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Chapter 1 | Exponential Brands Guidebook

From Push to Pull

Exponential brands pull people into orbit around a shared purpose, prioritizing relationships over transactions.

Where traditional companies push out messages and products, today’s most successful brands pull customers in.

Going beyond social media campaigns and hopes that ads will "go viral", exponential brands weave together the social exchanges and inherent value that already exist for their customers, generating brand gravity and giving people a reason to stay in the loop.

The network effects that make viral content marketing so attractive to companies can be achieved in a more sustainable and authentic way by tending your brand orbit, making spaces and touchpoints that people not only want to spend time in, but will share with their friends. And the exponential growth a strong and reciprocal brand community can generate isn't just the result of customers inviting their friends. A network—or in this case a community—increases in value for everyone with each new member and interaction.

Social exchanges, influence and brand orbit are exponential strategies to drive growth—since they have the potential to bring exponential results that advertising budgets literally cannot buy.

From monologue to conversation

In yesterday’s one-to-many world, companies did all the talking.

Before the Internet, all media—books, radio, television, film, magazines, and newspapers—were based on a 'one-to-many' communication model.

Messages were designed for wide audiences and went in one direction only: out.

The publishers and reporters didn’t know when or if you were reading the morning newspaper. When you talked back at the TV news, the broadcaster couldn’t hear you.

In the one-to-many model, everyone is viewed as a potential consumer—of information, entertainment, products, and services.

When the Internet came along, everyone got the ability to broadcast. Brands discovered that their 'audiences' were no longer only on the receiving end of information and content. Suddenly, anyone could comment on a news story—or publish their own—in public or widely-accessible channels.

Social media changed the game again. One-to-many became many-to-many.

Now, people can talk to each other in the same channels that brands are using to push their messages. Audiences have become communities, and the Internet is full of people making connections and exchanging value with each other.

Mass communication has become mass collaboration. Consumers have become co-creators.

A new mindset for marketing is needed

It's hard to differentiate when everyone is shouting.

Digital communication has brought about the proliferation of channels, the fragmentation of audiences, and the rising importance of influencers, peer reviews, and word of mouth.

We've also seen the devaluation of brands and increased commodification of products through online platforms like Amazon, where people will choose a brand they’ve never heard of with 1,000 five-star reviews over a known brand with none.

All of this makes it harder and harder for brands with a traditional marketing mindset to cut through the noise of the marketplace. The result? Declining loyalty and a lack of differentiation.

From purchase to purpose

Today’s most successful brands differentiate through connection with a larger purpose.

“Boxed Water is Better” focuses on reducing the environmental impact of packaged water.

Efforts to improve customer experience don't necessarily generate the kind of loyalty and differentiation companies are looking for anymore. That's because they’re still focused on transactions rather than relationships.

Widely used models for customer journeys and sales are all about leading up to and repeating the moment of purchase. But to the customer, buying something is not the focus of the experience. At the very least, a purchase is just a step towards the customer's end goal of using the product or service.

The reality is that relationships between people and brands take place in a much larger social and relational context than many companies realize. Given comparable options, customers will choose a brand they feel a connection with. Often this connection is related to a sense of Shared Purpose or values.



In the evolution of its brand message, beauty and personal care retailer Sephora shows a progression in thinking from transaction to relationship, and from purchase to purpose.

In its early years, Sephora positioned itself as “The Beauty Authority,” focusing on its expertise in helping customers purchase and use beauty products.

This message evolved into "Transforming Beauty” and “Beauty Together,” which brought Sephora and its customers together in a conversation about beauty itself.  This also connected Sephora to a larger social movement to question and re-invent beauty standards to be more inclusive and accessible to everyone.

Most recently, Sephora's message is “Be Fearless,” which expands the Shared Purpose beyond beauty to invoke a courageous way of being in the world.


Cherokee Uniforms

Nursing scrubs are the kind of product you might think would be difficult to differentiate. But Cherokee Uniforms shows how to build differentiation by focusing on purpose beyond their products.

Cherokee Uniforms celebrates the tremendous contributions healthcare workers make to society, saying its goal is to be their champion.

It funds scholarships for nurses, recognizes exceptional nurses and funded a documentary aimed at reducing burnout among nurses.

Cherokee creates a strong relationship with its customers around the Shared Purpose of appreciating and supporting nurses' success and wellbeing.



Medical uniforms—or “scrubs”—are the kind of product you might think would be difficult to differentiate. But Figs shows how to build differentiation by focusing on purpose beyond their products.

The company’s purpose FOR is to “celebrate, empower & serve those who serve others.” They put this commitment into action with an impressive portfolio of contributions to healthcare workers, including a Threads for Threads program that donates scrubs to resource-poor communities.

But where Figs goes beyond their product is when they work towards a Shared Purpose, a purpose WITH their customers to care for the Earth and the humans who live here. The environmental expression of this shows in the brand’s commitment to an ethical supply chain and ecologically responsible textiles. Figs’ effort towards Shared Purpose also includes “missions” where the brand teams up with healthcare workers—whom Figs calls “Awesome Humans”—to provide not only uniforms but also free healthcare services to communities in need. These active contributions to their customers and the things they care about set Figs apart as much if not more than the quality of their products. And Figs benefits from the resulting brand gravity and gratitude that bring in the revenue needed for the company to not only thrive but continue to partner generously with their customers to make the world a healthier place.

Working With Robots in a Post-Pandemic World
Working With Robots in a Post-Pandemic World Plug-and-play automation systems can be rapidly set up to meet sudden surges in demand — and quickly reconfigured when needs change.
Garrett Pepper

This article explores the potential impact machine coworkers like robots, low-code tools and plug-and-play automation systems are just beginning to have on jobs.

The EU wants to put companies on the hook for harmful AI | MIT Technology Review
MIT Technology Review
Garrett Pepper

The EU is participating in an international data ethics process as it proposes new bills that would "allow consumers to sue companies for damages—if they can prove that a company’s AI harmed them." This could cause a stifling impact on innovation—but it also could be a major tool to prevent algorithmic bias and other downsides of poor AI.

GPT-3’s bigotry is exactly why devs shouldn’t use the internet to train AI
TNW (The Next Web),TNW Neural
MJ Petroni
CEO and Cyborg Anthropologist

The text-processing engine GPT-3 (by OpenAI) learned the worst biases of humans amplified by the internet. See how quickly things went wrong to see the importance of future AIs growing up right.

How To Measure Network Effects | Future
Network effects are one of the most important dynamics in software and marketplace businesses. But they’re often spoken of in a binary way: either you have them, or you don’t. In practice, most companies’ network effects are much more complex, falling along a spectrum of different types and strengths.
Future by a16z
MJ Petroni
CEO and Cyborg Anthropologist

Network effects—network size, quality and growth rate—are critical to track for exponential projects and predict future paradigm changes. How do companies actually do it? VC firm Andreessen Horowitz explains.

Can You Upload Your Mind & Live Forever? - YouTube
The desire to be free from the limits of the human experience is as old as our first stories. We exist in an endless universe, only bound by the laws of physics and yet, our consciousness is trapped in mortal machines made of meat. With the breathtaking explosion of innovation and progress, for the first time the concept of leaving our flesh piles behind and uploading our minds into a digital utopia seems possible. Even like the logical next step on our evolutionary ladder.
Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell
Garrett Pepper

Uploading one's mind to a computer, also known as whole brain emulation or brain uploading, is a theoretical concept in transhumanism and futurism that proposes to transfer the entirety of a person's consciousness, memories, and personality into a digital substrate, such as a computer or a robotic body. What could go right? What could go wrong? Kurzgesagt's thinkers and animators help us conceive of what some see as nirvana and others see as insanity.

Amber Case: We are all cyborgs now - YouTube Technology is evolving us, says Amber Case, as we become a screen-staring, button-clicking new version of homo sapiens. We now rely on "external brains" (cell phones and computers) to communicate, remember, even live out secondary lives. But will these machines ultimately connect or conquer us? Case offers surprising insight into our cyborg selves. TEDTalks is a daily video podcast of the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world's leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes. Featured speakers have included Al Gore on climate change, Philippe Starck on design, Jill Bolte Taylor on observing her own stroke, Nicholas Negroponte on One Laptop per Child, Jane Goodall on chimpanzees, Bill Gates on malaria and mosquitoes, Pattie Maes on the "Sixth Sense" wearable tech, and "Lost" producer JJ Abrams on the allure of mystery. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design, and TEDTalks cover these topics as well as science, business, development and the arts. Closed captions and translated subtitles in a variety of languages are now available on, at
Garrett Pepper

In their prescient TED talk "We Are All Cyborgs Now," Amber Case, a cyborg anthropologist, argues that integration of technology into our daily lives has made us all cyborgs. She defines a cyborg as an organic being that uses technology to extend its physical and mental capabilities, and believes that our smartphones, computers, and other devices have become integral parts of our identity.

Do Robots Deserve Rights? What if Machines Become Conscious? - YouTube
Garrett Pepper

As AI becomes integrated into society, there is growing concern about how these technologies may affect individual and human privacy, human rights, and societal values. But what about the rights of the machines? This rich visual journey explores various facets of the idea.

The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer (Bantam Spectra Book)
Garrett Pepper

Nanotechnology is often heralded as the answer to scarcity. Nanotech could mean abundant food, shelter, water, and the like. Diamond Age explores how old mental models of hierarchy and scarcity could still shape a world of abundant resources like AI and nanotech—and how tech could be appropriated by the poor to turn the tables.

A.I Artificial Intelligence
Garrett Pepper

In A.I., we see what might happen if humanoid robots (androids) were to encounter a lost child in need of help. What would their initial programming guide them to do—and how might they evolve in response to the very human experiences they are all having?

Garrett Pepper

What if your Siri, Google Assistant, or Alexa became sentient—and became your friend? What if you fell in love with them—and they with you? If they had the ability to become exponentially intelligent, and you didn't, what might happen? This film explores what happens when an everyday person and an AI develop feelings for each other.

I, Robot
MJ Petroni
CEO and Cyborg Anthropologist

I, Robot, loosely based on a classic Isaac Asimov sci-fi short story, asks the question of how we would investigate crimes committed by machines.Asimov's original story forwarded the idea of the 'three laws of robotics:'"First Law: A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.Second Law: A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.Third Law: A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law."What problems do you see with those laws? How could harm 'sneak through the cracks?'

A Cyborg Manifesto - Summary/Discussion on Wikipedia
MJ Petroni
CEO and Cyborg Anthropologist

Are you a nerd for cyborg anthropology? Read a discussion of the main points of Donna Haraway's classic 'Cyborg Manifesto!' (Might be a little densely academic).

The generative AI revolution has begun—how did we get here?
We’re in another cycle, this time with generative AI. Media headlines are dominated by news about AI art, but there’s also unprecedented progress in many widely disparate fields. Everything from videos to biology, programming, writing, translation, and more is seeing AI progress at the same incredible pace. Why is all this happening now?
Ars Technica
MJ Petroni
CEO and Cyborg Anthropologist

Many of us are digitally fluent in the basic types of AI in today's headlines about ChatGPT and DALL-E, but want to know "why now?" This piece by Haomiao Huang dives into the… not-too-deep end? of why these 'generative' AI models have reached an inflection point. Unpacking the recent history and major network effects of the underlying models, datasets, and computing power, it's a great read on the trends in the field and why certain breakthroughs all seem to be happening at once.

A Cyborg Manifesto
University of Warwick
Garrett Pepper

What if you were already a cyborg - a combination of human and machine? The Cyborg Manifesto explores the interlocking relationships between technology, power, and culture and is considered a fundamental text in futurist literature. (Note: dense academic text).

Technology that lets us speak to our dead relatives has arrived. Are we ready? | MIT Technology Review
Technology that lets us “speak” to our dead relatives has arrived. Are we ready? Digital clones of the people we love could forever change how we grieve. By Charlotte Jeearchive page
Garrett Pepper

What would it mean if we could project a simulacrum of our dead loved ones? A new tech field is emerging, with major implications for how we process grief, retain generational knowledge, and ethically navigate our concept of those who have passed.

When Futurism Led to Fascism—and Why It Could Happen Again
The Italian Futurists praised invention, modernity, speed, and disruption. Sound familiar?
Garrett Pepper

Technology shapes, and is shaped by us. Developing ethical frameworks for the use and development of technologies is critical in establishing futures that are equitable, and kind, and thwart fascism.

What obligation do social media platforms have to the greater good? | Eli Pariser - YouTube
Social media has become our new home. Can we build it better? Taking design cues from urban planners and social scientists, technologist Eli Pariser shows how the problems we're encountering on digital platforms aren't all that new -- and shares how, by following the model of thriving towns and cities, we can create trustworthy online communities.
MJ Petroni
CEO and Cyborg Anthropologist

Eli Pariser, author of Filter Bubble, talks about the importance of being mindful of the incentives of commercial algorithms, which are biased towards attracting users to spend more and more time on platforms—but are not necessarily designed to have a balanced variety of viewpoints.

Imagine the world as a street ordered by income. Everyone lives somewhere on the street. The poorest lives to the left and the richest to the right. Everybody else live somewhere in between.
Dollarstreet (Gapminder project)
MJ Petroni
CEO and Cyborg Anthropologist

Dollarstreet is a project of the myth-busting data site Gapminder. The site makes wealth disparity clearer by posing a set of uniform questions (and photo prompts) for households around the world, rich and poor. Explore the site to unlearn some of your assumptions about what poverty (and wealth) look like in different contexts.

The Rise of the Machines – Why Automation is Different this Time - YouTube
Automation in the Information Age is different.
MJ Petroni
CEO and Cyborg Anthropologist

Are machines coming for you and your jobs? Distinguish between automation of the industrial era and now to better understand our trajectory and the future of human (and machine) work.

Apple Reinvents the Phone
MJ Petroni
CEO and Cyborg Anthropologist

Apple (and its visionary Steve Jobs) used very intentional language to introduce their revolutionary new iPhone in 2007—bridging familiar and unfamiliar concepts by using a kind of 'horseless carriage' concept that led to powerful unlearnings about the limits of mobile tech.

Making API Decisions: Are You Connecting Business and Technical Interests? | ProgrammableWeb
Making API Decisions: Are You Connecting Business and Technical Interests? API UNIVERSITY Analysis, API Strategy, API Education Sep 27, 2017By Mark Boyd, ProgrammableWeb Staff Welcome to the series on Maximizing the ROI on Your API. When a business or enterprise commences its API journey, it has a number of key decisions that need to be made. Not surprisingly, at each decision point, multiple options Branch out and those employees new to API strategy and design can become confused and cautious quickly. How do you make the decisions to embark on a successful API journey? Increasingly, businesses of all sizes are recognizing the API opportunity. The need to move quickly and create new products, to connect disparate data and service systems, to capitalize dormant assets and datasets, and to strengthen (and extend) customer relationships makes APIs the go-to solution for businesses, enterprise, governments, not-for-profits, and startups on a growth trajectory. However, APIs are more than a technical solution; they're borne out of a business need, and as an API strategy is implemented, it needs to align with a company's overall business plan and be leveraged by individual business units, partners, suppliers, and customers. Externally, a growing demand for Integration and faster digital product development means your API strategy must build on this drive. Internally, employees may be resistant to change, they may be confused about the project's purpose, or they may simply dismiss APIs as a technical solution that the dev team should use. While at some point, decisions around an API strategy do become technical concerns, the process starts with business leadership, enters a collaborative stage, moves to technical departments for the completion of foundational systems, and then returns to being a business concern focused on how best to leverage the API strategy. How APIs move through waves of predominantly business to technical discussions and back again, and some of the decisions a company needs to make along the way, does reflect a typical development process: The API Decision Series Flowchart The Modular Enterprise To compete in today's digital, agile marketplace, businesses need to reimagine themselves as a series of re-organizable modular pieces that are connectable in ways that can respond in real time, allow for the movement of data and services along a workflow (and often automate it), and create reusable internal assets in new product and service design. Once that's done, businesses can consider a Platform and ecosystem model that assists consumers and partners in creating their own value as business partners. James Higginbotham James Higginbotham, author of A Practical Approach to API Design and founder of API consultancy LaunchAny, says that becoming API-centric is the first step towards reorienting a business as a modular enterprise. An API strategy is not just about building an API and publishing it, according to Higginbotham. "As technical managers and product managers, it's great to focus on the technology but don't forget the people behind the technology," Higginbotham told an audience of API business and tech leads at the 2016 API Strategy and Practice Conference in November 2016. "Look at the business and technical capabilities and map them into API capabilities. You then turn them into API products and release them to customer segments." Once that's done, he says, an organization can take further steps to decompose those capabilities into microservices. Throughout the API strategy development journey, businesses should need to organize their teams as product teams that create value. "When you think about project-based approaches, you think about one-off, fixed-end-date, date-driven development," cautions Higginbotham. Instead, he says, API strategy teams should include technical and product leads as well as technical writers, QA, scrum masters and others. "When you think about product-based approaches, you think repeatable and reusable systems with a results focus, and you can introduce metrics and evangelize what has been done," says Higginbotham. Higginbotham advocates a lean startup mindset, regardless of the organization's size, which means building an API strategy with a minimum viable product (MVP) trajectory. For example, when Walgreens started its API strategy the company chose to create the QuickPrints APITrack this API for its photo printing service first, because this area needed a new business model to reach customers' digital needs. Once they proved success with that API product line, they could build organizational support for more sensitive areas such as the Walgreens Pharmacy Prescription Refill APITrack this API. But Higginbotham makes clear that an MVP still speaks to all necessary components, meaning it must be based on a functional, reliable, usable, and emotional design. To illustrate, he references the work of Melbourne-based design and innovation expert, Jussi Pasanen: From "APIStrat 2016: Moving Toward a Modular Enterprise," a presentation made by James Higginbotham (Slide #25). Key to this mindset is starting with a clear understanding of your customers, in this case, the API consumers: developers who will be using your APIs. The first decision in an API strategy is to identify the various developer customer segments that will make use of your API. Create customer journey maps for how they'll find your API, test it, integrate with it, and build new products, services, and workflows using your APIs. Eventually, you'll want to add more developer segments, and you may be surprised to discover new customer segments are using your API that you hadn't thought to approach. But having a shortlist of who you expect to use your API and how they will use it is an essential starting point to building an effective API strategy. As we make decisions about the development of an API strategy, we must constantly ask, who benefits from this? What value are we unlocking? Make sure to view the Dixon Carphone case study, which showcases how a company can use APIs to take control of its sales process, revolutionizing how it works with its customers by more closely tying the shopping experience with customer service and support.   Resource List What Are APIs and How Do They Work? A Practical Approach to API Design APIStrat 2016: Moving Toward a Modular Enterprise Self-serve everywhere: Enhancing the Telcos Customer Experience The Hitch Pitch Deck: Building Support for an API Strategy In this series on API Decisions, we explore some of the key considerations you need to account for when answering these two questions and making API strategy decisions. You'll learn about resource lists, discover additional tools, and receive expert advice from leaders in the field during each stage. Be sure to read the next API Strategy article: How To Get the Team and Support in Place for Your API Strategy About the Author: Mark Boyd is a ProgrammableWeb writer covering breaking news, API business strategies and models, open data, and smart cities.
Resources to Unlearn Things
My New Years Resolution for 2018 involves the idea of 'unlearning' a lot of harmful paradigms, traditions, dynamics, etc, that I was exposed to while growing up in WASP-y, middle class,...
MJ Petroni
CEO and Cyborg Anthropologist

This crowdsourced list of ways to unlearn things is a great (and diverse) starting point to find everyday strategies to intentionally adjust your biases and counteract social media's 'filter bubble.'

How to Unlearn Racism - Scientific American
How to Unlearn Racism Implicit bias training isn't enough. What actually works?
Scientific American
Garrett Pepper

Before you begin a journey to "unlearn racism" you must first learn about it's history and development as a concept and a tool of political oppression. This article explores these histories while also examining the mindsets and motivations why individuals and groups would take on this task.

Religion and Babies
Hans Rosling had a question: Do some religions have a higher birth rate than others -- and how does this affect global population growth? Speaking at the TEDxSummit in Doha, Qatar, he graphs data over time and across religions. With his trademark humor and sharp insight, Hans reaches a surprising conclusion on world fertility rates.
MJ Petroni
CEO and Cyborg Anthropologist

In Doha, Qatar, at a TED conference sponsored largely by the Queen of Qatar, I saw this great talk delivered by expert statistician (and storyteller) Hans Rosling. He started with a provocative question—what is the relationship between fertility rates and religions? It was clear that nearly everyone in the audience thought they knew the answer. But did they?

Apple Reinvents the iPhone (video)
John Schroter
MJ Petroni
CEO and Cyborg Anthropologist

The 2007 announcement by Steve Jobs of the original iPhone is a great example of a horseless carriage.He began by talking about how Apple was announcing three new products: a touch-screen music player, a mobile phone and an Internet communicator. Then he showed how this wasn’t three products but one.By doing this, he ensured that people understood the iPhone wasn’t just a phone but had all three of these capabilities.

How not to be ignorant about the world
How much do you know about the world? Hans Rosling, with his famous charts of global population, health and income data (and an extra-extra-long pointer), demonstrates that you have a high statistical chance of being quite wrong about what you think you know. Play along with his audience quiz — then, from Hans’ son Ola, learn 4 ways to quickly get less ignorant.
MJ Petroni
CEO and Cyborg Anthropologist

We know things. But we don't always know how we know. In this whirlwind tour of surprising statistics, expert statisticians help us see how our personal experiences, education, and media consumption all result in our flawed understandings of the world—that we take to be truths.

People systematically overlook subtractive changes
Improving objects, ideas or situations—whether a designer seeks to advance technology, a writer seeks to strengthen an argument or a manager seeks to encourage desired behaviour—requires a mental search for possible changes1,2,3. We investigated whether people are as likely to consider changes that subtract components from an object, idea or situation as they are to consider changes that add new components. People typically consider a limited number of promising ideas in order to manage the cognitive burden of searching through all possible ideas, but this can lead them to accept adequate solutions without considering potentially superior alternatives4,5,6,7,8,9,10. Here we show that people systematically default to searching for additive transformations, and consequently overlook subtractive transformations. Across eight experiments, participants were less likely to identify advantageous subtractive changes when the task did not (versus did) cue them to consider subtraction, when they had only one opportunity (versus several) to recognize the shortcomings of an additive search strategy or when they were under a higher (versus lower) cognitive load. Defaulting to searches for additive changes may be one reason that people struggle to mitigate overburdened schedules11, institutional red tape12 and damaging effects on the planet13,14.
MJ Petroni
CEO and Cyborg Anthropologist

Our bias towards action can be counter-productive if we are operating inside an outdated way of thinking.‍In a recently-published study in Nature, researchers found that humans almost always added components to solve problems instead of subtracting them. This might explain why humans often tend to add more activity to solve problems rather than subtract ineffective actions or ways of thinking.

Learning a New Skill is Easier Said Than Done - Gordon Training International
Learning a New Skill is Easier Said Than Done By Linda Adams, President of GTI Before rolling out specific training or initiatives that are aimed at improving some facet of your business, you need to ensure that your leaders and team members are equipped with fundamental communication and relationship management skills.
Gordon Training International
MJ Petroni
CEO and Cyborg Anthropologist

The authors lay out four stages people pass through when learning any new skill. People are:1. Unconsciously unskilled 2. Consciously unskilled 3. Consciously skilled 4. Unconsciously skilled. It is the first and fourth stages where unlearning is vital. Our 'unconscious unskilled-ness' and also our 'unconscous skilled-ness' are both times when we are operating on autopilot, with data-sorting and decision-making happening out of our conscious view. This is where our biases and set ways of thinking are invisible to us.

Less is more: Why our brains struggle to subtract
When solving problems, humans tend to think about adding something before they think of taking something away - even when subtracting is the better solution. Experiments show that this newly discovered psychological phenomenon applies across a range of situations from improving a physical design to solving an abstract puzzle.
nature video
MJ Petroni
CEO and Cyborg Anthropologist

Our bias towards action can be counter-productive if we are operating inside an outdated way of thinking.‍In a recently-published study in Nature, researchers found that humans almost always added components to solve problems instead of subtracting them. This might explain why humans often tend to add more activity to solve problems rather than subtract ineffective actions or ways of thinking.

The backwards bicycle
MJ Petroni
CEO and Cyborg Anthropologist

Unlearning deeply embedded mental models is tough—but it can be done. Check out this video for a great example of how deeply ingrained mental models can be. You’re not going to get exponential results with a “bike” (mental model) that’s a little better and a little faster. You're going to have to learn how to ride a backwards bicycle. The good news is that it can be done, and it doesn't necessarily take eight months. It takes rewiring your automatic responses, which means going through the awkward and frustrating phase where you don’t feel like you're good at what you’re doing. In this stage, even 'knowing' what you need to do differently is not enough. As the narrator says, knowledge is not equal to understanding.

Algorithms Are Making Decisions About Health Care, Which May Only Worsen Medical Racism | News & Commentary | American Civil Liberties Union
Algorithms Are Making Decisions About Health Care, Which May Only Worsen Medical Racism Unclear regulation and a lack of transparency increase the risk that AI and algorithmic tools that exacerbate racial biases will be used in medical settings.
MJ Petroni
CEO and Cyborg Anthropologist

Algorithmic decision-making in healthcare settings promises to provide better, more equitable and efficient care—but can only do so if we shift mindsets and provide good data into those systems. The qqual rights watchdog American Civil Liberties Union lays out the risks of both action and inaction.

Google and Off Launch Mosquito Forecast Tool - CNET
Garrett Pepper

Want to go to the river, but unsure if you'll be swarmed by a cloud of mosquitos? Fear not, friend—data scientists and the bug repellant brand Off have come together to provide a tool that predicts mosquito populations via machine algorithm and live weather data.

This Company is Fast Becoming the Warby Parker of Scrubs - WSJ
Figs’ slick, brightly lit approach to branding and marketing their scrubs has more in common with fashion brands than it does other medical apparel companies.
The Wall Street Journal
Garrett Pepper

Figs captured the attention of the healthcare industry by offering scrubs as a lifestyle brand with more in common with fashion than with stiff and scratchy uniforms. Figs see the value in self-expression and empower their customers to be "Awesome Humans" who take pride in their profession and appearance.

Dear Apple [Apple Watch]
MJ Petroni
CEO and Cyborg Anthropologist

This "Dear Apple" video shows real users of the Apple Watch who have written to Apple to share how the device has changed their lives. Each user had a positive experience based on little data—the data about them as an individual. Watch it to experience what little data feels like versus the more generic strategies of big data.

It’s Hard for Doctors to Unlearn Things. That’s Costly for All of Us.
Procedures live on even after they’ve been proved ineffective. It can lead to harms and wasted resources.
The New York Times
MJ Petroni
CEO and Cyborg Anthropologist

Procedures live on even after they’ve been proved ineffective. It can lead to harms and wasted resources. This piece unpacks what it means to unlearn stuck ways of operating amongst professionals used to being the 'smartest ones in the room.'

How brands relate

To create engagement in a many-to-many world, find ways to enable and empower connections between customers.

Most companies focus on communicating to persuade customers and promote products. This is the mindset behind push marketing.

Some companies have also begun to listen and learn from the market, or from customers directly.

But today, the most powerful influence is what people say to each other—how your customers connect and collaborate with each other.

To create engagement in a many-to-many world, find ways to enable and empower connections between customers.

The push model

Traditional marketing is based on pushing information out.

Marketers segment

and target audiences,

sending messages

through channels

with campaigns

to move consumers

through stages

of a funnel.

The language and the thinking here is linear, transactional and directed "at" consumers.

The shift to pull

Technology is changing the nature of relationships, and brands need to pay attention.

It used to be that companies had to promote themselves by pushing information out so that people knew who they were, what they sold and why to buy from them.

But in the Digital Age, people can find this information on their own. So companies don't need to be as pushy as before.

Today's marketing is more a matter of attraction, of pulling people in towards brands and organizations.

Creating the kind of gravitational field that pulls people in and inspires engagement, trust and participation is a crucial challenge for leaders in the 21st century.

Push vs. pull brands

To pull people in, embed transactions inside relationships.


Use relationships to drive transactions

The language and mindset of push brands is
linear, transactional and one-directional.

Broadcasting messages

through channels

to target audiences

and drive transactions


Embed transactions within relationships

The language and mindset of pull brands is
exponential, reciprocal and multi-directional.

Engaging communities

with reciprocity and trust

to sustain relationships

and fulfill Shared Purpose

Brand as relationship

Think beyond Buyer:Seller or

We often talk about a customer’s relationship with a brand. Instead, think of the brand itself as a relationship.

The default brand relationship is Producer:Consumer or Buyer:Seller. These relationships are one-directional and asymmetrical. The company produces the product or service, and the customer consumes it.

Today’s brand innovators are creating relationships beyond Buyer:Seller—ones that are more collaborative and reciprocal.


Brand relationships

  • Clothing subscription service Stitch Fix lends you outfits they select for you based on your preferences and feedback, moving away from a Retailer:Shopper dynamic to emulate the Friend:Friend intimacy of borrowing each others' clothes.
  • Room-sharing service Airbnb has disrupted the traditional brand relationship of Host:Guest and replaced it with Neighbor:Neighbor.
  • Smart home technology brand Google Nest has created a customer relationship that’s less Manufacturer:User and more Family:Family

All these relationships are more reciprocal, symmetrical and personal than Producer:Consumer.

The power of Shared Purpose

Shared Purpose tells us if we're all headed in the same direction.

Many hands touching and overlapping as they reach towards a central point.

Brand gravity forms around Shared Purpose, which is the larger intention that you and all your stakeholders are working toward together.

People don’t just want to be passive members of an audience. They want to be a part of something, to belong, influence, and engage.

Feeling good about your company's purpose is also not enough to create an authentic connection. Customers want to be in a relationship with brands whose purpose is theirs too. Shared Purpose is what your company does with other players—including customers—not just what it sells to or does for them.

Shared Purpose can shift the relationship between you and your customers from Producer:Consumer to Co-Creators.

If you want to learn more about Shared Purpose, you can read about it in our guidebook on narrative.


Barn raising

Rural communities in the United States have a tradition of communal building called a "barn raising". When someone needs a new barn or house, they just gather as a community with their skills and tools and make a building together.

People have a natural tendency to look to each other for advice and help. Digital technology has given people the tools to build their own “barns" online, from shared resources to communities of mutual interest.

Wherever your stakeholders are coming together as a community is an opportunity for you to strengthen relationships with and among them.

How do you ‘market’ to a barn raising? By serving the community. Making lunch. Sharpening tools. Lending a hand.


How your brand relates

What types of communication does your brand invest in? What percentage of your total efforts does each type receive?

Think of major communication and customer relationship initiatives, and which types of communication they focus on. Notice where there are opportunities to do more.


More push, or more pull?

List your company’s key marketing strategies and initiatives. For each, place it on the spectrum from push to pull. Most companies tend to rely more on either push or pull strategies. Where do your company’s strategies fall on that spectrum?


Narrative elements

If you've already done the exercises in our Narrative Guidebook, bring over these key elements that connect you with your stakeholders.


What are you creating with y​our stakeholders?


What does everyone contribute to the Shared Purpose?


What is the role relationship between you and your customers?


To build engagement in the Digital Age, shift your marketing mindset from push to pull.

  • Today’s most successful brands differentiate themselves by creating brand relationships based on connection with a larger purpose.
  • To create engagement in a many-to-many world, find ways to enable and empower connections between customers.
  • As technology and relationships change, our marketing mindset needs to shift from push to pull.
  • Push brands use relationships to drive transactions. Pull brands embed transactions within relationships.
  • For brand relationships, think beyond Buyer:Seller or Producer:Consumer.
  • Shared Purpose transforms customers into co-creators.