Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Secrets Revealed

Watch the video at the top of this post carefully. Can you work how it’s done? I can’t, and apart from some not very helpful suggestions about very small people, I haven’t seen any credible explanations either. I’m happy about that. We all know the disappointment when a trick that captivated us is explained. It’s deflating and often rather embarrassing – how could we not have noticed the huge orange under that small bowl? We like to be fooled because it puts us in an intriguing space where we are entertained and puzzled at the same time.

Secrets Not Revealed: How Magicians Protect Intellectual Property Without Law is an academic paper from Yale Law School, and as I’ve always been a sucker for a good magic act (and even for the smarty pants undercutting of the profession by Penn and Teller) I couldn’t resist a quick scan. While the magic angle pulled me in, I kept on reading because of the connections between how magicians feel about their intellectual property, how they protect it, and Lovemarks.

Jacob Loshin starts with a good question. If magicians have few legal rights to their intellectual property (and they don’t), why does innovation in magic still thrive (and it does)? Theoretically this shouldn’t work at all. If you don’t have legal protection, you don’t have any incentive to come up with new stuff because everyone will simply rip you off. So why doesn’t this theory work in practice with magic? Loshin gives a few reasons but two excited me most.

  • First, magicians have created a very strong community with its own rules, protocols and punishments. They seem to have an unwritten agreement about which tricks can be shared and which should remain secret. They have a self-governing system in which they are all the boss.

  • Second, all great magicians know that how the trick technically works is only half the story. The other half is how the trick is presented. The first part can be pulled apart and analyzed; the second part cannot because it demands personality, artistry and inspiration.
From the very beginning I knew that Lovemarks should never be tied down by legalities or proprietorial regulation. Lovemarks have to have their own magic. My position was always that if we were convinced that people own their Lovemarks, that principle had to guide the evolution of the idea of Lovemark itself. Like the mysteries of magic, Lovemarks have to be self-governing or their communities and their irresistible qualities, like personality and inspiration, will die.


David MacGregor said...

Isn't that incredible!?

…how does David Hasselhoff stay so young.

You point about Intellectual Property is a very good one. I struggle with the paradox that, for ideas to spread and grow they must be freely shared; but for creative people to fairly profit from their ideas we must have some form of protection.

Perhaps the continuous improvement is the best defense?

I read a story by Tom Peters once (was it in Liberation Management?: A printing company had developed software that enabled their giant Heidelberg presses to run more efficiently. They led the market in innovation. But they did a curious thing - they sold the software to to their competitors. Seems silly, right? Wrong - the sale of the IP meant our hero printing firm could invest in more innovation which increased their profits even more and kept them ahead of the competition - who were always at least one generation of the software behind.

Thinking about the term Intellectual Property is interesting in the context of Lovemarks - should there be, by extension, Emotional Property?

Susan Plunkett said...

Did you also know that clown faces are registered and at least one registry paints the faces on eggs (goose I think)?

I'm not quite sure of the parallel you are drawing between magician culture and Lovemarks. Lovemarks has both self regulating and then interventionist strategy and the definition of what constitutes a Lovemark originally came from out of the Lovemark nominators as such. It may have been birthed by the father of Lovemarks but the people like me who came after and nominated didn't select the criteria or definition statement.

Certainly I have wrestled the edges of that definition and have had no luck given my comments don't lend to brands as such: which may be a comment of course that Lovemarks is more attentive to brands than posed in some accompanying text material.

Self-governing? How is the Lovemarks community self governing Kevin? Isn't it only governing while people attend and adhere to the way in which Lovemarks have been tailored and regulated?

My comments should not be taken to be inherently negative by the way; they are observations on claims and I do realise practicalities equate a certain structure.

If I was part of a self governing Lovemarks community I would know how to express my desire to see Lovemarks propel forward to said community. As it is, I can express it either solo somewhere online or to the Lovemarks management. Again, one understands management function and practicality, however, let's not suggest the system is otherwise.

And yes, I think many of the Lovemarks are magic and beautifully and sincerely written. But notice what tends to happen to them (or tends not to happen) when they're picked up and quoted/used?

Piotr Jakubowski said...

I do see the idea of how the mystery of magic ties into the Lovemarks concept. Like a big surprise, the act of magic is worthless when it is known. Definitely proves how quickly people believe what they see. "What the eyes see and the ears hear, the mind believes".

Susan, from what I have garnered from the idea of Lovemarks I would have to agree that they are self governing. I have grown to understand that Lovemarks are personal, ethereal relationships with brands or objects, and are under the control of people rather than those who own those brands/objects. The only thing the owners can do to try and create Lovemarks is to develop an experience that will entice people to ask for more. The rest is in the power of each single individual in the market (not the collective power).

Whether they are quoted or not, I think the concept lies between the personal relationship between user and Lovemark. Personally, if I was to express my Lovemark to the world, I really wouldn't care if anybody listened because at the end of the day it's just me and my Tropicana "Lots of Pulp" orange juice that I will not, under any circumstances, substitute.

On another note, one of my favorite, relatively unexplained magic tricks:

Kempton said...

Kevin, Thanks for an interesting post. Two random brief comments.

- To me, "The Sixth Sense" remains a great example/mystery of a secret plot point that was so well kept by the general public in order for the film to achieve a final box office of $293+ million! If 1% of the public told their friends the secret, I doubt the box office will be as high.

- IMHO, Apple, as a Lovemark, is seriously hurting itself at the moment by bricking the unlocked iPhones with its new software "update".

P.S. re: the magic act, I see "small people/remote control device". Ha ha.

Susan Plunkett said...


Allow me to clarify my position. Self governing is usually about organisational and process power in the broadest sense. Within the Lovemarks structure as such, nominators have restricted power given the way I am defining the same. Within an imposed structure there is power, and power of personal choice but not power in terms of being able to overtly influence the way Lovemarks are dealt with, categorised and so on.

Just because a Lovemark is a sign or material symbol of an emotional connectivity and is thus obviously personal, does not mean 'control' is more than it is in the context. I find turning this control into 'boss' the problem step. Being 'boss' to me implies a different interaction than just working to have a 'love' published on a site.

And I would have thought Piotr that if Lovemarks are indeed a quintessential heart truth about people/product then manufacturers and others would actively seek to 'get' the broad truths about how and why Lovemarks are generated. Is is the magic and mystery of Apple; is it the after sales service of G corp, is it creating communities..?

I know if I made goods I would want to consider what I would need to create and inspire in my clients to motivate them to Lovemark my product.

I know it is individual but I do transfer to the collective.

Kevin Roberts said...

David – Interesting comments, truly creative people and companies will always be valued for their ideas no matter what ‘protection’ is legislated. Ideas only get to be ‘new’ once. And, Hasselhoff’s anti aging secrets – I’m told that he bathes in milk everyday and only drinks pure water from a Himalayan spring.

Kevin Roberts said...

Susan – There are no definitive laws / rules / regulation to say what a Lovemark is. Anyone can have a Lovemark, anyone can nominate one on lovemarks.com and anyone can see that you have nominated it. Lovemarks are only Lovemarks to the people who say they are.

Susan Plunkett said...

Kevin. I appreciate the response however I am led (moved?) to challenge your assertion here.

I believe there is a line between your philosophy, a broad philosophy, and how Lovemarks are created/addressed within the frame of the site.

The broad philosophy is "Lovemarks are only Lovemarks..". That's a world view I can't disagree with as such however my practical experience is that there are restrictions on what you can Lovemark - on the site - and I am not talking issues of say video copyright. Are you interested in further specifics? I admit, I could be in error Kevin. Perhaps there is something I simply do not know and or is not being conveyed to me and between both a misconception has arisen.

Kevin Roberts said...

Susan – Interesting, I don’t know the details, but it’s possible that you have been trying to nominate something that is a little outside the norm. My thought for this would be that you think of your nomination in terms of a brand that is being used to sell stuff. The editors at lovemarks.com will publish nominations to illustrate The Future Beyond Brands.

Susan Plunkett said...

Thanks for coming back to the topic. Yes, that's exactly right, the nominations are geared to brands/recognisable icons and similar. I understand the need for that although I could debate it. However that would be too long a discourse for this blog :) I've nominated a few things by the way but that doesn't mean I don't reach up and around and look for flexible conceptual design. :)