaining experience just doesn’t matter <or specific experience doesn’t matter>.


In addition … it seems to foster an environment in which individual thinking is discouraged, the value of scientific/researched fact is diminished and, contrary to belief, the power shifts to some authority figure who leads through opinion rather than fact <and people follow off of ‘feelings’ rather than truth>.


That said … all things being equal, it means this issue comes down to its most basic level <which actually creates a real divide in ‘us versus them’>.



Here is where the biggest gap in skills & experience exists.


Survival skills.


test think smarterSurvival in corporate America is significantly different than survival in … well … survival.


If all of urban/suburban America lost their microwaves and fast food restaurants … well … they would be screwed.



Most people know how to light a fire <with a match>, wash underwear and make soup but that basic skill set is not even close to the survival skills of the majority of the world let alone rural America.


Therefore … experience is measured in two different ways … basic survival versus ‘elitist’ survival. And neither side values the other’s skills equally … or maybe worse … they devalue the other’s skill set.


It’s a dangerous state of affairs.



We are shortchanging our ability to shape events by having each side believe they are the only ones capable of shaping the events.



We are shortchanging the people who are much more confident in the assessments of what to do and when to do it.



We are shortchanging the people who understand that in any situation and in any choice there are winners and losers and just because you may have lost smart and stupid peopledoesn’t make you a loser.


And, of course, we shortchange the people who don’t have the experience to lead by undervaluing the experience that they do have … and what they have to offer in terms of thinking & ideas.


We don’t know what we don’t know.


And in those words of wisdom resides our biggest challenge with regard to this crisis of elitism versus experience … we need to figure out how to better articulate expertism and experience … because if we do not … the inexperienced will seek to take on the responsibilities of the experienced … and we will be doomed to fail.




“The pen may indeed be mightier than the sword, but the wordsmith would do well to welcome the blacksmith back into the fold, so that artisan craftsmanship the world over may fend off the ravages of industrialised homogeneity and bland monoculture.”


Alex Morritt


people are indifferent until they aren’t

May 23rd, 2016

attention nobody cares gift message relevant


Companies are inextricably caught in a web of relationships with all things.”



Holbrook <2003>




“People are indifferent … until they aren’t.”



Bruce McTague







For some reason I have spoken to maybe a half dozen smart marketing people about consumer purchase decisions, purchase decision making models and how to affect people’s decision behavior.


Throughout all the wonky communications and behavioral modeling discussion I do find myself mentally referring to a fabulous 2005 JWT trend paper called “the connection imperative” <I do not believe it is available online anymore and I refer to my saved pdf copy>.


telaffects connectivity questioningBut, suffice it to say, any time we consumer behavior folk get together and talk we inevitably start talking about connections, connecting and making the most of all the connection opportunities in the world.


And this conversation always seems to take place as all of us uneasily shift in our seats viewing the environment  in which we seek to create meaningful connection as a place that can sometimes look an awful like chaos, certainly is complex and is fraught with a seemingly unending range of uncertainty and populated with indifferent people.


I can tell you that this whole discussion puts great stress on brands, companies and those who seek to develop the necessary connections needed to sell stuff <create some version of a valued brand> while also creating the “promise” that exists in any viable product, service or company <let’s call this ‘the promise of a brand’>.

It is a fun discussion but if you are in the business of making money trying to figure it out … it can be a stressful fun.

But ultimately while building the promise of “what can be” can sometimes be elusive in its inevitable intangibleness … everyone worth a shit seeks to put some structure as they attempt to achieve the promise of the brand.




I love structure.


I believe structure enables better thinking and better creativity to enhance that thinking. That said. We go thru some pretzel like gymnastics to create some construct for thinking. We do so with the grand intentions of trying to wrangle a relatively chaotic or, maybe better said, a relative randomness that is often associated with wonderful connections & relationships.


I can honestly tell you everyone, and every communications business, has some process or thinking/planning structure which, while more often than not is simply a derivative of everyone else’s, is distinctly “theirs.”


Most are actually pretty good and if you know your shit they are all easy to use and easy to switch from one to another <as long as you can dispassionately ignore the “uniques” which always seem to dot the individual company’s pride in their thinking process>.



purchase funnel graphic

older version of a purchase funnel

The issue with most constructs is that … well … they look orderly.


A purchase decision cycle. Usually a nice circle.


Maybe a patterned linear construct. Usually a nice looking path.


Unfortunately, in today’s world where you get barraged by a seemingly endless array of things vying for your attention, the actual real-life cycle or process or ‘path’ can look alarmingly random.


I would argue that the best connection modeling is almost like an ‘outside-in’ scatter model. Lots of smart messages scattered about almost like free food samples throughout the grocery store eventually attempting to guide/lead you to a specific aisle and a specific shelf where you can interact and purchase.




Glancing Moments --- Slow Down Moments --- Sticky Moments

Glancing Moments — Slow Down Moments — Sticky Moments

My model actually looks an awful lot like the information, knowledge & wisdom chart to left.



The actual model is one in which you are seeking to create gobs of ‘glancing moments.’ Glancing moments are those in which there is a connection, maybe just bumping into each other, and it is positive but most likely not enabling a step down a true deeper connection path.


And then there are planned “slow down too speed up’ moments.

By the way … I could also argue that the most basic value proposition any communications plan offers in their messaging strategy is a “slow down to speed up” value, i.e., slow down to absorb what I want to share and you will find that the knowledge or learning enables some sort of ‘energy speed up’ afterwards. Some would call this the “time value equation.” I actually defined the value.

Anyway. These connection moments are enabling moments. The brand enables the consumer in some form or fashion <educate, relax, focus, etc.> to ‘speed up’ after the connection is complete.


Lastly are the ‘sticky’ moments. Connect, stick and create desired behavior.

Communications people are always, always, seeking these moments. You can nudge and herd and encourage and convince and do all the smart things anyone with half a marketing brain will do … but … inevitably you seek to place them in a situation where they are receptive to a ‘sticky moment.’


And while I would like to flippantly offer a formula for this ‘sticky moment’ or state unequivocally something like “it is always closest to the actual need” time … I cannot. Most purchase decisions take on a timing of their own. What takes me 5 days to decide on may take someone 5 minutes. The 5 minutes may mentally go thru the same rationalizing process as my 5 day one … they just have the mental energy to drive thru it faster in that time & space. Therein lies the construct <we all think the same way> and the randomness <difficult to know when I will engage and how long I will take in each stage or moment>.


I imagine what I am trying to point out is that while we plan and analyze and do our best to create some engagement more often than not we are partially at the mercy of … ‘people are indifferent until they aren’t.”


And, yeah, we have lots of data available to scrutinize ‘likely moments that people will be less indifferent’ and we have gobs of research which can identify some specific triggers and stimuli to desired behavior <and lack of indifference> … but people are pretty wacky in that they are fairly inconsistent on caring versus not caring.

In other words … ‘what I care about this minute may be replaced by something else the next.’


This can even get a little crazier for “connection implementers” because, upon reflection, many moments appear more important than they really were … which then translates into some relatively absurd future fears that if we miss a moment we will be fucked. This can create some angst in connection planning and insight implementation.



All moments matter but not all moments are created equal and, even better, there are no lack of moments overall.





Philosophically when discussing connections and the importance of creating a successful connections plan of action <and managing the connection moments> the entire discussion actually gets rooted in some overall ecological perspective which emphasizes that the ultimate goal of … well … everything <brands, companies, people, esteem, etc.>  is survival.



us versus them survive adpat

I know it sounds a little esoteric but if you attach the concept of survival to connections you can place an appropriate amount of … well … importance to how you create connections. I say this because far too often some business can be a little flippant with managing the moments of connection. And maybe they get flippant because … well … this survival idea is embodied not through some simple ‘cause & effect’ scenario <at least … rarely so> but rather survival is attained through a complex adaptation within a larger ecosystem consisting of a complex confluence of threats and opportunities <Holbrook 2003>.

Each connection represents a threat <loss of time, poor decision for consumer – wasting time, lack of relevance to business> as well as an opportunity.


There is an additional aspect which makes connection planning difficult.


While there is almost a seemingly endless array of data learning opportunities available, this survival process brings forth the paradox of success in a connection challenge way.


The more success you experience today in survival, which is actually a reflection of how well you adapted to the relevant contextual situation, the more vulnerable you become to extinction <not surviving> resulting from changes in the environment <Holbrook, 2003>.


Let me translate.


Oftentimes a successful connection is contextual.  And, yet, we seek to replicate the connection itself.




I do not care if you are reading this as a brand steward, an individual, a communications planner, a strategic planner or a business … this idea suggest to maintain your highest likelihood of survival you must maintain a dance on the icy brink of death called “the edge of chaos.”


I am not suggesting any strategy should purposefully accept a consumer behavior pattern as chaos … but you most likely have to accept a large degree of randomness … and ‘move quickly’ when random connection occurs.


So let’s talk about connection itself.


Connection in and of itself is typically grounded in ‘self-interest’ as in “what’s in it for me” or “what is best for me.”

In typing that I tend to think about how psychology tells us that the ideal situation is that the therapist helps the patient to cure himself/herself. If you believe that … well … you almost have a formula for which to start building a “handbook for connection survival.’


Think about it from a behavioral standpoint.

Patients who have learned to heal themselves are better in applying their newly acquired insights in coping with new situations <practically speaking this means that the consumer, not the business, is enabled to maneuver within a new connection context and the business doesn’t have to turn itself into a pretzel trying to recreate the exact context to create a positive connection>.

And just to make sure I cover all my bases.

Conversely, patients who have only learned specific answers to specific problems often experience serious problems coping with new situations. <Beck 1979>.





All that psychological mumbo jumbo aside … what this means if you can convince someone to connect in a way that they ‘slow down’ enough in their slow down pause speed upwacky ‘go go go’ world and offer some cure for whatever ails them that they can embrace … and they will speed up <or at least envision an opportunity to speed up their Life thru you at some point> … you have offered a value proposition in which they see themselves coping better in the future <and your connection has even higher increased value>.


By the way.

This is a moment that matters – matters for them <the consumer> and matters for you <the brand, product, service, business>. Some may actually call this a “win/win.” I will not. I will simply call it effective connection leveraging some consumer insight.



Connections and insights.


Uncovering and discovering insights inevitably leads to successful connections because of one big word – relevance. It creates the highest order of relevance.


That said … in seeking insights it is helpful to remind ourselves that energy is most often generated by tensions of opposites.


  • I don’t have time but I made time <and you made that time of some value>.


  • You have made me slow down to connect but I feel like I am going faster now that we have disconnected.



Crap like that.


This means you have to have some insight to pay off the tension of opposites. It is almost like you have to surgically place the insight within the moment.  Done well this is an amazing sight to behold. Done poorly and … well … back to that survival thing. Your connection fizzles and while you may not die … you have certainly been wounded.



survived intense fire inside

When a connection is done well … well … success breeds success. The brand becomes the attractor and ultimately becomes the archetype of the relationship <not the consumer >. This may seem  little wacky to ‘consumer is the center of the universe’ thinkers but if you have a valued connection in which , whatever insight you utilized, has bettered the Life of the consumer <I called it “permitting them to speed up in some way”> all of a sudden the relationship takes on a slightly different hue. The brand is the attractor, the connections become more attractive and the brand becomes more of the ‘pursued’ than the ‘pursuer.’




This is a tricky situation albeit a great situation to be in.


What I tell most people is that great relationships are about balance. The moment the consumer feels like they are pursuing and not receiving some reciprocal attraction … the relationship doesn’t survive. From a brand practicality standpoint … the reverse is, or at least, should be true <if I am pursuing and receive no reciprocal attraction cues than I should let that connection die>.




Here is what I know.


There are a variety of insight development methodologies in which to construct a solid planned attack on creating good ‘of value’ connections. And I do not believe anyone would argue that a connection in some form or fashion is imperative. I also do not believe anyone would argue that gaining some insight into what matters to someone <as in “insuring I give them something which will permit them to speed up if they slow down an connect with me”> is imperative.


And that is where I come back to construct.


Far too often thinking people hate randomness and the edge of chaos so much that they lovingly embrace the construct too tightly. And, yes, businesses demand construct so it is not all the thinkers fault. The construct is a handy tool to articulate insights and their importance <and their role>.


In addition, constructs can actually help a ‘thinker’ develop a plan against people’s indifference.


But … therein lies the biggest challenge any communications strategist or business ever faces.


People are indifferent until they are not.web of influence


We strategy & insight people are trapped in the wretched in-between of “focus” & “the highest order of relevance” and … well … the web of relationships with all things.



I love this wretched in-between. Heck. I loved writing this particular post no matter how mind numbing it may have been to you.


It may have sounded like a bunch of philosophical gobbledygook but I will suggest that if you attack Life and business thinking some of the things I shared you will be better prepared to deal with the challenge ahead. And, what the heck, being prepared is half the battle.


Enlightened Conflict