Tuesday, August 29, 2006


On Hugh MacLeod's blog Gapingvoid.com - "The Hughtrain" is really something to believe in. A remarkable work on the meaning of life and while he's onto big subjects he delves into brands, creativity and communications as well.

His post finishes up with a great explanation on the logic behind corporate blogging and an amazingly simple description of corporate - customer comunications.

Introducing "The Porous Membrane":

1. In Cluetrain parlance, we say "markets are conversations". So the diagram above represents your market, or "The Conversation". That is demarkated by the outer circle "y".
2. There is a smaller, inner circle "x".
3. So the entire market, the "conversation" is separated into two distinct parts, the inner area "A" and the outer area "B".
4. Area "A" represents your company, the people supplying the market. We call that "The Internal Conversation".
5. Area "B" represents the people in the market who are not making, but buying. Otherwise know as the customers. We call that "The External Conversation".
6. So each market from a corporate point of view has an internal and external conversation. What separates the two is a membrane, otherwise known as "x".
7. Every company's membrane is different, and controlled by a host of different technical and cultural factors.
8. Ideally, you want A and B to be identical as possible, or at least, in sync. The things that A is passionate about, B should also be passionate about. This we call "alignment". A good example would be Apple. The people at Apple think the iPod is cool, and so do their customers. They are aligned.
9. When A and B are no longer aligned is when the company starts getting into trouble. When A starts saying their gizmo is great and B is telling everybody it sucks, then you have serious misalignment.
10. So how do you keep misalignment from happening?
11. The answer lies in "x", the membrane that separates A from B. The more porous the membrane, the easier it is for conversations between A and B, the internal and external, to happen. The easier for the conversations on both side of membrane "x" to adjust to the other, to become like the other.
12. And nothing, and I do mean nothing, pokes holes in the membrane better than blogs. You want porous? You got porous. Blogs punch holes in membranes like like it was Swiss cheese.
13. The more porous your membrane ("x"), the easier it is for the internal conversation to inform and align with the external conversation, and vice versa.
14. Not to mention it makes misalignment, if it happens, a lot easier to repair.
15. Of course this begs the question, why have a membrane "x" at all? Why bother with such a hierarchy? But that's another story.
[AFTERTHOUGHT:] And yes, this works with internal blogs as well, poking holes in the membranes that separate people within a corporate culture; aligning "the conversation" internally etc. The other advantage of internal blogging is that it organises conversation into a long-term manageable form. Two people sharing ideas via blogs is a lot more permanent, viral and useful for the company than two people sharing the same information over by the water cooler.
[AFTERTHOUGHT:] Poking holes in membranes subverts hierarchies. Avast, ye scurvies etc.
Many thanks Hugh for a fabulous combination of humour, art and business fundamentals.

1 comment:

Ann Hosford said...

I like it. I've never met a marketer yet who said they didn't want to get closer to their customers in some way - the blogosphere looks a pretty good way of doing that to me. But a question for all you B2B marketers out there, how do you work out which of your corporate customers can/will/do blog? Is blogging still a social/consumer/informal networks thing or is it really starting to play some role in business decision making too?