“Forget anarchy. Today’ protests, revolts and riots are self-organizing, hyper-networked—and headed for a city near you,” as the latest edition of WIRED puts it.
Mohamed Bouazizi, the fruit vendor in Tunisia—the ground zero Upriser in 2011—sparked a MASSive global wave of individual uprisings. But while the impact of his selfless act is still being felt in the Middle East, and increasingly other regions in the world, the true potential of movements is still gathering momentum, for good or for bad.
Take for example the case of David Carlton. According to the New York Times today: “This same David Carlton is the person who has maligned the television show “All American Muslim” — a reality series on the Learning Channel about five families in Dearborn Mich.—as a front for an Islamic takeover of America and pressured advertisers (Lowe’s Home Improvement and Kayak) to pull their commercials.”
Here is an example of one man, his smartphone, and the incredible power of the individual to change the game especially among those corporations who are sensitive to negative publicity in the social media space.
The NY Times goes on to say: “What makes the attack on “All-American Muslim” more disturbing – and revealing – is that it was prosecuted by just one person, a person unaffiliated with any established organization…a person who effectively tapped into a groundswell of anti-Muslim bigotry.”
There are of course movements against movements—such as Mark Ramirez’s movement against the Anti- All-American Muslim movement.
“Movements are at once the symptoms and instruments of progress,” said Walter Lippmann.
For over a decade I have been convinced that movements propelled by individuals, and “movement marketing’ in the case of brands and companies, is the new way forward for anyone trying to influence public opinion with scale and credibility, sell products, earn customer loyalty, solve social problems and, quite possibly, change the world.
Admittedly, this bold statement raises a lot of questions. What do popular movements—which have, through history, given us many of our cherished freedoms, our finest heroes, our basic human rights—have to do with the crass and superficial business of selling stuff? And what makes anyone think they can plan, calculate around something as spontaneous and authentic as a movement? And by the way, people have been starting movements forever—so what makes them so important at this particular moment in time.
The current movement-mania is being fueled by several factors, the most obvious is technology. Bill Wasik, writes a fascinating piece entitled "Crowd Control" in next month's Wired Magazine, which I highly recommend. WIRED MAGAZINE JAN 2010: “Let’s start with the fundamental paradox: Our personal technology in the 21st century—our laptops and smartphones, our browsers and apps—does everything it can do to keep us out of crowds.” Who wants to go to packed stores when you can click and buy a few boxes sending them towards your home simply and easily via Amazon? And yet… “On those rare occasions where we want to form a crowd, our tech can work strange, dark magic.”
As we have seen in the Middle East and elsewhere, modern movements can be a force for good, for change, for a new generation of thinkers. In business, brands have sparked positive movements and generated market share at the same time. For example: Tom's Shoes, Livestrong by Nike, and the Levis' Go Forth movement by Wieden + Kennedy.
Cultural Movements, as we have shown at my own agency StrawberryFrog, can also be a most effective marketing strategy for brands as they globalize and maximize “generation-c” – the new generation of connected individuals.
Take for example Mahindra, one of the most powerful companies in India. Earlier this year, they developed and sparked a mass movement to drive positive change, and introduced a globally-relevant zeitgeist with the motto: RISE. What started in India is now going global. Watch the TV commercial below. It is intended to inspire youthful people to think outside the box, accept no limitations and use their ingenuity to come up with technological innovations and ideas that can make the world a better place.
As Sonal Jhuj, put it quite correctly: "A movement isn’t an advertising campaign. It’s a way to collect and arm your network to work towards a common goal. And you can’t do it, unless you believe in it just as much. Which is why Mahindras can lead the ‘rise’ movement but perhaps not all Indian companies can. Something about the history of the company, its people, its ethos and most importantly Anand Mahindra, gives birth to the movement. It is therefore a credible movement that cannot be easily replicated by another brand.
Knowing how to master the power of movements—how to identify, crystallize, curate and spark a movement— is now within reach of everyone with a smartphone. Movements are on the rise. For good or for bad, they will only continue to grow and evolve.
In this week's New Yorker Magazine, there is yet another example of the impact of movements. David Remnick has written a memorizing piece on what is happening in Russia, entitled "The Civil Archipelago." He looks at the new generation and their desire for an uprising in Russia, portraying activists such as the Khimki Forest Movment and Noize MC, who has staked his reputation on a movement against corruption. Remnick ends his piece by saying that compared to Tunisia, the chance for an uprising is "far more difficult to conceive." He however continues: "Sergei Kavalyov, (81 years old) a biophysicist who was Sakharov's protege in the Russian human rights movement says that "while all the groups and movements...could not really be called civil society, they did give him grounds for mild optimism."
And then there is TIME. This week TIME Magazine named you, the protester, its person of the year. It celebrates the philosophy of Cultural Movements as much as this piece explores the phenomena of movements.
Why "person of the year"? Why now? Why is this so important?
“History often emerges only in retrospect. Events become significant only when looked back on. No one could have known that when a Tunisian fruit vendor set himself on fire in a public square in a town barely on a map, he would spark protests that would bring down dictators in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya and rattle regimes in Syria, Yemen and Bahrain. Or that that spirit of dissent would spur Mexicans to rise up against the terror of drug cartels, Greeks to march against unaccountable leaders, Americans to occupy public spaces to protest income inequality, and Russians to marshal themselves against a corrupt autocracy.Protests have now occurred in countries whose populations total at least 3 billion people, and the word protest has appeared in newspapers and online exponentially more this past year than at any other time in history. “ Read more.
- Politics & Government