Craig Venter Unveils Synthetic Life

Have we created artificial life? According to Craig Venter, we now have created the first “synthetic life”. I don’t know about you but this is huge news – regardless of whether you call this life or not. I repeat: this is HUGE news – perhaps one of the biggest in our lives.

Here’s video of Craig Venter making the announcement:

What do you think of this development? What will this open up?

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Is Your Genome A Controlled Substance?

Human Genome

Image by Dollar Bin via Flickr

As the costs of sequencing our DNA shrink and as the roles of digital media in our lives expand, we will need to understand who (or what) controls the ownership, access and use of own genomic information. From state regulation to Google to Facebook, who controls the acquisition, transmission and replication of our genomic information and material will become an important battle in the 21st Century. The purpose of this post is to highlight new connections which genomics and digital media make and to raise important questions about the most potent substance in our lives: our DNA.


Last week, in celebration of DNA day, the personal genomics company 23andme offered a sizable discount for its complete edition kit. The information provided to consumers is extensive. With the kit, the company promises access to the following kinds of data and information:

  1. Ancestry information – relative finder, maternal lines
  2. Healthcare – Disease risk, carrier status, drug response, traits
  3. Raw genetic data

You can learn more about what the company does here. Competing companies offering similar services include: Navigenics, FamilyTreeDNA and Complete Genomics.

Genetics has always been a bit of passion for me – at one point in my kaleidoscopic career I even considered getting into genetic counseling. I’ve long considered purchasing such a kit and given the opportunity I decided to go for it. I spread the word to a few of my friends and mentioned it through the meme-machine that is Twitter.

In the course of some of the tweeting about the genetic test, however, I discovered that a friend of mine couldn’t order the kit because she lives in Maryland. This one restriction brought up several issues related to our acquisition (and distribution) of our genomic information:

  1. Should genomic services be permitted to be marketed DTC (direct-to-consumer) or require prescriber involvement?
  2. Should there be a mandatory gatekeeping function like genetic counseling between consumers and their genomic data?
  3. What happens to the information? How far will it travel?
  4. Where is the data stored and who controls access?
  5. How will the data be used? How will pharmaceutical and biomedical companies or government agencies access and use our genes and the information and promises they contain?
  6. What rights do consumers have to access and use? Do consumers have property and royalty rights to their DNA?
  7. What happens when consumer DNA is publicly searchable? Will we be able to Google our DNA?
  8. Will our genomic data become part of our social profiles and metadata on platforms like Facebook?
  9. What are the core ethical, legal and cultural issues and consequences inherent in genomics? More importantly: will our public discussion be informed and civil and open-minded?
  10. Is your DNA ReTweetable? (More on that in a bit.)

As you can see, control of our genomic information is one of the central issues confronting us. It’s not far-fetched to conceive our genomic information as a controlled substance – but in what regards?: as a subject of state and federal regulations? as a private right of personalized medicine? as a communal property of the human race?

These are just some of the questions which genetic information raises. There may not be right or wrong answers to these questions per se: so much depends on our values, beliefs, ethics, knowledge and passions.

So let’s take a look at the issues which the technology of genomics presents before us.


Our genes give us life. They pigment our skin and eyes, determine if we can roll our tongues, and even influence our behaviors. Of course gene-environment interrelationships are complex – and the deterministic powers of our genes can range from weak to strong: not everything that is determined to happen actually happens. Still, our genes influence us in ways which are still being elucidated by geneticists, neurobiologists, and other life and other scientists.

Genes also carry diseases and they contain information about our bodies. How we interpret what genomics (and proteomics) reveal about ourselves can be more complex than appears on the surface. Thus arises the question concerning the balancing of personal rights with larger social responsibilities.

If you need a medical doctor to diagnose a medical condition (a form of access to information about your own body), does it stand to reason that you need permission from a medical doctor or other provider in order to gain access to your own genetic information?

The State of Maryland and many other states appear to think so and do not permit DTC marketing of genetic-tests.

As you can see, the emerging battles over access to our genomic data already raise a bunch of issues. On the surface it may appear to be a simple matter of big government asserting its parental powers over citizens’ ability to make decisions. But the arguments for or against DTC banning aren’t necessarily easily dismissed because the deeper issues may give rise to multiple layers of public health safety, including:

  1. Do consumers need the interpretive expertise and guidance of genetic counselors and other professionals?
  2. What happens if the quality of the results contain material errors?
  3. What responsibilities do genetics-testing companies have to consumers?
  4. What are the dangers to consumers of having direct access to their raw genomic data?
  5. What are the benefits to consumers of having direct access to their raw genomic data?
  6. What are the dangers of and legalities of state or federal regulation of how consumers can access their genomic information?
  7. Do we need a new way to balance the rights of consumers with the need for professional expertise?
  8. What processes and regulations may be needed to ensure informed consent and privacy?

The public discussion about these and other discussions need to be balanced and considerate of opposing views. Why? Because the process of attempting to answer these and other questions can often provide more value than the answers themselves.

When it comes to the issue of regulation – wherever you are on the spectrum between Libertarianism and Communism – minds reasoning together will need to consider the breadth and depth of considerations. Is strict regulation necessary or effective? Or will a free market of ideas and money result in the optimal state?

Perhaps we will need a new way of defining what’s equitable when striking the balance of multiple interests.

But not only do we have to address the above questions in their own light, we now have to take into account the roles emerging digital media play – our DNA will soon become a part of our social profiles, making the need for discussing these issues even more urgent.

Let’s find out why.


Google DNA“Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” – Google’s Mission Statement

Perhaps the boldest and most ingenious mission statement of any company in the short history of Capitalism is Google’s. On the surface it appears grandiose but limited in scope. But Google’s mission statement is neither metaphorical nor narrow: it is practical and wide. Not a single word in their mission statement is unnecessary: each one collaborates with the other to form a grand strategic and profitable vision the world’s decision-making and behaviors.

Information and data are everywhere. And nowhere in our human experience is data more important than within the tiny helical molecule that forms the template for our biology. DNA is a part of the world’s information.

Where might Google come in here? Google holds a minority interest in 23andme, Inc. It stands to reason, then, that Google has its eyes on our genomic information.

Google clearly has an interest in genetic databases – for good or ill – and as an organizer of the “world’s information” it has the potential of becoming a major player and intermediary in the business of genomics. Whether or not Google ultimately acquires 23andme or some other similar service remains to be seen. In fact, it may not have to: strategic partnerships may effect the same kinds of results as an acquisition.

I don’t know if Google would actually index the world’s genomic information. But with respect to an informational Juggernaut like Google, how would it organize such information and make it “universally accessible and useful”?

Moreover, what would the wider consequences of such an organization of genomic information have on our online social lives?


the web of digital lifeWhich brings us to the matter of how our genomic information figures into our increasingly connected social web. As the number of people who regularly use social software like Facebook or Twitter or whatever new media arise, how much of our genetic identities will be involved? In addition to sharing our pictures and experiences, will we share information or metadata about our genes?

We have recently seen the willingness of people to use location-based services to tell the world where they are – a practice which only a few years ago seemed unilikely to be embraced by most people. Similarly, will we see the emergence of gene-based or snp-based social services? Will our Facebook profiles offer the option of uploading our DNA sequences or snips of them?

Could such sharing enable healthcare community-building for people with similar medical conditions? Might it enable us to connect in entirely new ways and strip away the idea that we connect with “strangers” and replace it with the idea that every stranger is in fact a relative? Esther Dyson (a member of 23andme’s Board of Directors) and Anjali Joshi (Director of Product Management at Google) shared some thoughts about similar questions:

And beyond just the major social networks, how might APIs be used to connect and transmit genomic information and social profiles and other kinds of resources? Bear in mind that the Web is evolving – it won’t always be limited to just web browsers and search engines and today’s social media sites: the inter-linking of applications will expand the Web way beyond its current universe.

As the Web becomes a center-less center of our daily lives, how will all this convergence of polynomial information influence our cultures, our values, our perceptions of ourselves?


Replication. Without it, we wouldn’t be here. The first self-replicating molecule was a momentous arrival on our planet. The ability to copy information and re-transmit it are key mechanisms in living systems. Replication and transmission are also key mechanisms in cultures.

Which brings us to Twitter and the virulence of ideas. One could describe – at least amusingly – the first self-copying of a molecule as the original ReTweet, and that RNA was one of the first Twitter clients. How is DNA shared from one generation to generation? It’s ReTweeted! 🙂

Twitter is a meme-machine: it copies and mutates ideas and news and all sorts of information and data – useful or otherwise. And when we think about emerging media with regard to the transmission, replication and mutation of our ideas and identities, how about our genes?

How will the ability to instantly and globally share our genomic information anytime and anywhere to anyone and anything influence the kind of world we live in? It’s difficult to even imagine what kinds of sharing and for what purposes this kind of sharing might evolve. Will such sharing lead to more or less cultural (or even genetic) variety? Will it help to erode racial prejudices or reinforce them? Will it give us more or less control over all aspects of our lives?

How will we handle our most important substance? How will we look upon it and reflect on its powers to change the world? Whom – or what – might we become?


Reflecting in our gene poolThe title of my post was a question: Is your genome a controlled substance? At first glance, it seemed to be about government control or perhaps corporate control of our genomic information. But as you can see, it’s a question that begets even more questions – not unlike the evolving and unfurling of DNA itself.

And although we think that the answer to that question must  involve people or regulatory agencies, perhaps one day we may find out that it isn’t any of us who controls the substance of life. Governments, corporations, individuals, groups – all may indeed have their own particular control mechanisms.

And yet the key ingredient in all evolutionary systems – especially those via natural selection – remains the unpredictable random event. The more control you exert over such a system, the more likely you are to lose control entirely – and you may even lose your mind fighting to assert control over something beyond your control.

The story transcribed out of our DNA echoes far beyond ourselves.

Like it or not, we all have a stake in how the questions I’ve raised get answered. Life is strife – and so it will be with our struggle to protect our individual and collective rights with genomic powers. This moral, ethical, legal, cultural, emotional and social struggle is not just about self-preservation: it’s about the future of a species which created Civilization – which is itself a technology for controlling memetic evolution.

We now have ever-evolving social software which create new ways to gather and share and connect. As the technologies which enable us to access our own genomic information make it easier for us to share that information, the matter of how and what we share – and who or what controls the sharing and within what contexts and processes – creates a new kind of bio-cultural pool into which we can dip.

Our genes gave us our brains and thumbs. In turn, our brains and thumbs gave us the very lenses through which we can peer into our pool of genes. As we gaze into that pool of genesis, we aught to recall the tale of Narcissus and the price we pay for staring too long at our own reflection.

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Phil Baumann
cell: 484-362-0451

All Marketers Are Dopes

dopey and the dwarfs
Image by bijoubaby via Flickr

Do you agree? Do you disagree? You clicked the link, didn’t you? Either because you agreed or – perhaps more so – because you disagreed or were offended.

Did I linkbait you into coming here? Perhaps. And that’s the point: marketers too often fetishize messaging at the expense of deeper, rounder and longer-term marketing strategies.

A catchy or rousing phrase may invoke the attention of your targets, but if that’s all it does, you’ve failed your boss’s investors.


In fact, it seems that the when some marketers declare themselves to be marketers, what they really mean is that they are messengers. But marketing isn’t just about messaging: marketing is about connecting something of subjective value with a subject who values that something (whether they know it yet or not). (Yes, marketing is kinda circular when enframed that way, isn’t it? 🙂

And that connecting is difficult work – it’s something that goes way beyond messaging. And yet many marketers have gotten lost in the practice of messaging – they’ve lost perspective of both the historical roots and the future evolution of their profession.

Marketing evolved over the last 100 years from producing to meet demand, to standing out with quality, to selling and persuasion and sophisticated research, and most recently into what is today called Traditional Marketing.

So what do I mean by All marketers are dopes? Who says that? Why?

Well, that sentence is a sentiment that consumers are increasingly feeling in their gut when they come across Dreck – and today Dreck is tired messaging and attention-screaming and incomplete marketing with no human quality.


And what the Web is doing is providing marketers with a chance to re-evaluate the Why’s and How’s of what they learned from the start of their careers.

Unfortunately, most have gotten stuck in one phase of Marketing’s evolution, and unable to take the lead towards its next.

They’ve gotten lost in the assembly-line mentality of segregating and dividing labor and tasks: Research, Creatives, Advertising, etc. It was a necessary way of doing things in an economy where scaling required standardization of operations – things needed to be predictable and repeatable at the lowest possible costs.

But the Web is mothering novel media, with emerging properties that didn’t exist in the traditional staples of mass communication: print, radio and television.

Marketing isn’t dead, any more than desire or hunger or business. Marketing is just in the transitional phase to something more complete – a chance to build communities where the right messages can be delivered at the right time in the right context with the right processes.

Evolution is typically a merciless process – species who once reigned and ruled can be ruined without notice, while the tiny prey emerge stronger and more fit to deal with the new ecology.


Too bad marketers are dopes. Or are they? If you’ve gotten this far, you’re probably not one of the dopes and I sincerely wish you nothing but success as you create a more human – and effective – Marketing.

A dope is someone who, once has learned a certain way of doing things, doesn’t know when to unlearn that particular way when it no longer works.

Are you a dopey marketer? Or are you someone who wants to change the world by connecting values that matter with people who need and want and (perhaps) crave what you have to offer?

Please be at the exception that proves the rule.

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Favorited by Pixels and Pills List of Pharma Tweeters

I’m not a particularly big fan of lists of “thought leaders” and such, but occasionally a smart group of people compile some useful observations about folks who are passionate about a topic or field. The good folks over at Pixels & Pills listed my Twitter stream along with several of my other friends’ as active voices in Pharmaceutical adoption of novel media technologies.

I do a lot of work in helping to advance our understanding of the Web, how it impacts our culture and the health care ramifications of the media which it continues to evolve. I do wish, however, that the leading voices in this discussion were the executives and (smart) agencies working in the industry were on lists like these. But perhaps their absence simply reflects a pattern with revolutions: the view from inside the status quo is simply too murky, and thus outsiders’ perspectives are needed to spark things.

At any rate, I’ll take a pat on the back once in a while. You can read their full post here and follow them on Twitter.

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Overcoming Pharma’s Social Media Anxiety Disorder

There’s been an ongoing discussion about how the Life Sciences industries can face and integrate recently evolving media which the Web has been and continues to sprout.

Remarkable as they are, the discussions are endless and most loop back into themselves without generating sufficient voltage to power an army of macrophages. Additionally, Pharmaceutical companies – beset by a myriad of constraints – are anxious about flipping on social connection switches which the Web furiously creates every day.

We could say that Pharma has a sort of Social Media Anxiety Disorder. What to do?

The answer isn’t in social media. It’s not in what the FDA decides to do. It’s not in echo chambers found within Twitter or blogs or conferences.

It lies in simple, basic economic truths. It lies in radical acceptance and in brave recreation. It lies beneath the proverbial nose of obviousness. It lies far beyond any discussion about the meanings and promises and purposes of new media on the Web.

Pharma’s Social Media Anxiety Disorder is merely a peripheral symptom of deeper pathologies. Let’s assess the patient.

NOTE: If you believe social media is the cure of business ills, this post may not be appropriate for you. See your doctor if you’re addicted to social media before acting on the information contained herein.


Social media is nothing – an oxymoron at best: media are simply media, incapable of being at all social. People are social. Information isn’t social either – but it is everything. So let’s talk about information and why it matters in every nook and cranny of Life Sciences’ media challenges and wider business fundamentals.

Nobody doubts that the ultimate concern surrounding the the development, production and marketing of molecules and medical devices is their safety, efficacy and effectiveness. From production to marketing to administration/application, every step of the way involves risks: tiny flaws in R&D methodologies; overlooked nuances of human physiological processes, genetic mechanisms and anatomical structures; manufacturing and engineering oversights; misinforming marketing messages (unintended or otherwise); and administration error (provider or patient related).

At the core of all these risks lies information, which is the coherence of relevant data that helps to make decisions in light of risks. Any information indicating danger during any point of the entire pipeline can retard or terminate production or marketing or dispensation of a product.

Furthermore, the media through which information conveys its meaning determines its interpretation. Therefore, any discussion concerning the proper delivery of product information must base itself upon the most complete understanding of media possible. Few media are alike in properties, possibilities, limits and pliancy of re-purposing. Not all media can be used for the same purposes as other media. Twitter may help Dunkin Donuts move sales, but that doesn’t mean it would for Pharma.

And it’s this understanding of media which is at the heart of the circulatory system of discussions and decisions with respect to the Web’s place in Life Sciences. It’s one thing to say Let’s start a blog, tweet like sparrows, set up Facebook Pages and create forums. It’s quite another to do so remarkably without addressing both the deeper nuances of human communication, social interaction and individual psychological responses and their peripheral risks.

The order of complexity that arises out of the tasks involved in creating and cultivating safe and engaging environments for patients, doctors, pharmacists, employees and all other publics grows with every added layer of interaction.

It sounds hopeless – in fact it is anxiety-provoking. But it isn’t hopeless and it doesn’t need to be an unstoppable source of anxiety. But the reality is this: Life Sciences has far too many variables and concerns to tie together to ever completely satisfy everyone and everything when it comes to social media – certainly not right out of the gate. The Enterprise considerations alone are almost impossibly daunting.

It’s easy to see how most Pharmaceutical companies suffer from a sort of Social Media Anxiety Disorder. What will the FDA do? What about Adverse Events? What about them lawyers trawling for our mistakes? What about abusive flash mobs? What happens if 4chan decides to play pranks on us on Twitter or Facebook?

What’s the anxiolytic here? Simplicity: do what’s simple and simply do it.

More on that in a moment, but first a necessary but pertinent side trip off the path of new media onto the economic principles upon which any exploration of the uses of social media in the pharmaceutical and medical device industries.


Let’s take a quick pan-back for a moment from social media to mention something about Capitalism and economic fundamentals because it’s the central economic context in which modern pharmaceutical marketing arose. An inquiry into the economic ramifications of a fast-changing world must the the foundation for any exploration into the role of media. And this will lead us to why simplicity is Pharma’s best prospect for long-term viability. Bear with me on this excursion. Why? Because if there’s no industry, who cares about social media?

The rates of return for the pharmaceutical industry over the last twenty years have been quite remarkable. After the industry radically transformed itself decades ago from a primarily scientific endeavor into a marketing Juggernaut, the stock prices of publicly traded life sciences companies soared. Blockbusters made careers. Fortunes bloomed. Investors beamed.

We could say that co-morbid with Pharma’s Social Media Anxiety Disorder is an addiction to quick hits of Blockbusters and above-average rates of return. As we know, co-morbid conditions are often the hardest to treat.

But the fact is, these rates of return were not natural rates of return. Sustainable long-term rates of return for industries in their natural states is on the order of a paltry two to three percent. Why? Because the resource-inflationary pressure of high returns inevitably leads to downward pressures on sustainability. When rates of return exceed rates of regeneration, eventually capital systems collapse in on themselves. Sooner or later, pendulums swing back – the higher the summit, the more momentous the tumult.

To most pharmaceutical executives, the very thought of rates of return that low could cause chuckles or perhaps induce suicidal ideation. But eventually Pharma will face major reversals of fortune in the coming years. Here’s why:

  • The disruption of traditional marketing coupled with the infiltration of the Web into consumers’ lives will dilute their effectiveness;
  • The mis-coordination among the various international regulatory agencies and the industry will hamper innovation in customer outreach;
  • The internal weaknesses, complexes, inefficiencies of out-dated infrastructures will continue their pressure to reduce costs at the expense of development, resulting in positive feedback on tightening concentric loops of cost-reduction and market contraction;
  • The pool of bright young talent will flow to tech and other sectors while flowing away from an industry who’s public reputation has suffered years of traumatic wounds (many self-inflicted).

Furthermore, the revealing essence of media technologies will continue to illuminate fundamental truths about the industry and bear novel stresses on it:

  • The proliferation of social media will continue to shed light on weaknesses inherent within organizations: information about organizations will increasingly leach into the public sphere.
  • The raw scapegoating potential of new media will fuel public relations fires like never before seen and their financial impacts may be enormous, and their recovery will be slow and painful. Perhaps not in the immediate future (contrary to some of the hypers of the “power” of social media) – but as new media proliferate, the peripheral costs and risks associated with maintaining communities will rise considerably. (See Dennis Howlett’s excellent piece on how Nestle’s Facebook problem had no significant impact on its share prices.)
  • Worsening depressive global economic conditions will likely usher forth political demands for tighter regulatory controls. When people are hungry, they cry for blood.

Therefore, the industry must undergo a radical realization and acceptance that their fundamentals need serious attention. A critical dissection of assumptions and traditional business thinking will need to take place. The harsh realities of the 21st Century’s upending nature must be faced without fear. The marketing models which were co-opted from the Cereal and Automobile industries will be tough to break down and replaced with fresh perspectives on the ever-shifting ways in which people consume their information.

Meanwhile, the social engineering foundation of modern marketing ushered forth by Edward Bernay’s will continue to falter. Unless, of course, a few geniuses emerge who will discover some magical formula to mechanize social media into standard operating algorithms – as was done with traditional media. Not impossible, but it was much easier to do with unilateral oligopolies of mass communication.

There are times in our lives when incredibly hard and frightening decisions must be made. The same applies to companies and industries – entire countries in fact. And it’s always those simple decisions that must be made and are most often the most difficult to execute.

Pharma’s simple way out of its coming dark ages is nothing less than the task of utterly re-vamping itself into an entirely new industry – one which will be supple and cleaver and ethical enough to win the attention and social capital so critically necessary to hold sway in the coming world. It’s not social media, stupid: it’s The Capital.

Here are a few simple things Pharma can right now to inject true hope into its future:

  • Invest in education. Where will the next generation of molecular biologists and geneticists and engineers come from? Set up a consortium of education which extensively funds captivating educational programs which spark the attention of a youth easily distracted by the temptations of the Web. The Web is a perfect medium to extent in-real-life educational experiences, even while it opens up new temptations for distraction. The Web’s disruption of education means we must dovetail new media technologies with the traditional disciplines and rigors of learning about what matters. The public and private systems are becoming increasingly vulnerable in this regard, which implies opportunities for industrial talent to avail itself of its knowledge and expertise.
  • Shift capital-flows from over-marketing back to R&D. Wait? What? If we don’t invest in marketing we won’t have sales, which means we can’t develop products. The retort: the future of traditional marketing is bleak. Accept the losses now. A robust portfolio of novel pipelines for products – in conjunction with re-designing public relations with valuable social propositions – will lead to healthier long-term prospects for capital accumulation.
  • Begin the process of re-designing infrastructure and process from an assembly-line basis into info-social ecosystems. Capitalism is in the process of transitioning from deriving value through mechanized re-allocation and transformation of resources towards creating value out of the informational synergies of social connections. As the cost of technologies shrink while their powers expand, the opportunities to more fully realize the power of ideas and experiences expand. How many more discoveries and advances in molecular genetics be made if businesses were based upon social designs instead of mechanical rigors?
  • Extract value from the innate experiences of human capital within the enterprise. Building on the previous investment strategy, there is an entire sub-industry within the Pharmaceutical industry which has never been tapped. The collective wisdom-power of doctors, nurses, engineers, geneticists and other key players is an enormous source of business value. Entrenched stiff organizational structures have buried the collective values that can be derived from the vast array of product and service ideas inherent in these collective talents. Investing in re-designing business towards info-social ecosystems will develop the platforms necessary to yield the potency of human creativity and innovation.

Of course, maybe it’s already too late for the large pharmaceutical companies. If that’s the case, then the smaller enterprises have an open opportunity to gun for the future – especially if they refuse to be subsumed into the Juggernauts, which anymore are more like Holding Companies than actual creators and producers.

If 20th Century Capitalism taught us anything, it’s this: Juggernauts often jeapordize their long-term sustainability by assuming their ways of doing business are eternally solvent. They aren’t: Technology brings forth into world both opportunity and obsolescence. It reveals the status quo even while it destroys it.


If the industry is to be what it aught to be – a leading creator of technological solutions to biological problems – then it will have to abandon the now false hope of generating unnatural rates of return via outmoded mechanisms, processes, strategies, tactics. Because if it continues to believe its industry is an exemption from the eternal laws of supply and demand, of resource and allocation, and of creativity and innovation, then it will perpetuate a belief system that will continue to funnel its efforts into practices which forgo richer long-term prospects.

This is not only a matter of industrial health: it’s a public health urgency. A bankruptcy of novel bio-molecular advancement would be catastrophic for health care.

Connecting points of suffering with points of care. That’s the simple going concern of the Life Sciences industry.

This connecting is what marketing is all about. All efforts from idea to development to production to consumption create the ribbon of presence which is marketing.


It’s not that the Web doesn’t matter – far from it. But the basic economic principles outlined above are the priority for all companies curious about how to integrate Web media into their enteprises.

There are places for new media within Life Sciences but the industry needs to be very basic in its approach.

For one, companies won’t get very far with “social marketing” efforts until executive leadership actually has hands-on experience with new media and a working comprehension of their properties.

No, the only way things will move is when middle and executive managers start using these media personally (none of it is hard). They need to go through this process before clear-headed strategies can be well formulated. Here’s how, in order:

  1. Executives must gain Web Literacy (this is a limiting agent).
  2. Then they must step back and re-frame everything they think they understand about media.
  3. After that, they need to imagine the re-purposing possibilities of the various media.
  4. They need to put together small packs of champions who – with permission – can go forth and lead the way with small steps.
  5. They will have to initiate the system-deep integration of social design into their companies (and Enterprise versions of Facebook ain’t it).

Once they understand how to use these media themselves, only then will they see the potential and pitfalls. They will realize the importance of accumulating Social Capital. They will see more clearly what it takes to create content and communities and the safe connections which engender markets where information can be safe and effective.

The economics of life science products and the realities of emerging shifts in the properties of adopted media dovetail each other over time. Perhaps not immediately, but it won’t be too long before the industry sees the need to change. That’s why the previous discussion about Capitalism is so important and relevant to any discussion on social technologies. Social media are merely revealing the deeper needs to re-vamp the industry’s microecnomic and enterprise schema.


The Web decentralizes centers of information. It rewards erratic volume at the expense of disciplined silence. It atomizes the world’s data while it connects disparate sources of information.

The Web is seductive. It promises Democratization. Unfortunately, seductive promises usually break.

And so it is with Pharma’s relationship to social and other media. In lust for easy returns by the promise of cheap media, fundamentals are easily forgotten. Longevity of industrial health is put at risk. The savviest get-rich schemes don’t sound like get-rich schemes. And yet, most of the talk about “social marketing” does in fact possess within it the underlying pitches of get-rich schemes.

Pharma will have to get back to fundamentals in economic design and collaborative networks. It needs to bring the life scientists back to front-and-center as pioneers of not only innovation but also creativity (and not in the way David Ogilvy abhorred the word). It will have to develop new ways to work with doctors and nurses, patients and the public.

It will have to answer, continually, questions such as these:

  • What is the effect of the Web on the health of human beings, from birth to death?
  • How does the Web affect collaboration? What about culture in general?
  • How can those with expertise create music that shunts the attention and interest of consumers away from the cacophony of charletons or from well-intended but misguided people? After all, a little knowledge can be more dangerous than complete ignorance – life science and health care aren’t always intuitive.

It will need to propound into the FDA’s collective head the one eternal truth of the web: On the Internet, nobody knows your’re a dog – but they may think you’re a doctor.

The imperative for leaders in life sciences businesses to understand the emerging roles of emerging media has never been more important. Moreover, the enframing of these media must line up with a fresh perspective on the nature of Capitalism in an age where social currencies emerge as substantive elements in the Capital System at large.

Pharma: Give up false hope in a Social Media Utopia. Overfed Utopian desires always end up backsliding into disasters. Get back to the science of life and the art of being a hero. Re-examine the fundamental meaning of marketing. Remember that marketing is about Presence. Realize the costly long-term error in mistaking Messaging for Marketing. History will hate you if you abandon your duty to be spotlessly heroic.

If you’re going to integrate rapidly shifting new media into your efforts, keep things simple. Don’t aim for marketing gold – you’ll not only miss the pot, you’ll ruin your reputation forever because the Web is your last hope, even if it’s your biggest fear.

Find what’s simple and simply do it.

It’s that simple. But like life itself, simple is rarely easy.

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Auto-captions on Youtube: All Our Base Be Long Us

The other day I posted this video:

Today I downloaded Google’s transcription of the audio and thought I pass this along to you just for fun. The results a pretty much bizarre. Oh, the SEO implications! 😉

My favorite clip is this:

I’m Phil common

and Phil gramm and are calm

about what

that’s what I meant

Here’s the whole transcript:

still down take money that shot he’s trying to clear up some of the confusion.

recording conversations about markets this conversation and why I think some of his compositions totally misguided misleading and all focus

in my opinion what matters is the audience and all this talk about social marketing and social communications in trying to figure out what’s the best term for this

what I have to say since very simple. the only thing that the way it is really doing with respect to marketing is this just adding a new feature which is the ability to just have a conversation

mister audience what that is your customers the fans

marketing is not about conversations it’s a part having conversations is certainly a part and now the way that that’s what’s exciting about this you can talk to somebody you can be available

but I eat

believe that a lot of companies and the agency’s are making away bigger deal about conversational aspect of these new media

that is really necessary

and all the talk and all that though case

I think the audience is getting lost

the sea having an audience

it’s not the same thing is just broadcasting unilateral messages like spaghetti against the Wall no not by any means

if you don’t have an audience you don’t have a business

you don’t have an organization

the leading nobody

no an important part about businesses leadership

marketing is about presence

it’s about leadership

now you just have media which you can now

it’s a racket get feedback

because shortcut a lot of the

complicating research that the student on twenty third years ago

that is the problem by making too much of this conversation part

to really think about it what kind of world we want with it

to in the world

were all interacting with multiple brands

day to day

I think it’ll destroy that’s nuts

in the last ten fifteen years because of technological changes

people of guns Fed up with

traditional advertised all this kind of spanning house

and I think if you over to the social component with regard to your marketing efforts

I think eventually all this just to get printout from that in the will be back to where we

are now with traditional advertising which is

I don’t want to be with us but we don’t wantto know that brings

this really all people want

it’s just availability

if something goes wrong they want to have some customer service

if you want to be educated

and they want to be educated get questions you want to be the answer

the ultimate people want to be part of the knowns patients

well they they want to be an audience to but they want the ability to be heard

you ask you questions

so this conversation of peace is very important

but it’s not cool

conversation is not a strategy

leading an audience that’s true

just think about that

it’s easy to get lost in all the talk about

still some media to to the basics

if your direct marketer

don’t forget copy skills

long copy

it’s too important to sit now copies of of video

are you text

and I teach and to bill them

interactive on to those are important skills

don’t think that’s clear and facebook

analysts also media stuff

it’s something that’s a big deal

so again but that’s it

being an audience for important tragic the conversation

as Justice still companies

anyway getting questions to for to contact

I’m Phil common

and Phil gramm and are calm

about what

that’s what I meant

and if you can’t have a conversation with

if they commit a horrible

wait for three six two

zero four five one

and I hope to keep you could stuff


I guess we’ll have to speak our clearest from now on. You can hear and watch the original here.

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Conversation Is Not A Strategy – Video

I don’t agree with the first thesis of the Cluetrain Manifesto which asserts: Markets are conversations. There’s a measure of truth to it, but it’s an assertion that can lead marketers down a narrow path that obstructs a larger view of the possibilities of media. If markets were indeed conversations, then we all could get rich just by conversing. No, leading an audience is what gets things done – conversation is simply a bonus feature of a two-way Web.

I need to make my point in the flesh. So here I am, presenting an elucidation of my thesis: Audiences are strategic imperatives [link to video if you can’t see the embed is here]:

Investing your talents into inspiring and conversing and leading your audience is one of the most challenging but important things you can do with the Web. If you don’t have an audience, you don’t have a business.

If you spend yourself being everywhere, you’ll end up nowhere.

Know where audience needs to be – and that isn’t on dozens of un-monetizable social networks.

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