Took some flak for my 'smart marketers aren't trying to market' comment below. What did I mean? It's pretty simple: smart marketers are trying to discover: to discover what the social meanings of products really are, and expose the value in them. If they're really smart marketers, they might even expose the costs in the social meanings, because that's where real revolution in consumer needs comes from.
But my point really was that the era of engineering social meanings is over - at least by corporates. Users can still engineer social meanings, but when they do, those meanings are usually dependent on hacking the product as well.
For my generation, this is easy to understand: social meanings for us have almost always been aggregate properties of goods. What is the social meaning of McDonald's? 'I'm puking it' is generally the answer. The meaning's shifted, because the way people consume McDonald's, at least in the aggregate, has shifted.
Now the academic answer is that there's a time lag between this message being formed, (or the social meaning of a good emerging, if you like), and the corporate world getting it. That's why we see marketing errors.
I think the answer's (really) different. I think that getting this picture is itself really tricky
for suits, beancounters, and marketing droids alike. That's because they subscribe to a fundamentally different epistemology: for them, social meanings are properties of the market. What is the meaning of McDonald's? The confused signal the markets are sending - healthy, clean, fast food that might just be in need of a quick patch-up job.
Now, the point of all this: going from one causality to the other is a massive inversion - it's not an easy jump to make.
Make any sense? Good.