The creative imagination is more important than ever now because right before our very eyes we are transitioning to what Peter Drucker called a “post-capitalist economy.”
Cognitive capitalism has begun to rapidly erode the industrial economy. Marketing still rooted in that industrial economy has no choice but to go in a different direction. Hence, talking about marketing ideas or products without discussing the overall shift in the economy would make conversations about disruptive marketing irrelevant. Tactics and techniques don’t live on islands, unto themselves. They are part of the larger world around us.
Those who approach this new world with both feet firmly rooted in the twentieth century will have a hard time understanding some of the tools and personality traits required to make the leap. Even if you work in an industrial-era company that includes manufacturing or producing tangible goods, you’ll find that all companies will become social by design in the next five years.
The best marketers and organizations will act and think very much like open-source software. Success will be determined by constantly testing and experimenting with new designs. Design is at the center of all human experience.
Steve Jobs built Apple, the world’s most valuable company by focusing not on technology or marketing but on design. While I am a huge fan of engineering degrees and engineers (I did go to Lehigh University, a school heavily rooted in engineering), I believe that empathy, design, and emotional intelligence—three key skills for disruptive marketing and design—are better learned from an immersion in the arts, humanities, and psychology than from pure business, engineering, and management disciplines. An art history major who has studied paintings of the impressionists or “outsider art” may have gained insights into the human elements of technology and the importance of its usability. Psychologists and sociologists are more likely than pure marketers to know how to motivate people and understand what users want. A musician, chef, or fine artist who is driven to create always leads and innovates in a world in which we can develop almost anything we imagine.
The most disruptive marketers believe in using all possibilities available to them, including nondigital tools, in a world with ever more abundant goods and greater access to ever more information. This sometimes runs in contradiction to older systems rooted in hierarchy, monopoly, and scarcity. However, those who look for networks, platforms, and hive mind thinking to be the new avenues of feedback engagement and growth will find success.
In a world where authenticity and transparency reign supreme, marketing rooted in scarcity will have a short shelf life. Business schools have taught many to think that the 4Ps (product, price, promotion, place) are guarantees of success. In 2012, the 4Ps were updated to pivot toward people, processes, programs, and performance, but even this is becoming antiquated thinking in a world where process is redefined almost hourly based on customer behavior. The descriptions of the skills many say a marketer should possess are usually off the mark now in a matter of months, not years, because of advances in technology and customer behavior that adapt to those changes more rapidly than do businesses.
David Zweig, author of Invisibles: Celebrating the Unsung Heroes of the Workplace, declares that what brand marketers have been taught in terms of framing, identity, and promotion is now highly irrelevant:
So, aside from the time invested/wasted in promoting yourself online, and thinking about how to promote yourself, that could likely be better spent actually working on whatever it is you do, creating stuff, rather than marketing yourself as someone who creates stuff, there’s now the real risk of alienating the people you are trying to impress. . . .
Because it’s become so pervasive, there’s a growing sense that when someone is branding or promoting themselves too much or in too overt a way, that they are dishonest. Because after all, branding, if not inherently dishonest, certainly is about only promoting the positive. . . . Even if the brand you create is accurate, and not purposefully intended as a promotional lie, the problem still is the fact that you are spending too much time worrying about how you appear to others.
If you have this promotional mindset, you’ll want to relearn what you’ve been taught, based on Zweig’s points. Having marketing skills and an MBA is no longer enough to be successful. Being a promotional zealot will make you appear dishonest, even if what you are saying is the truth. None of what you’ve been taught about marketing will give you enough leverage in a world filled with abundant ideas, solutions, products, data, and services.
Learn how to keep your brand relevant in the 21st Century in my new book Disruptive Marketing.
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