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Influx curated speaker interview-mark barden-eat big fish

April 28, 2009

Mark Barden of Eat Big Fish is one of our speakers at Influx Curated on June 11th in San Francisco.

Here are Mark’s responses to three questions I sent across to him recently.

1. What’s inspiring you at the moment?

My kids inspire me all the time. Last night I turned the tables on my five year old and asked her to tell me a story for a change. Out popped a story about a princess with 3 magic jewels. The yellow one she hung up when it was cold and that was like the sun. The blue jewel was rain when she needed water. And the grey jewel contained a butterfly. There it was, instant creativity on demand. It can be that easy if you can channel your inner five year old. And she never seems to run out of stories. How many of us can say that. Invention like that, especially the seemingly effortless variety, is always inspiring to me. And I hang on to the notion that we all possess this ability if we can strip away and get over years of poor schooling and lack of encouragement.

I just saw the Tom’s shoes story that Blackberry told in its ads. That was pretty inspiring.

And Obama. I admit I’m a huge fan so far. Its great to see intelligence and open-mindedness in the White House and such a calm demeanor in spite of what must be enormous pressure. What if all our leaders rose to this level of mastery and authority. I find the on-going dialog between Obama and people he disagrees with to be truly inspiring. Look at the heat he took for asking Rick Warren to speak at the inauguration. This was actually just a part of an on-going dialogue between the two that began before inauguration and has continued since. Recently Warren was quoted as saying he never was and never will be an anti-gay marriage activist. Has his position softened? Is it related at all to being engaged in a dialog with the President? Who really knows. What I sense is the power of dialogue at work. Sounds hard, lacking in glamor, and absolutely essential for our troubled times. I find people who come to the table — authentically — with those they disagree with to be very inspiring.

2. Are brands becoming more or less important?

I don’t think brands are becoming less important, no. A brand is just a story attached to a product. Stories will never diminish in importance. Human beings need them, its how we’ve always transmitted important information. In fact stories only grow in importance; a good one is still the best way to breakthrough the cacophony. So long as the exchange of goods and service dominates human interaction as it surely must (until one of the many possible Armageddons ends it) there’s a role for brands as stories. The stories need to change to fit the times of course, and in these times there’s a resurgence of the ‘true story’. That’s a good thing. The days where ‘brands’ could be an artificial construction designed to mislead are on the wane (for now) and that’s a good thing for anyone who takes the job of marketing seriously. And brands whose stories connect to the greater good, like Tom’s, will play a more important role as the Armageddons bear down on us.

3. Are communication campaigns going to be a thing of the past?

I think I’ve answered that haven’t I in the above. The venues and channels of story-telling might be changing, but the core principles of good story: simple, memorable, something being changed, beginning, middle, end, apply wherever. Certainly the dynamics of the storytelling might be changing. There’s more co-creation, for example, the seeking out of more voices to shape the brand story (consumers) along with the original author (brand owner); more attention at times to stories needing to catch on quick (‘go viral’) rather than be ‘forced’ into consumer consciousness (media weight); and the ever-changing nature of audience needs. But as long as there are things to sell and people to buy there will be a need to communicate about them. Just because one can find out about a product with a google search doesn’t mean one will. Good stories help products gain salience. Always have, always will.

You can read more about Eat Big Fish’s latest thoughts in their blog here.

For more details and registration for the Influx Curated conference look here.

Posted by Ed Cotton

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