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Thoughts

An Exploration of Branding, Design and Cultural Trends

The Circle Game: Big Data & the Gutenberg Press

I've read about two pages of Nate Silver's "The Signal and the Noise" and already, my mind is blown.

Often in advertising, we look at everything we do as something that is new and hasn't been done before. Social has replaced mass marketing, T.V. commercials.. and that's a one-to-one relationship we've never seen before. Or maybe we saw that 75-100 years ago before radio ads and television ads - when the "advertising" you were primarily exposed to was the "content" you received from your store sales associate. Your one-to-one relationship was right in front of you and you could shake their hand.

Content strategy is the new, never-before, never-seen, form of digital and social marketing. Or maybe magazines and the brands that have influenced their content have just shifted to distributing their content on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Our grandparents might remember cookbooks and recipes sponsored by Betty Crocker, but these forms of "content" are completely foreign to the digital generations of 2015.

Advertising isn't the only history that repeats itself. Silver points out in his introduction that the power of data first took hold in the 1400's, when Gutenberg invented the printing press. Suddenly, books that would have cost upwards of $20,000 a copy could now be available to the masses. Information that had literally passed hundreds of hands like a game of telephone could be distributed without error. This one invention created historical upheaval. Powers that thrived on and subsequently abused being the gatekeepers of knowledge, suddenly had formidable foes calling their bluffs. Populations questioned everything they thought they knew- from over a thousand years of teachings.

When the dust settled, Western society entered a renaissance, followed by a period of enlightenment. A way of life built on divine, unquestionable and unverifiable power nearly disappeared around the globe. All but figureheads remain.

The Gutenberg Press is a relic discussed in history classes. But the power of information is apparent to us in everything we do. When we talk about big data, we talk about consumer trends, the ability to better sell products, better know our customers, our audience and maybe our world.

But it's more profound than that. It's no surprise that the genesis story of the Western world is centered around knowledge - the symbol of Eve yanking down that apple of knowledge for Adam. Understanding our generation's Gutenberg Press is understanding the power of knowledge. We are seeing corporations, institutions and even governments fall- as knowledge of their true intentions sweep through our browsers. We are seeing communities find salvation as news of their plight enter our hearts. The rate of change is accelerating at a pace we cannot imagine. While one might turn on the news to see disturbing images of injustice that desperately need to change, I see the truth being revealed- one story at a time. These stories have already created an unprecedented amount of change, one that can't be credited to our president alone, but to an entire country of people, armed with newfound knowledge.

I'm optimistic. What's next?