Digital Strategy

Random Acts of Subversion, continued

On Flagged For Follow-Up, Ian Sohn posted some thoughts about brands sponsoring not random acts of kindness, but acts of subversion. These acts are not malicious in nature, but small, fun and disruptive in some way. For instance, photo-bombing someone. (See above picture.)

I’m all for subversive behavior. It takes a little bit of effort and ultimately feels pretty darn good. But can brands really own it?

In some cases, yes, but I think subversion must be defined. Photo bombing is one example, but finding a clever way to hack an archaic system is another. Take, for instance, Nate Silver’s method of ‘hacking’ his local salad bar. This will ultimately help people get more bang for their buck. Mint could own this; so could Lifehacker.

Photobombing? That’s easy: a social media-savvy company that makes primarily point-and-shoot cameras (e.g. Kodak) could own that.

Southwest Airlines is deliciously subversive in its feigned disbelief of – and action against – high baggage and transfer fees. In its commercials, handlers are seen “flagging” these injustices:

Southwest could create some sort of “flag kit” in which people are encouraged to “flag” everyday injustices, even minor ones.

Brands that enable this type of subversive behavior, however, must do two things:

1. Have a clear stance for or against something. A personality, even. Southwest isn’t short on personality. PETA, of course, has mastered the naked protest. Nike stands for performance athletics; one idea, for instance, is to sponsor flash mob-type workout activities, or office basketball. Maybe even a spontaneous mid-day runs through office building.

2. Document these subversive activities to create a sense of community. Let these subversive acts live on in infamy! Two quick ways of doing this are through Pinterest collections or Tumblr blogs. Either way, voila – instant community!

What do you think? Which brands are well-positioned to sponsor subversive activities? What could they do? Please leave your thoughts as comments below!