Thursday, April 30, 2009

The 4th annual CIA conference at Stanford

I'd like to share with you my gatherings from CIA Mini Conference which took place today at Stanford University. They are not formatted as a story, but more like a notes made on the go.

The 4th annual CIA conference at Stanford.

CIA are going to have live broadcasting. I didn't realize it before and now a little bit tempting about did I really need to come. :) But we'll see in a few minutes.

It seems to be there is about 70% of actually students in the auditorium. We also had a plenty of free places to sit, but the whole place is way more then half full.

First conference was in 2006. Previously they had a few guys from VCs, specifically DFJ, guys from eBay, etc.

Conference is about client design thinking about big problems. Spreading ideas, how to make them sticky, how to explode. How to make them viral.

First guy is from Apple, Pedraum Pardehpoosh, who's running iTunes Video store and was previously related to iPhone stuff. Not going to talk much about Apple, though.

- How to create virally spreading changes in behavior?
- The fundamental purpose of business and commerce is to contribute to the advancement of human prosperity, promoting social justice and harmony.

Doesn't make a lot sense to me, unless translated into real-world language.

Three ideas:

1. Consonance for Survival. Don't fight gravity, learn to create lift.

People don't trust businesses. Business must go beyond generating just ROI.

2. Act/Reflect. The order here is critical.
3. Asking for help.

How do they at Apple (iTunes, to be specific) create product? They do something they want themselves, as they are passionate about being at Apple and doing video and music stuff. Good point when you've got a lot of people to brainstorm with a similar interests. Not very well scaled to the world of startups, when the company is started by two-three individuals, even with a wide vision.

Second speaker is John Winsor (Twitter @jtwinsor,, VP and Executive Director of Innovation at Crispin Porter + Bogusky with impressive lineup of clients like Microsoft, American Express, Coca Cola and others. Has a blog and authored two books.

First slides of his presentation look very interesting. Shows some stuff that they've been doing for their clients.

We're not big fans of advertisement. Ads alone lost it power to make a meaningful connection between a brand, the culture and the consumer.

Some levelers for creating infectious action.

Lever 1: Start with a true understanding of a product. Product > Packaging > Distribution > Ads.
Lever 2: Bake the marketing into the product.
Lever 3: Focus on changing culture to fit your brand but not vice versa. Shows presentation of B-cycle, new initiative in US, brought from European countries. It looks like the reused the map of Moscow subway for it. :)
Lever 4: Make everything interactive. It's not just digital. Shows pretty funny presentation of Flame.
Lever 5: Exploit a cultural tension. Without guild, there is no tension. Without tension, there is no release. Without release, there is no joke. Burger Kings ad comes here. Whopper sacrifice. Great idea.
Lever 6: Use advertising and PR. VW crashing car in the ad.
Lever 7: Empower people to co-create with you. Few weeks ago launched a wiki with a script for the book. To write examples and ideas. Promoted this on his Twitter. Has got terrific results so far.

Few words about the agency: success is measured by sales, not brand, awareness or those kind of things. Typical clients — either risk takers or those who're risking to loose business.

Next speaker coming, double-Stanford, Gina Bianchini, co-founder and CEO of Ning. Opens to show a few videos. Doesn't work so far.

New media takes 10-15 years to be acquired.

Each company takes different approach to organizing people. In example, Gina brought her friends to the company, starting from university, ending up with school (or even pre-school).

Why people create their own networks when there are a lot of them already? Finally the video works to give us an answer. Hell, no, it's broken again. So now we're switching to Q&A, as Web presentation never worked.

Shows an example of, a Ning social network with 10,000 of users that pretend to be zombies. Apparently, lost. Very nice.

How big networks are they targeting for? No specific numbers, don't care about the size. But there is a conclusion of if a social network hits 150 people, it will sustain itself. Ning guys are working on ideas and thoughts how they can brought this number down.

Launched Ning platform in October 2005 with 26 very simple social applications, sent out emails to friends and got covered very well. The initial momentum is very important. Direct invitation mechanism worked better for them then typical PR.

Next speaker is Hayagreeva (Huggy) Rao, professor of Graduate School of Business at Stanford University. As he characterized himself "The guy how takes the idea of food very literally." :) Usually teaches MBA students, came today from 8am-3pm MBA classes to talk on CIA conference.

Market Rebels: How activists make or break radical innovations?

Two examples:

1. Micro-brewing movement. Theory — hard to enter new markets where is high concentration. However, US ended up having more independently owned breweries (1,273) then Germany (1,234) even if market concentration in germany is 3 times lower. Professor's favorite beer is DogFish — I've got try that one. :) Social movements need two things B2B — beliefs to behaviors and behaviors to beliefs. Changing beliefs will affect behaviors.

WUNC - create by hot causes and cool mobilization (Worthiness x Unity x Numbers x Commitment).

Make complicated things extremely simple to get people mobilized.

"Enough shovels of earth — a mountain, enough pails of water — a river."

2. Anti-sprawl movement and Wal-Mart.

Formal models of protest suggest that protest is likely to be rare.

Hot cause is sprawl and our town. Professor Rao mentioned James Howard Kunstler and his Web site which he likes to read. Sad, but I missed the name.

Cool mobilizations are petitions, marches, pledges, our town organizations, popular votes on Size-Caps for stores.

Market Rebels matter — create markets but also restrict markets.

I really loved Huggy's talk.

The CIA mini conference is ending up with a panel. The panel features Leslie Kilgore who is CMO in Netflix, DJ Patil, Chief Scientist in LinkedIn and Jason Goldman, VP of Product in Twitter. Chamath Palihapitiya, the Facebook's VP of User Growth was announced by didn't come it this time.

Leslie: Free is important, but it is important to what extent are you going to make things free. If you really think you have a superior product, it should be able to survive on its own.

DJ: Professional social network needs to respect the quality of network. First of all, LinkedIn is an analytics product, eventually provide more values.

Jason: There is a lot of interesting stuff you can do when you have access to numbers. It's important what numbers you choose. But be ready to people who want to game the numbers. It's important to model the behavior correctly. See a big picture.

How do you find party starters?

Lesli: You can't pay somebody to evangelize your product.

DJ: LinkedIn is 46% international, but they did nothing for that. Not agree with Malcolm Gladwell model. There is a place for initial spinout and extension spinout.

Jason: Celebrity usage of Twitter made a big difference.