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What Do Sarah Palin, Seth Godin, and Monopolies Like Microsoft or Google Have in Common?

Posted by Bob Warfield on July 6, 2009

Strange bedfellows:  Sarah Palin, Seth Godin, and Monopolies ala Microsoft or Google.  What do they have in common?

Seth Godin obliquely explains what is happening to Sarah Palin and the Monopolies very eloquently in his latest blog post, “The confusion.”  In that article, Godin says:

We frequently confuse internal biochemistry (caused by habits and genetics) with external events. If we didn’t, marketing wouldn’t work nearly as well.

He goes on to suggest successful marketing goes out of its way to leverage this internal biochemistry (presumably “Brain Chemistry”):

Marketers spend billions of dollars identifying common biochemical events, and then they launch products and services with stories that align with those events. As a result, we spend money on external forces in an attempt to heal internal pain. Marketers want the equation to be, “if you buy this, everything will be all right.”

But it isn’t just marketers that should recognize behavior is governed as much by ancient hard wiring of our minds as rational thinking.  It touches us in many ways.  Which brings me to the link with Sarah Palin, Microsoft, Google, and other Monopolists.

I read Dana Oshiro’s post about how Palin resigned due to hounding by journalists shortly after reading Godin’s post and the pieces clicked into place.

People who are successful get held to an increasingly high standard of behavior.  The bar raises in direct proportion to their success.  If they are successful enough, that bar culminates in it being impossible for them to measure up.  The bar goes up even faster if the success is sudden, or seems unfair to be unfair.  Sarah Palin rocketed out of nowhere when she was selected to be John McCain’s running mate.  That move was widely seen as a stunt, with McCain having selected her because his ticket needed someone who was a “first”.  In this case, Palin was making a run at being the first female Vice President of the United States.  Monopolies are certainly seen as being unfair.  So much so that our government is charged with breaking them up.

What sort of hard wired behavior accounts for a rising bias against success? 

It’s pretty easy to understand when you think about it in terms of evolutionary forces.  We love to characterize evolution as “Survival of the Fittest”, but that is an oversimplification.  It is a proxy to success, but it is not the actual definition of the success.  More precisely, evolution is a competitive arena.  Yes, there is some notion of “fitness”, but it largely equates to survival and the ability to procreate. 

Now think about it from the standpoint of a critter participating in the competition.  You want it to be a fair fight.  If someone (or something) is unfairly taking over the competition, you will want to band together the weaker groups and slow their ascent.  You attack them if you can, any way you can, because if they get too successful, it becomes impossible to stop them.  Even in the blogosphere, there have been examples of individuals who got too successful, saw the World turn against them, and they had to fall back and contemplate what was happening.

The very successful are often extremely surprised to see the mob turn against them.  They don’t understand where the heat is coming from.  In their minds, they’re doing nothing different than what they’ve always done, and they are recieving their just rewards for having done so.  Suddenly, the World wants to punish them for being good.  Unfortunately, the Internet and the rest of Modern Media have reduced the friction so much that this flip from the positive to the negative (for all of these entities started with a lot of positives or they would never have gotten far enough to be seen as threats) can happen very suddenly and it can be very intense.

Of course the Marketers are not divorced from this.  They can sell on the negativity.  That’s what sells a lot of media, for example.  So they’re going to feed it as well.

This is real Public Relations.  Successful companies and individuals have to come to grips with what they’re going to do about the phenomenon when negativity strikes.  Sarah Palin quit.  IBM changed how they did business to continue after their consent decree.  One wonders if there aren’t tactics that should have been invoked during the meteoric rise to allow the organization to get further before the antibodies were triggered?

2 Responses to “What Do Sarah Palin, Seth Godin, and Monopolies Like Microsoft or Google Have in Common?”

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