This week's digested read: The Reputation Economy by Michael Fertik and David C. Thompson

Each week, London Strategy Unit fillets one of the most influential books from the world of innovation, marketing or creativity, and serves up its most relevant ideas and advice. A marketing strategy and innovation company, LSU works with the likes of EY, JLL, ASOS, the BBC, adidas, Sanofi, Jaguar, Unilever and Mondelez around the world.

They read books, so you don't have to.

The Reputation Economy

Each week, the London Strategy Unit's Matt Boffey reads one of the most influential books from the world of innovation, marketing or creativity so you don't have to. In today's digest, he tells us what we can learn from The Reputation Economy (2015) - Michael Fertik and David C. Thompson.

Why have we chosen this book?

Because we’ve entered the era of Big Analysis – in 2013 alone venture capitalists invested $3.6bn into companies that manipulate and analyse our data. The Reputation Economy is all about finding ways as an individual to take advantage of Big Analysis by saying and doing and saying the things that’ll get you noticed by automated decision makers.

What’s the original thought or argument?

That as Big Analysis becomes increasingly sophisticated, companies will build ‘reputation profiles’ for each of us out of data trails left online and in the real world. Our reliability will be determined from indicators ranging from our friends on Facebook to how late we work into the evenings. Fertik and Thompson predict that companies will use these reputation profiles to makes decisions about us before we even walk in the door.

If you want to look smart, just read

Chapter Four, which explores the combination of potency and serendipity that creates the reputation economy. Arnel Pineda went from singing in Filipino bars to selling out stadiums globally after Journey’s guitarist saw a YouTube video of Pineda and made him the band’s frontman. Pineda’s meteoric rise demonstrates the potential catapulting effect offered to us by the reputation economy.

You might want to skip

Chapter Six, which argues that university is less about learning skills and absorbing information relevant to a career, and more about simply signalling to an employer that a candidate is likely to be successful. Fertik and Thompson argue that this provides a case for practical experience being formally recognised in the workplace but conclude limply that we’re still a very long way from overturning the hegemony of the elite universities.

Why trust these authors?

Fertik and Thompson are prominent online privacy advocates, running a website that helps individuals and companies cover up the embarrassing aspects of their online footprints. While they both have vested interests in encouraging people’s paranoia about online privacy, they’re uniquely well placed to write about the very real value of the reputation economy.

Once you’ve read this you don’t need to read

Books like Julia Angwin’s Dragnet Nation which argue that current trends of data collection and surveillance threaten to stamp out our individuality and turn us into censored machines.

Why should this stay on your bookshelf?

Because it’s full of interesting insights into the applications of Big Analysis. The Reputation Economy predicts a future where systems like recruitment become increasingly reliant on ‘decisions almost made by machines’ (DAMM). This means that as individuals we need to consider presenting ourselves in ways that will be recognised as positive by algorithms, not humans.

What’s the one thing you should do differently after reading this book?

You might want to consider engaging more actively with brands on social media. If a hotel, for example, knows that you tend to tweet about positive experiences with brands, they’re more likely to offer you a free room upgrade in order to provoke a similar positive social media outpouring about them.

Best quote in the whole book?

“Just as the question for the oil under the sands of the Middle East has shaped the politics and history of the region, the coming fight over reputation will shape the world. If ‘reputation engines’ run on data, control of that data will be fought over like any other valuable commodity that is unevenly distributed.”

Matt Boffey is the founder of London Strategy Unit, which you can follow on Twitter @LSUsocial

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