Slay the Monsters. Take their Stuff. Tell the Tale.short


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Inspiring Keynote at the 2011 Emerging Media Conference. To watch the video of this and other talks visit

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  • I try hard to make things ‘fit’. I see people act a certain way, I figure there has to be a reason. Something in us explains why we hate public restrooms, or crumple up straw wrappers, or hate people who stand too close in line. Something makes it make sense.It might even be an irrational reason. But there’s gotta be something. I pick and pick and pick at things until either they bleed to death, become necrotic and fall off, or I understand what makes ‘em tick, all the time certain that I’ll find something.Yeah. And folks wonder why I’m a Jew who believes in Karma, animism and the spaghetti monster.
  • This all hit me in a flash while I was playing Dungeons and Dragons.What?
  • Everyone here know what Dungeons and Dragons is? Dungeons and Dragons. Basically, you get some dice, some paper and pencil, a rulebook and a few friends, and you run around in an imaginary world, smiting and pillaging.Here’s how it works:You and some friends sit down. You generate characters that end up on sheets of paper. Then one person – the Dungeon Master – narrates a world and describes situations. The rest of the players control their characters and decide what to do.
  • Know what it was? How to destroy a plagiarist’s blog. It made it to Digg, onto Cracked and has 28 root domains linking to it. It got 50,000 clicks from StumbleUpon. 105 comments.Why? All my other posts were better thought-out, better written and had better teaching content. Frankly, it kind of pisses me off that the one thing I ever wrote that got the Digg treatment involved pasting pictures of poop onto other people’s sites. It’s simple: I’d just shown a lot of people how to slay monsters (plagiarists), and everyone loves to slay the monster. Of course they loved it.The tendency to monster slaying is already at work in marketing.
  • It has been for a while: Anyone remember the ads Alaska Airlines did in the 1980s? A whole series of funny ads talking about how other airlines abuse you, but Alaska doesn’t.
  • (“this little beauty we like to call banquet on a bun, right bob?”)Alaska said "We are not the monsters - the other airlines are, though. Fly us and you slay the monster. Or at least deny it a meal."
  • It works in politics: Republicans have held a decided advantage over the last 40 years. Why? They have a clear bad guy: Big Government Waste. It’s their Emperor.
  • Democrats try to take a nuanced approach: They will say “Well, we oppose wasteful programs like such and such. Here’s a spreadsheet explaining it all.” It's hard to vote for someone who promises to create better spreadsheets. It’s easy to vote for someone who Opposes Big Government Waste.That’s why Democrats only take over when everyone’s sick of the Republicans.
  • Everyone wants to slay a monster. Obviously, I mean this figuratively. But the impulse is every bit as powerful as if there were an ogre at your front door one morning.Help your audience Defeat Evil, and they love you for it. They remember it as if you’ve given them something precious – and you have, because you’ve helped fulfill a part of our brains we’ve had since we could bang rocks together.A point – this is all figurative. This is not about demonizing people and things. It’s about motivation. About pointing out the conditions that already exist.
  • But I’m not. It’s all make-believe. I can’t even sell it on eBay. Even worse, lots of different characters of mine accumulated all that loot. They’d spend years in court fighting over who owned what.Yet I still get a little thrill every time we find something on an adventure. I’m 42 years old, and I still like finding make-believe shiny things in make-believe chests.Is this about ‘social capital’? Maybe. But I have the social skills and drive of a feral chipmunk. And most people can’t spell ‘capital’. So I really doubt that social capital is what got me addicted to make-believe loot, or that it alone gets folks onto Facebook, etc..There’s something more visceral at work: Everyone likes getting stuff. Even make-believe stuff. That’s the pleasure thing Jesse Schell talked about yesterday or, as I call it, the warm tinglies..
  • One of the greatest print ads ever literally puts you into a story:
  • There you go. Ian’s Three Principles of D&D Marketing. Help your audience:Slay monstersTake their treasureTell the taleI just realized: I can now tell my parents that my entire life as a gamer was preparation for a career in marketing.Learn how marketers appeal to these basic impulses, and you can help grow your business and get your message out.To me, though, this is about a lot more than marketing. This is about communications.Communications drive the really big stuff we accomplish:We wouldn't have gone to the moon except that: JFK promised us stuff (the achievement); we had a monster to slay (the Soviet space program); there was a great tale to tell.Big things people never would’ve tried without leadership that knew how to frame the challenges for society or for themselves.That’s what this is really about: Helping people find what motivates them, and then delivering it. And by doing that, making us all a little cooler.Or nerdier, as the case may be.
  • Slay the Monsters. Take their Stuff. Tell the Tale.short

    1. 1.
    2. 2. Goodheavens, what is It’s a level 32 that thing? nerd, sir. The worst.
    3. 3. Presidential elections won: 1964-2010876543210 Democrat Republican
    4. 4. House of Reps. seats won275027002650260025502500245024002350 Democrat Republican
    5. 5. Look. At.All of that stuff.
    6. 6.