One of life’s first lessons is to share, an act of enlightened self interest that’s a foundation of our existence as social animals. So intrinsic it is, we rarely analyze it. Yet we tell stories, commit time to others and wave people forward at intersections without a second thought.
As with much intuitive, unexamined human activity, rethinking occurs when computers and capitalism embed themselves in the mix. Multi-billion dollar valuations have greeted social media and sharing economy enterprises, particularly ones that enable people to host guests in their spare bedrooms, make money with cars or wish one another a happy birthday without licking a stamp or picking up the telephone.
After more than two decades in the industry, San Jose adman Bryan Kramer found himself at the nexus of random acts of kindness and ka-ching. He entered the advertising world in boutique advertising firm Carter Waxman’s heyday, then spent more than a decade running a marketing and branding firm out of a building with an old ravioli sign in downtown San Jose. While established firms like Carter disappeared during the reinvention of traditional media and advertising, Kramer’s PureMatter agency became a go-to destination for big companies seeking to understand and communicate across the exploding social media landscape.
Kramer popularized the hashtag #H2H in 2014 to summarize some of the lessons he’d learned with a small book titled “There is No B2B or B2C: It’s Human to Human: #H2H.” The themes gained some traction and Kramer, as brand managers often do, coined a new wordmark, “shareology,” to frame his latest thoughts on the subject.
Just as one of the valley’s legendary Mad Men demonstrated in an early example of viral propagation — Gary Dahl’s 1975 Pet Rock — the dissection of sharing culture has been a collective a-ha moment. Shareology, the book, has trended well in several Amazon business book categories since its July 14 release, selling nearly 15,000 copies in its first month.
Kramer, who grew up in San Jose and spent his entire post-college career here, has been on the road a lot these days. “I’ve been in more than 10 different countries and put on well over half a million miles in the last year,” he says.
Calling in from Astoria, Oregon after a Portland book signing, Kramer explained his ambitious goal. “I wanted to crack the code on sharing,” he says.
“I wanted everyone to understand what, where, when, why and how people and brands share.”
To that end, Kramer conducted more than 250 interviews to better understand the culture of sharing. The book is a wide-ranging mashup of insights, futurism, personal branding advice and marketing tips.
The collective brain that Kramer tapped for his book research is a microcosm for what he sees going on it the world—the emergence of crowdsourced intelligence to advance humanity. “Our increased access to instant information will continue to make it faster and easier for us to solve the world’s problems.”
He cites well-known viral phenomena to support his theses, anchored by the role of the individual—human to human—the building block of a larger whole. “If you’ve ever been in the wave at a stadium and you look at how the wave goes around the stadium, it’s very similar to crowd marketing, crowdfunding and what community is all about.”
He points out that the wave began with a single individual, San Jose’s Crazy George. “Like the ALS Challenge, where everybody dumps ice over their head. It all points back to one person who started it.” He points out that more than $100 million was raised from more than 3 million donors from almost every country in the world in a matter of months through the ALS Challenge.
Kramer thinks brands still matter but are only one component of organized influence. “If I had called [the book] The Art and Science of Sharing, I don’t think people would have paid attention to it as much.”
“I really wanted it to be a movement, so even if you never pick the book up or never read it, I wanted everyone to understand that they have the power to share,” Kramer says.
A coined word, a digital book or a social media feed, however, are no substitute for human contact, and Kramer spends much of his time meeting people in different cities.
“A personal brand is way more trusted than a business brand,” Kramer says, adding an empowering message: “I want people to know how much more power they have than a brand.”
Read an excerpt from ‘Shareology.’