Monday, July 9, 2012

Where did Zuckerberg go wrong?

I have been laughed at for suggesting that Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg is the epitome of post-branding branding, in the wake of the recent IPO...I'll just call it a crisis. Here is my response.


It may be that we have to distinguish between "knowing" and "unknowing" brand subversion. The shrugging, "I don't care" attitude is most definitely post-branding. Zuckerberg has that. But he may also be "unknowing." Which would disqualify him....because a true master of branding (post- or not) would never allow their brand equity to collapse virtually overnight like this. (And it is, whether you can see it or not.)

Ironically, it could be his lack of social-emotional intelligence that is both his weakness and his strength. On the one hand, it led to Facebook, right? The vision of no boundaries between personal and professional - simplistic to the point of childlike. On the other, I am guessing that the simplism led to a total misunderstanding of the IPO crisis, in my view the brand's seemingly sudden downfall. (Quick test: say the words "the Facebook brand" to someone savvy and see if they grimace.)

If you want an example of a "knowing" post-brand-brand - you can look now, or reach back in time. Rihanna (read the Esq. interview!) Kris Jenner. Kim Kardashian. Seinfeld. Madonna. Woody Allen. Even Alan Alda's character in M*A*S*H. For goodness sake, I know there are so many more. The distinction is self-consciousness. "Reflexivity." Or on a group level, "double-loop learning."

There is always an element of danger when you're dealing with post-brands - because they are people, generally, who live a bit on the edge. I've been speculating that the business blogger Penelope Trunk will rise for some time. But as she has admitted - she is unstable. That's what makes her great. Charlie Sheen. Marilyn Monroe. The best live on the edge - they are crazy - but the difference is that they OWN the crazy, at least part of the time. "Winning."

Children are also great post-brands, because they are authentic. But they are also unknowing. Another recipe for danger, because few seem to pass through the "child star" stage without seeming pallid later on. ("Mary-Kate and Ashley," etc.)

As far as the charge of hypocrisy goes - I do not at all believe that Zuckerberg is a hypocrite. Rather we are the ones who willingly participate and get taken. If there is one brand promise Facebook does NOT make - in fact it promises the opposite, to my mind - it is privacy. That is something you have to ask for, because they see it as outmoded. Whoever puts their birthday, rants, embarrassing vacation pictures etc., anywhere on the Internet is responsible for the outcome.