HERD to, v. tr. & intr.

Posted by on Oct 2, 2007 in Uncategorized | One Comment


Fascinating evening, courtesy of the Account Planning Group with the great and the good of the London Account Planning world to celebrate the launch of a compendium of the papers of one of the founders of our discipline, Stephen King. Judie Lannon and Merry Baskin seem to have a done a fantastic job in persuading the Herd to participate in the production and distribution of the book (through my publisher, Wiley’s). Having seen a few chapters in MS form and also having read (not nearly enough of) a number of the original papers, I know this is going to be a fundamental textbook for our discipline and marketing generally. Go buy one!

Many of the speaker/contributors referred to SK’s “prescience”: his writings seem (with a few nouns and adjectives upgraded) to be even more relevant today than they were when they were written. Paul Feldwick’s chapter on pretesting seems a great example: SK seemed convinced that clunky ad testing was on its way out, whereas the truth is that it’s even more prevalent today than ever before. Rory‘s piece on Science likewise and Neil Cassie‘s piece on the future of planning in organisational behaviour likewise (“I wish I’d read this before starting my own business”).

All of which stimulated the inevitable discussion of the future of our business and our discipline and here the Herd was clearly divided in two. On the one hand were those who would like to substite today’s “brand communcations activity” for SK’s “advertising” and carry as before and then there are those – like me – who think the future is going to be fundamentally different. A lot of folk in the room have chosen not to work in agencies any more – admittedly partly for lifestage/lifestyle reasons.

My own take is this: the future of our marketing communications discipline (and therefore planning) is verbs, not nouns or adjectives

Why verbs? Simply because the future of any discipline trying to bring about change in mass behaviour is increasingly concerned working out what behaviours you want to shape and how to behave to generate those and not what to say to folk or what “image” (Ugh) to portray. Communication in the old sense is of ever shrinking importance.

Give people an interesting message and they might talk about it for a day or so; give them an interesting image and this might fire their imaginations for a while but give them something to do together (in the HERD?) and behaviour changes and these behaviours can, if you’re lucky, sweep across populations. This is what Hugh means by his obsession with Social Objects.

So this, my friends, is where it gets really interesting because it should change what we do on a day to day basis also. Verbs being doing words require a different kind of thinking from adjectives or nouns – much more action-orientated and much more fun.

We’re only just starting so things are a little rough and ready as yet. But as Brecht put it, “Because things are the way they are, things cannot stay the way they are”. Let’s do it.

1 Comment

  1. Carman Pirie
    October 2, 2007

    Hi Mark… this post reminded me of a few a while back from Seth Godin… emphasizing verbs or, perhaps more specifically, gerunds.
    More here: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2005/04/nouns_and_verbs.html
    and here: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2005/10/tires_are_a_com.html