Bough - Hackonomy


by Jason Antrosio

In April 2017 at Hartwick College, award-winning e-commerce marketing executive and television personality Bonin Bough discussed “Hackonomy: Lessons from the Largest Brands in the World.” Bough is the author of Txt Me: Your Phone Has Changed Your Life. Let’s Talk about It.

One of the things that interested me in Bough’s lecture was his take on digital devices. Bough “breaks down the often counterintuitive ways mobile devices and digital data are reshaping the way we experience, consume, and think.” It’s something that I’ve been thinking about in the classroom and in daily life.

Hackonomy and Anthropology

Bough’s lecture on “Hackonomy” is also interesting to compare with the anthropology brand, which has been one of the themes of the blog. Interestingly Bough’s lecture also converges with some of the questions we are tackling in my classes. For Introduction to Anthropology, we have been pondering Is Capitalism the Best Economic System? and Why Does Politics Matter? For Cultural Ecology, looking at Will Machines Replace Humans?, Will Technology Save Humanity?, and Too Much Time on My Hands?

A video of Bough’s talk is also now available:

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  • Gina G

    I had a lot of fun tonight at the “Hackonomy” lecture. Bough is a really funny and well spoken person. I am a business major and art minor and hoping to pick up a minor is graphic communications minor. So listening to Bough was really inviting and inspiring since his job is what I want to be when I grow up which is marketing for big companies. The most interesting thing to be was when they were advertising ore’s at the Super Bowl and the lights went off and he quickly came up with the ad “You can still dunk in the dark”. I thought it was so brilliant for someone to come up with something so quickly. But this lecture to me related to anthropology in a different was. Bough talked about how 96% of humans own a cellphone but only 95% own a toothbrush and only 90% use deodorant. Mobile devices have become such big part of our culture that people of our society believe it is more important to use or have a cellphone over proper high gene which amazes me. Culture is a big part of anthropology and in the lecture we learned how to use technology to branch things out so that they become a thing or a need in our societies culture.

  • Corrie Fenn

    I very much enjoyed the “Hackonomy” lecture by B. Bonin Bough. I found him to be a persuasive, convincing, and an extremely enthusiastic speaker. You can definitely tell he is a hard worker considering how much experience he has with top companies and how successful he is. It surprised me that he put his actual phone number on the front cover of his book. He talked about a conversation he had with one woman. The women wanted to see if the phone number actually worked and then got more in depth about how she like texting better, but her now ex boyfriend preferred to call. Bonin mentioned the women expressing the disadvantages of talking on the phone. She always had a hard time trying to come up with what to say in the moment and found it easier to just text. I find this to be true even for me because sometimes I do not have an answer right away and it may take me a little while to figure out what to say. I feel that it also takes away from the actual human to human contact and by staring at a phone all the time people miss out on actually enjoying what is right in front of them. People also forget about their own hygiene and would rather spend money on a phone then buying or using deodorant.

    One statement that Bonin made “creating value by breaking things down” I found this to be very interesting. I completely agree with this. An example he gave of this was a person who loved climbing lost both of his legs and his best friend during a storm. He was determined to get back out and climb so he put on his prosthetics on. He accidentally chipped his prosthetic which ended up making it easier for him to fit his prosthetic through the smaller cracks making him a little more stable. After this he went home and started talking apart all of his prosthetics to create something new. He ended up making bionic limbs where the feet could move up and down when a person takes a step. By breaking and reconstructing old objects and ideas in our cultures we create new inventions that change humanity usually for the better.

  • Cj Alesandrini

    I was very happy I made the decision to attend “Hackonomy” with Hartwick Alumnus B. Bonin Bough. He was a very energetic speaker with a great sense of humor. Bough has a very strong background in marketing and as he displayed some of his work it was really eye-opening how he got so many people to view some of his ideas, commercials, and other advertisements. Bough also showed us all just how connected to our cellphones we are, and he went on to show us that more people in this world own cell phones than toothbrushes and that there is even a physiological term for people who hallucinate a vibration coming from their phone when they’re really just lonely and want someone to text them. we also got a free copy of the book at the end of the lecture.

    • Interesting stuff, although I do wonder–as we discussed in the class on Economics and Capitalism–if the cellphone is really the radical break it is touted to be. I’ve used your post as a fill-in on that comment page.

  • Justin

    I thought overall the presentation was very well done. B. Bonin Bough is very energetic and is able to truly captivate the audience with his words. I would have to say one of the most interesting parts of the presentation would have to be the portion where we discussed “Trending Vending”. This was a vending station for Oreos that they had at SXSW in which they turned various trending topics from twitter into your own personal Oreo. I feel like this is a very interesting concept because how exactly do you link those two things. How do you link internal feelings with your tastebuds? Especially when it comes to trending topics that aren’t positive? Would you simply make a bad tasting Oreo or did they have control over the trending topics the machine had access to? Overall I found his list of accomplishments to be quite impressive and I decided to take one of his books and actually text him once I finish it.

    • Interesting stuff. I do wonder–as we discussed in the class on Economics and Capitalism–if the cellphone is really the radical break it is touted to be. I’ve used your post as a fill-in for the miss on that comment page.

  • Marzipan

    I also really enjoyed B. Bonin Bough’s guest lecture, but I have to admit some parts seemed funny to me in a more ironic way. I’ve listened to plenty of teachers ridicule advertising for its blatant manipulation of people’s values and prejudices, and I think I’ve internalized that cynicism. It seems sad that we have reached the point at which a man jumping out of an airplane without a parachute is really a tool to encourage consumption instead of being a purely crazy and inspirational act. I understand that money runs the world, though, and that any dream like that requires funding.Perhaps more down to Earth (hahaha), Honey Maid is apparently some super ethical brand now because it supports “unusual” families. Are we supposed to believe that buying this cracker is actually going to help them? Will the brand be giving some of the millions it earns to underprivileged families? (Maybe Bough addressed this, and I’m sorry if I’m not remembering it).
    I think the Oreo commercials were the least perplexing for me because the brand name wasn’t just tacked on; the product was present throughout, making the ads really about the product.

    • It does seem, as we discussed a bit in the chapter on Art and Technology, that in some ways the separation-and-relinkage of brand, identity, and product has reached ridiculous extremes.

  • Otelia

    B. Bonin Bough is intelligent, energetic, and humorous, but spoke a bit too quickly for me to keep up with all of the ideas that he presented. He states that technology has addictive qualities, and affects the brain in a way similar to meth. We have increasing reliance on our technology. 5.1 billion own a cellphone (apparently a larger group then those that own a toothbrush according to Bough) he refers to our smart phones as “second limbs”. At the same B. Bonin Bough is also saying that technology is an incredible thing, and anyone can use social media platforms in order to advertise themselves. Nowadays anything can be used as a tool for consumption. I disliked the advertisement for Honeymaid crackers that Bough was part of, I disliked that they used the concept of interracial couples and other “unusual” couples was used as a selling point. Although interesting, I disagreed with a few of the ad campaigns that B. Bonin Bough presented. The world of consumerism is very harsh, the psychology behind it, I find to be very exploitative… But perhaps I shouldn’t be looking at it so subjectively.

  • Nadja

    I also truly enjoyed B. Bonin Bough’s lecture on mobile culture. He was very energetic and entertaining, however, I must agree with my peers that he did go though his speech pretty fast, so it was hard to take notes from his slideshow. Bough discussed this idea of “hackonomy” which means creating value by breaking things. He also discussed his book called “Txt Me”, which touches on a few topics such as consumer consumption on television, and the societal changes of technology. Bough also presented us with some interesting statistics about the usage of technology and how many people on the planet own a gadget. His lecture was very relatable because he talked about things such as the average age kids get a phone which is twelve, and how having no phones at the dinner table is sort of a social rule that has been changing. He had a great point on how we have become the most distracted humans in society because of all of this technology. I am glad I had the opportunity to sit in this lecture because it is nice to see a Hartwick Alumni who has succeeded in life, and has come back to share his knowledge amongst us.

  • Safay Johnson

    For me the most interesting part of Bough’s presentation was the part about how technology has affected parenting. He gave the example of when he attended college he spoke to his parents maybe once a week. As a result of almost every one having a cellphone now parents are able to speak to their children who are away at college pretty often. I’m not sure of the exact quote from Bough but I remember him stating something about how college students of today aren’t exactly able to grow a part from their parents thanks to always being in touch with them through messages and social media. Bough also mentioned how the 14 year olds of today are the apart of the Facebook generation. Another interesting part of the presentation was when Bough explained how many people owned a cellphone in the world compared to a toothbrush and deodorant. Although the difference in numbers was shocking, I’m puzzled as to who were the samples. Where the people who owned cellphones the same exact individuals who didn’t own a toothbrush?

    • I agree, there’s something bizarre about the sample! I’ve used this to fill in for a missing comment on Wayfinding.

      • Mr Luke Cook

        Hi Jason! Perhaps the sample was from Papua New Guinea? When I was there in 2012 almost all the guys with me on my trek had at least one cell phone (often more) but I never saw one brush his teeth (but plenty of beetle but was chewed!)

        • Hi Luke, thank you for stopping by. Indeed, as we discussed in my Cultural Ecology class, I think the power of this statistic comes from our ideas that brushing teeth is a baseline human universal of hygiene whereas cellphones are shiny gadgets. However, one could argue that communication and the cellphone is more of a baseline human universal, whereas tooth-brushing is unnecessary and only becomes an issue with the advent of processed foods and sugar. See Sidney Mintz, Sweetness and Power. Thanks!

  • Zach Simmonds

    My favorite part of Bough’s speech was when he talked about real time marketing. To manifest this he created an Oreo machine. This machine would take news stories, social fads and other things that were trending on twitter and put them into an Oreo flavor. They did months and months of research to match flavors with specific topics and social issues. The flavor combinations were virtually endless with roughly 10,000 different ones being produced. This marketing strategy was so effective that people were waiting in line for up to 2 hours to make one single Oreo. This was mind blowing to me and I instantly saw the future of mobile advertising. Being able to change your marketing strategy to your specific audience in real time will be an absolute game changer. On a different note, I really like how he put his phone number on the front of the book. His idea is that talking to as many people as possible and hearing every idea imaginable will eventually lead him to his next big break. I actually texted the number 15 minutes before the presentation started and had a pretty good conversation with Bough. We even tried to convince him to come to our house and talk to us about the good old Hartwick days. We were close but unfortunately he did not show. All in all interesting presentation.