And indeed, his statement seems simple enough. The problem is, it really does a little more than to reveal all the questions that it fails to answer.
The most obvious one is: how does this adoption of new behaviors happen? And then, there's also this one: what's the relation between tools and behaviors?
Before I go any further, first there's a quote that I love: "What happens in the place of two ghosts - society and technology - is a collective thing, the trajectory between programs and anti-programs."
So, let's maybe try to change our approach. For a second, imagine a world without any and all form of causality between technology and behavior. Imagine that they do not "influence" each other. Imagine that they interact.
Now, you don't actually need to imagine that last thing. Because interactivity is all around us. And truth is, we are actually not the only ones who can interact. Or, as Russell Davies says, “As object informationalize, communication channels are getting built in. And cleverer phones will be the perfect things to interact with these clever objects. This is what advertising and marketing and media people really need to get afraid of. There is a whole model here that integrates the conversation into the stuff, creating a much more natural relationship between people and things.”
So, if that's out reality, why are we still talking about who influences whom or how our campaigns are going to influence behavior or how differently people are going to behave after they see this or that message?
I guess that's because we like to think that there is a clear-cut dichotomy of people/culture on one side vs. technology on the other. Truth is, there's no clear-cut division between them, there's only a network. How so? Very simple: in digital, people are defined by their behavioral patters or, by what they do online. This is only partially defined by their skills, and interests, and preferences. The rest of their capabilities belongs to their tools/technology. (There's another reason why I find this situation interesting, and that's because it tackles the question of motivation: do you do something because you really want, just because you can, or because something in your tools/behavior of others inspired you to do so?)
This is a sort of game changing situation. And indeed: what we are creating today in marketing are not just products and services, but situations for interaction. Here, everyone included (people, objects, tools) are gathered into "programs of action." Now, instead of causality, the relationship between technology and behavior is the one of prescribing behavior: what kind of behavior does your situation encourage? What behaviors does it restrict?
I read somewhere about the rationale behind Foursquare, which goes something like this: instead of pushing messages out, Foursquare is something that allows people to prescribe activities to other people, to encourage them to change their behavior (stop going to same places, try out things that they wouldn't normally do). Similarly as Foursquare encourages its users to have a more active social life, or as Twitter encourages sharing of information by displaying the number of followers that each user has, there are services that rely on the same principle of transparency to curb behavior. For example, Bundle’s “Everybody’s Money” shows millions of personal finance trends across U.S. and allows people to compare their spending habits with those of others. Or, Blippy automatically publishes daily personal purchases for others to see and interact with. Phillip Kaplan, who founded Blippy, says that situation where you can see what everyone else is buying creates an interesting social dynamics, as maybe you’ll start manipulating your spending habits on your cards to show just a certain side of yourself.
What does this have to do with marketing? At the end of the day, we are still in the business of changing people's behavior, as we have always been. The difference is that, in digital, communication is much less effective than situations for behavior that we can create.