gapingvoid: Social Objects Are the Future of Marketing

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Hugh MacLeod, gapingvoid

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Hugh MacLeod is a cartoonist, author, creator of the wildly popular blog gapingvoid, and a champion of the idea that marketers should be creating social objects - ideas that are packaged as text, images, documents, or movies that can be shared with other people quickly and easily to relay an idea. He's got some awesome examples here. As you might expect, Hugh has been producing these objects for years in the form of cartoons. More recently he's taken this idea and launched his own company called Social Object Factory that produces these social objects for other companies.

Seth Godin recently named Hugh and his creative evil genius to the SAY 100 business channel – which prompted us to catch up with Hugh by email. We asked him a free-ranging set of questions about what he's working on now, why he hates being called a marketer, and how he's thinking about the the post-Web 2.0 world.

One of your maxims is change the world or go home. How are you changing the world right now? I think if my work does one thing, it helps people realize that doing something creative with their lives is actually a whole lot more fulfilling and worth it, than what they've been told. Following one's dreams is the best way to change the world IMHO.

You also love the idea of create or die. What are you creating right now? Right now my partners and I have just launched the Social Object Factory - a startup that creates content for social media, in the post-advertising and post-marketing age.

Everything is marketing, and yet you don't like being called a marketer – why? I think the "Everybody's a marketer" riff has already been done to death. Besides, the minute you put marketing front and center, you're putting the cart before the horse.

Your cartoons are edgy, funny and much loved. What are your personal favorites and why? Back in 2004, I did this one cartoon that read, "The market for something to believe in is infinite." That one insight changed a lot of lives.

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What are your reader favorites – and what do you think it says about the world we live in? My readers tend to like my more positive messages, especially the ones that talk about human potential. No surprises there - human potential is one of those subjects that never gets old, that never loses the ability to inspire us.

You’ve talked a lot about Web 2.0 – are we in a post-Web 2.0 world? And if so, how do you describe it? Post-Web 2.0 is about where all the complexities of new social connections come together to manifest a new reality. One where our lives are redefined by the absence of boundaries and where relationships, communities and reality morph into the opportunity [for a] much more fulfilled and enlightened existence. New rules and standards for how we live our lives and what is possible emerge, and tech becomes seamlessly embedded.

You're a cartoonist – are there any other Web and technology cartoonists you enjoy? I like The Oatmeal and Austin Kleon. Both highly talented, both doing work that is nothing like my own. Both are much younger than me, damn them.

If you were a Venn diagram what would it say? Art + Purpose = Meaning

Follow Hugh on Twitter @gapingvoid.

[All images courtesy Hugh McLeod]