Like a raging storm in the open sea, the waves of change come at brand marketers from all directions. There is no eye in this perfect storm – no brief moment of calm to prepare for the next big wind to blow your business off course. The world is changing so fast most brand owners can hardly manage the process of learning what’s necessary to master to keep their ship afloat in all the apparent chaos surrounding them.
From the media we hear daily about the dire circumstances facing all of us on the planet. The stubbornly slow global economy, dwindling resources, over population, political uncertainty and global unrest are taking its toll on the collective creativity and resourcefulness necessary for humans to solve the wicked problems we have created in our modern age.
Everything is different now – profoundly different. Yet it is out of and from chaos that all new order is born. And we are at the beginning of a new order. That’s very good news for those brand marketers willing to view it as such and act accordingly.
We’re in this together.
Right now many brand marketers are connecting the dots between their present circumstances and the bigger, better future they desire to create; between the global picture and their personal circumstances; between individual and collective success. We’re all in this together.
As marketers, we can’t afford to continue to operate on the premise that when one of us wins, another must lose. We need to leave the competitive plane and operate on the creative plane – creating new value rather than competing for the value already created by others.
“The future ain’t what it used to be”– Yogi Berra.
The future now arrives at an accelerating rate. Products are out-of-date almost before they are fully embraced and established in the marketplace. So are your assumptions, your forecasts, metrics and winning formulas. Everything seems to be moving past the sell-by date just as it’s being created. This pace is the new normal.
But as our solutions become out of date, our assessment of the problem is also out of date. What frictions we are facing in our personal and professional life are evaporating just as are we are faced with an entirely new world of opportunity and a whole host of new possibilities. These waves of opportunity are everywhere, and one doesn’t need to look far to find examples of creative entrepreneurs creating insane value seemingly out of thin air and at lightspeed.
Back in 2003, Dennis Crowley wanted an easy way to let his friends know what bar he was hanging out in. In those early days, many people were still using pagers and text messaging was in its early phase. Using existing technology and Google Maps, he turned this idea into a business called “Dodgeball”.
Two short years later in 2005, Google bought the fledging business for a million bucks. Google had no idea at the time smart phones were eminently on the horizon, replacing SMS services, and ended up closing Dodgeball. Dennis kept the million bucks still believing in his original idea that people wanted to let their friends know where they are – now using smart phones.
The same year Apple launched the iPhone, Dennis launched a new company called “Foursquare”. Two years later Foursquare had 15 million users, 3 million check-ins a day, and now is worth roughly $600 million.
Facebook, PayPal, Groupon, Living Social all followed a similar path creating unimaginable value out of thin air in unimaginable timeframes. Never before in human history has this occurred.
The New Wave
In the industrial age, power laws were based on the power of production. Those with the means to control the production of stuff controlled markets. This was the age of control and competition. The Internet, technology and our global connections have shifted the power of production to the power of consumption. In other words, consumers now have the power buying what they want at the price they want.
It’s no longer about the economies of scale, but the economies of speed. Producers now match what consumers are willing to pay rather than forcing consumers to pay the price set by producers. Value is now controlled by the power of the crowd. This is the new wave. In the old paradigm, producers created products then went looking for customers. Find a need and fill it no longer works.
Where will this wave lead? Already, Google and Facebook set their ad prices based on what people are willing to pay. Seemingly in every industry, customers will increasingly hold the power to set the price of everything from the places they stay to the talent they hire, from the food and cars they buy to the bank fees and mortgage rates they choose. The economies of industries are being turned upside down, and so will the economies of your business.
How customers participate in the shaping of your products will make all the difference to their level of acceptance and loyalty. In the age of transparency in which we are now living, customers have the power not the producers. We are long past the industrial model of control and conquer to one of attraction and engagement. Today it’s commonplace to have homemade videos being viewed by as many people on YouTube as view national cable channels on TV.
The result and impact of all this “chaos” has led enlightened brand marketers to realize they must shift their thinking from selling to listening, then bake the marketing into more social, friendly and “add value first” conversations with customers. Business is now more personal and at long last more human.
Out of the chaos of our current circumstances we can rise to a new age of prosperity.
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