Umair Haque / Bubblegeneration
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Design principles for 21st century companies, markets, and economies. Foreword by Gary Hamel. Coming January 4th. Pre-order at Amazon.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Research Note: The New Economics of Marketing

You know, perhaps the biggest reason marketing sucks is that marketers can't let the massconomy's tired assumptions go.

For example.

"...Brand nation is about marketers to get loyal customers to be citizens of their brand nation regardless of global boundaries."

Oh - the lulz. I can almost see it - marketers lurking in clubs earnestly asking tweens to join their "brand nations". Side-splitting stuff.

But there's a (very) serious point here.

From an economic point of view, it's exactly the opposite: connected consumers (sometimes, in those rare instances that firms actually do something cool and create value) want firms to be citizens of their microcultures.

The error couldn't be more profound - and more fatal.

The former leads you to make moves like, for example, Tommy Hilfiger or the Gap - directly into brand implosion and strategy decay.

The latter is different. It means means accepting, deep, in the very essence of your DNA, that the fundamental premise of orthodox marketing and branding - that we could fool consumers into thinking almost exactly the same goods were really, truly different by "positioning" them on a spectrum of imaginary psychological benefits - isn't just utterly, totally, almost incomprehensibly ludicrous; it's also deeply evil.

Think about that for a second. It's not just economically inefficient; it's mind-blowingly absurd to think this shell game, this pseudo-strategy, this masquerade of value creation, could go on forever.

So the latter asks you if you're up to the challenge of letting go of yesterday, and focusing, instead, on promise, performance, and purpose.

Want an example? Here's a nice one. A consumer player trivializing connected consumption. Why is it trivializing? Because there are thousands of places people who love to cook can coordinate with one another and create real value.

And so, from a strategic point of view, it's inevitable that consumers are gonna see this for what it really is: a glorified brochure trying to "position" Pepperidge Farms as a "brand" that's "caring", "compassionate", "nurturing", etc. But that's a masquerade; that it's value proposition, value chain, etc have seen not a single iota of change to make any of these attributes economically meaningful.

See the point? Same old assumptions = brand error --> strategy decay; microcultures crying out for meaningful, durable, participation - but getting exactly the opposite.

-- umair // 1:53 PM // 4 comments


Marketing needs to be part of the conversation, not disrupting it. If marketers want to keep drinking their own Kool-Aid about the mainstream wanting to create the messages for brands, they can continue, but the rest of us need to come back to reality and find ways to join the conversation.

Is marketing efficient today? Maybe, maybe not. We can debate that all day. Is television, print, or digital the best or most efficient method to reaching your consumer? Depends on the campaign and brand.

There are lots of balls in the air in the advertising world and there aren't any clear answers. There will never be. As marketers though, we can try our best to plan for the unknown (is that possible?) and adapt multiple models to monitor campaign goals.

At the end of the day, the consumer controls the brand but we can speak to them in a way that doesn't disrupt their lifestyle. Remember, conversations are two-way, and we *hope* to hear from the consumer, directly or indirectly.
// Anonymous Darren Herman // 2:59 PM

hey darren,

that's a great comment.

"coming back to reality" is a nice way to put it.

i gotta disagree with you on one point tho - i think there are (kind of) clear answers already.

ie, google not investing in traditional marketing, blurring boundaries with consumers instead. not for everyone, but there is a lesson there.

you bring up another interesting point - which i think is like the real point. marketing is like a (max) 5% efficiency any marginal gain is a (really) big one.

thx for the comment.
// Blogger umair // 3:08 PM

Umair, have you constructed any maxims that might guide marketing peeps decisions in the right direction?

One question I'm trying to get people to ask is:

"How can I use my marketing budget to DELIVER REAL VALUE to my customer?"

What do you think?

Thanks for all the posts...more is better ;-)
// Blogger Ethan B // 5:23 PM

Have been having a lot of conversations about this lately. It seems like this disruption could/should be linked to the disruption in the content world -- the fall of the gatekeepers, if nothing else -- and more brands ought to actually be interested in creating & distributing content that has real value. That is: Not brainwashy commercials intended to pack as much psyche-bending payload as possible into 30 seconds, for a mass national audience, but stuff that's actually useful, interesting, informative, targeted & (importantly) ongoing. In an era when everybody can make content & build an audience, shouldn't every brand be trying really hard to do just that?

I like the word "durable" in your post a lot.

Anyway, maybe that's still a bit backwards -- very much about pushing stuff out there instead of listening & pulling stuff in -- but still, I think it would be a salutatory change.
// Blogger Robin // 3:11 AM
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