Barry's Blog

What If There Was A Real World Place To Try On Ideas?

The notion of “failing fast” is not new. Fail-fast is a property of a system. Brad Feld reminds us that the best entrepreneurs know how to fail fast. Zozi founder, TJ Sassani, says, “Fail Fast, Fail Often, Fail by Design.” While at the same time, social strategist, Peter Kim of Dachis Group says, “fail fast is bad advice.”

The fact is all of these perspectives were formed in a world before LiveLab.

Not to sound “pitchy,” as Randy Jackson might call it, but we’ve discovered some amazing things since opening the first LiveLab.

Three of the most important things we’ve learned can be summarized as:

  1. Keep it candid.
  2. Activate and optimize
  3. Wow or invisible

Let me explain.


First and foremost is the importance of the imperative we ALL learned about from the hip-hop movement: transparency and authenticity. Yes, before Enron or Obama, hip-hop hyped truth telling with the call to arms “keep it real.” Many wrote this off as jive talk, but in truth, there was a very important lesson and message when “gangsta” rap and other influences spawned the birth of hip-hop.

In my humble opinion, hip-hop didn’t become the fastest music form to go global in history because of the simplicity of its beat. It was the simplicity and universality of its message, urging people to see beyond the rose-colored lenses, the tangled-talk trappings and convoluted, high-drama over-think; but see things, say things and show things as they really are.

I had this discussion nearly ten years ago with legendary hip-hop director Hype Williams who taught me that, while 4/4 rock-n-roll is pretty simple musically, hip-hop is more like 1/1 time. “If you’ve got a heart beat you can keep time with hip-hop,” Hype whispered to me. As for message, rock romances real things while hip-hop doesn’t cleanse, varnish or attempt to beautify. “Keepin’ it real means keeping it real” Hype said.

So what does all this rap talk have to do with brand building? Well, what happens when you try your young, embryonic ideas in ivory towers, through expert marketer lenses and blinded consumer surveys? You get New Coke!  The American people instantly judged, what blind taste surveys proved undeniably superior by both Coke and Pepsi lovers, as NOT the real thing.  It was rejected out of hand, in the real world, and marked an epic fail. This was a significant moment in marketing history, the poster child of what not to do for brand builders everywhere. So, how do you keep it real? You keep it real!

We have discovered a higher power of possibility by lowering the tricks and trappings – and price tags as well. A shift from the convoluted rigidity of consumer marketing research and strategic communication plans … to actively listen and talk to people … candidly capture their visceral right brain reactions, naturally. Malcolm Gladwell calls this the “blink think” reaction. We have found it is essential to keep the cameras, microphones and left-brain-logical survey forms out of people’s faces.

This notion was first brought to bare in Quantum Mechanics by Heisenberg in 1927 as the Uncertainty Principle, which, has also been called the “Observer Effect. Still, these lessons are not heeded nearly a century later. Perhaps it’s because there wasn’t a place to try on ideas.


What is a “fan” or “friend” worth in today’s social media maze? Does a click for a free coupon create a valuable friend – or produce a desirable ROI? We have found that every valuable relationship needs to be activated and optimized.

One powerful way we have found to achieve this is to create an environment that disarms and enchants people, providing what Guy Kawasaki calls “surprising acts of hospitality and delight.”

We do it with a special breed of modern day marketing super hero we call the Brand Activist, who won’t sell or interrupt what people are interested in, but instead integrate brands into experiences people actually are interested in.


In today’s world of brand, claim, creative and media proliferation we believe grey area is deadly. To ensure consideration and ultimately behavior shift, we can’t dabble with people. We literally need to WOW them with reality. Give people real news, real solutions, real benefits. Any part of a brand’s story that doesn’t WOW will only mask its potency and clarity.

Thus, we have the simple mandate: WOW or invisible.

How do you get there?

It helps have a place to try on ideas. Like LiveLab.

Where do you try on your ideas?


  • Steve


    I agree with your beliefs, Live exposure that captured the real essence and interaction, goes way beyond a single message.

    • Gil


      Yes! You are so right. Transparency and being REAL can say so much and it's what people want and trust.

    • Barry Krause


      Thanks, Steve. Amazing what happens when we create an opportunity for humans to be, well, human.

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