Book Review: Six Pixels Of Separation

September 30, 2009

Mitch Joel is the President of Twist Image, a fantastic writer  and a recognized expert in digital marketing and the application and management of what we loosely call social media.

In his book; Six Pixels of Separation the author presents an excellent argument on how the world of marketing, communications, PR – in fact business itself! – has changed in our digital world.

As an introduction to the text, let me quote the publisher;

This is the first book to integrate digital marketing, social media, personal branding, and entrepreneurship in a clear, entertaining, and instructive manner that everyone can understand and apply.

Owners and Managers in the small to medium enterprise, let me say it clearly;

Read This Book!

Some Historical Background will tell you why.

Almost a decade ago, Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls, and David Weinberger published a seminal text titled; the Cluetrain Manifesto

In that treatise they argued that consumers now demand that business has to open up the kimono, that they must become more transparent, and that business must revert to the public marketplace or commons. And that to move towards this new public marketplace would require moving out from the opaque Orwellian box that business had been living in.

In Six Pixels of Separation, Mitch Joel extends the boundaries of that theme by demonstrating that in our 21st century digital age, monitoring and embracing this Marketplace or Commons is no longer optional – it is mandatory.

It is mandatory because within that commons, people are already talking about you. They are praising, criticizing, disseminating, lambasting and generally sharing information about your business anyway! Those digital communications are happening right now – the question is;

Do you even know what is being said about you?

If you don’t believe it; consider that a decade or so ago it took very persistent reporters and motivated NGO’s (Non Governmental Organizations) to drop the branding bombshell on Nike’s sweatshop labour practices.

Then compare that with the recent famous (or infamous) United Breaks Guitars video’s or the Domino’s pizza spoilage video. No cloak and dagger travel across the world required. From thought to on-line in no time at all.

Mr. Joel clearly demonstrates that for consumers in our open marketplace, they require trust. They require that there is authentic two way communication between business and consumer. The author clearly demonstrates ways to begin building that.

I do point out one caveat though

Much of the text describes case studies of individuals successfully utilizing these digital tools to drive branding, often to very lofty heights, but that is the caveat; the majority of the examples are individuals, not businesses. I am sure that this is partially because transformational case studies by businesses are probably still a little thin.

But this is a learning curve that we have to go through; namely what are the risks of personal branding within your business, vs. the branding of your business?

This is a question that needs to be thought about because as most small business owners and managers know, the brand recognition and equity you have has to belong to the company – not to you.

Does that brand equity rub off on the business? – or stay with the name?

I don’t have that answer.

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4 Responses to “Book Review: Six Pixels Of Separation”

  1. elliotross Says:

    Steve, Thanks for dropping by!

    Yes – I agree that the line currently can be very blurry.

    But a thought exercise for you – What is the Twist Image brand worth without Mitch?

    Perhaps he wants to sell and exit?

    When the individual brand ‘recognition’ possibly exceeds the corporate brand ‘recognition’ (doubly so if that ‘individual’ brand is not an owner or principle in the business)

    I think we are getting into not only a blurry area – but a fuzzy one as well

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  3. Elliot – I think the best answer to your caveat would be Mitch himself. His agency grew from 1 employee to over 80, mainly through the use of the principles he describes in the book.

    I think the line between personal branding and company branding will continue to be blurred.

    Keep up the great work here!

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