Tuesday, 12 June 2007


Dear Eightfold

I hope you dont mind me including your picture. I feel it is helpful somehow to see you and have the feeling for talking to a person, rather than typing into the void.

Mind you I wrote most of this letter to you last week on my phone but it got stored until a new story reminded me of it today. It happened when I was speaking to a book marketing forum this afternoon. I was chatting after to someone who is an editor at a publishing firm, she'd just picked up an award for the marketing of a new work of fiction. 'On paper' you'd think there was likely no connection between us other than a chance meeting at an event. She asked me if I knew a company called More. She had texted her friend there during the talk, to see if he knew me. And yes i do... they were actually the company I'd just come from this afternoon. She knows them rather well too because the company was founded in her living room and the founder was her ex. At the time they'd been going out, he and I had been trying to launch a new kind of eco label which i told you about. So she could place me, we just hadnt met back then. This conversation ended with us concluding that it's a small world. But actually isnt it just? Hence the theme of my first letter: correspondence.

It was such a pleasure to meet you on your trip to London. I am very excited about our planned series of letters to each other's blogs. It is a return to the ways ideas used to be shared. Perhaps it is the slow food equivalent in communication. A letter each a month, it gives us time to savour. Beware though I did the main stint of writing for the book in a month. I'll try to keep it to a few pages if I can! My sense from our meetings is we would never have enough time in real life to finish a conversation anyway.

A letter is so personal, and perhaps even 'repersonalising' in the way we tallked about last week. (You remember this is my theory of brands. Brand image was born in the era of depersonalisation; anonymous goods given fake personalities like 'Mr Kipling'. Now we are repersonalising; anything from an ebay seller to a named farmer on a food item, to advocacy as the new advertising. As Negroponte cleverly spotted very early on 'in the digital universe I am not a statistical subset, I am me' ie the death of the notion of a target audience. Anyway....) A letter is TO someone, whereas a blog feels more like a cross between talking to yourself and writing for a magazine? Maybe I will try writing blog posts from now on like letters. "Dear Susan..." (in the vague hope there might be a Susan reading).

"A change in consciousness" is the idea I picked up from you. It seems like a tent pole in your current thinking on sustainability. I have the idea of it as what someone called a metaphysical virus (a catching meta idea) but I think you maybe mean more than that. I would love to understand this further. Is that why you call it the Eightfold (its funny that when I type that on my BlackBerry it keeps coming out as Rightfold)? And will the new consciousness be like Buddhism, or will it just be an historic shift analogous to Buddhism in its own time. Buddhism seems very concerned with right living, so maybe it is a good match. But I also wonder if you mean consciousness in that religious a sense? You also talked about the new economy in this connection. Is this consciousness about spiritual awareness or the physical plane.: do you mean growth and individuation, or a rupture and break with the past? Or all of the above. Pray enlighten me :)

A thought to add to yours, I am facinated by the synchronicities that seem to cluster around this field. It's a small world. I met someone who does the Green Awards and we mentioned someone we both knew in this space. We were walking out when we bumped into that very person on the street. Last week I mentioned someone to a startup I am helping that they should talk to about funding. One of the people I was meeting took a phone call, from someone who had phoned to introduce them to the exact same investor. We keep saying its a small world, but this is taking it a bit far? Strange portents, but maybe good ones?

I met someone recently, also from NYC, who three separate people introduce me to in a week. One of these was a friend who had moved to NYC who by chance (she is nothing to do with sustainability or marketing) had dinner at this person's house. You remember the old joke about 'oh you are from New York do you know my friend X they moved there last month'. Well now it actually works like that. What are the chances???

I have two theories about this. The rational, sceptical side of me says it is a side effect of network technology, the density of our networks compels us to meet in ways that seem like coincidences. My spookier side says it is the universe conspiring to help things along and the propensity for this increases in proportion to how much we invest in this new cause (or any such holistic quest). Or it's Gaia. Or the psychoid (ie semi physical) layer of the collective unconscious as Jung described it. It would be funny if after all the debunking of analytical psychology by newer trendier schools of psychology, the old magus turned out to be right about all this.

Or 'something'. I'm not looking for an answer i am acknowledging that this asks questions. Questions about our rationalist Western 'realism' - which after all is associated with a very unrealistic state of affairs, a fiddling while Rome and everywhere else burns.

Now the book is done my own thinking at the moment has turned from theory to practise. How to get some of my many pet projects off the ground? I am still working as a consultant, but am challenging that model - for instance I am increasingly taking 'readymade' ideas to companies rather than waiting for their brief. I am also working my way around the thousands of strategists in London one agency and forum talk at a time (5 just this week).

If you caught the Adage green conference thing in NYC do send/post a few bulletins when you get the chance.

That feels like a letter length tract. I look forward to your reply which I will also post on my blog.

Hope you are doing good

Ps the final final manuscript is attached


Charles Frith said...

Yes this is good. Leaps off the page like printed literature is unable to. If that isn't heresy!

Tamara said...

Brilliant letter.

Anonymous said...

Dear Greenormal,

I love the art of letter-writing en blog, including the use of (great) photo to personalise.

You said "brand image was born in the era of depersonalisation" and in conversation with Mark (Herd) and Johnnie (Moore) we hit on the same idea.

For 'brand differentiation', read 'person isolation'? Could successful new brands be based on a new collective ideal, rather than the old divide and rule model?

Looking forward to the Eightfold reply.

Incidentally, they say it take a long time to write a short letter.

Not necessarily!


Freya said...

Hi John,
I was at the AdAge conf. I enjoyed it, especially Josh Goldstein (who in my opinion is climate change's secret weapon; I wrote about him on LGD. Dreamy...)
In all seriousnesss, though, he did a good job of elevating the discussion again so that those of us who have become jaded of late by being required to create powerpoint decks answering questions like 'yes, but what's the business case for green?' (grrrr) remembered why we got into this in the first place and found a renewed enthusiasm. Or maybe that was just me.
It was also good to hear from some marketers doing good work.
But it did feel a bit like green marketing for dummies - which has its place and may have been the right thing but was slightly frustrating if you've been thinking about this stuff for a while.
Basically left equal parts glad we're now at least here and gutted we're not farther along.
By the way, I keep having those small world things all the time. On the panel (for which thanks again) I was joined by someone who grew up three doors away from me in Bromley. This was in NYC.
Cheers, F.