I was power-buying at Costco recently when I discovered, situated between the tube sock 12-pack display and the bulk yard fertilizer (enough to fertilize a golf course), a brand-new book: The Age of the Unthinkable, by Joshua Cooper Ramo.
Full disclosure: I haven't finished the book yet, and Ramo seems to have a knack for using a lot of words to not get to the point - but, I find the book intriguing just the same. And, applicable to Postmarketing.
A central concept that Ramo talks about is the unpredictable nature of sandpiles, as studied by a Danish scientist named Per Bak. Bak created sandpile after sandpile, by systematically dropping sand one grain at a time, and then observing at what point a grain of sand dropped and set-off a chain-reaction avalanche that caused the whole pile to disintegrate. His conclusion?There is no way to predict which grain of sand will cause the avalanche, or the extent of the damage.
For Ramo, this is a useful analogy to the seeming chaos of the current geo-political environment, with terrorists, quasi-nation-states, separatist groups and transnational organizations all vying for power. Even with all of the intelligence in the world, there is no way to predict the event that might change everything, or the extent to which any single event will alter the future.
Lest I fall victim to not getting to my point quickly, here it is: the worlds of marketing, social networking, media and technology are being mashed-up in ways that can't be predicted, meaning that the old ways of looking at marketing (like the 4p's) are increasingly irrelevant, and potentially even flawed. One can no longer predict market acceptance, because the grain of sand that causes an avalanche of adoption can't be predicted.
Postmarketers must be scientists (experimental and analytical) and deconstructionists (of existing methods and assumptions) so that they raise their probability of finding the grain that sets-off a chain reaction of adoption.
With all due respect to the quality of Lexus automobiles, Lexus ads now make me queezy. Do you remember those Holiday ads with the red bow around the Lexus? Honestly, how many of you have bestowed a $50,000 Christmas present on a loved one (without any twinge of buyer's remorse)?
But since we're all being open with one another here, I didn't begin to feel this way until sometime last summer - when the economy started tanking. Why? Because I was used to luxury, and I was used to luxury being marketed to me. I haven't owned a car without leather seats in years (my Accord even has seat-warmers!). I expected Ritz Carlton-level service everywhere I went, and whined when I didn't get it. I looked at a house with 3 garages last year, and justified what I might do with the 3rd bay (didn't buy it - whew!). This is not because I had some great windfall of cash - rather, it was because we had all come to expect that we can afford (and even deserve) luxury, and we had a seemingly endless windfall of credit to pay for it. Luxury had been commoditized.
That was last year. Now, luxury is being returned to its rightful place among people who can afford it (with cash) and, even there, luxury is having a rough go of it. Luxury is not only expensive again, but it's out of style... said another way, Less is the new More.
The implications for marketers are profound. How do you market less? Green marketers have certainly led the way on this, although even green marketing to-date has been "more - and green too!". I believe the path forward is simple: market genuine value (thanks to Chris Grams and David Burney for blazing this trail at Red Hat).
In order to avoid being irrelevant (or, worse, nauseating), marketers must focus on truthful, straightforward messaging about the actual value of their products & services. Slathering on generous amounts of luxury positioning was an easy cheat during the boom - but it wreaks of excess & consumption in the postmarketing world.
It would be a luxury for me if you commented on this post - please indulge!