Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Mutual Admiration Society

Many thanks to Joe Pine for his kind words. Joe as most of you know wrote the hugely influential "Experience Economy" (a book which came out the same year as my first and outsold it about a thousand to one), then Markets of One (mass customisation) and his latest with Jim Gilmore his consulting business partner on "Authenticity". It's not an easy subject; ask any theorist - for instance read Umberto Eco's 'travels in hyperreality' or academics like Slavov Zizek about the impossible quest for 'the real thing'. The difficulty for us is compounded by a bigger difficulty in marketing strategy, which is that we don't really know how to talk about the role played by aesthetics except to say 'we know it when we see it'. Yet it is clear that if you line up 100 brands (and their associated services and experiences) probably the key factor that defines their value is authenticity. Brands like innocent, Nokia, Google 'have it'. Quite a few British media brands have it (Guardian, Penguin, BBC, Economist, FT, Wallace & Grommit...) And I think the book is right to point to these being the product of authentic business processes and cultures; just as the best of traditional goods come from a certain region, from a craft which relies on a community with very specific values, customs and traditions. If it's the key determinant of value how do you manage it - or in this books terminology 'render it'? That's the purpose of the book and it has some very good advice. This is one of the few marketing/business books I'd recommend reading at the moment (vs there are so many good new books on sustainability, economics, green business etc. I can hardly keep up). I love the fact that it isn't trying to boil down the subject to inauthentic versions of authenticity; walking a firm line between keeping it simple, but not pretending its simple. In most of the projects I have ever worked on this question of finding an authentic line through a subject is pretty much the main one. We all know it is. And I suspect half the time we choose projects and clients because they already have a capability of 'getting it' too, because oh boy is it difficult to retrofit within a culture that doesn't get it or value it. Authenticity isnt the same thing as ethics, for instance Ministry of Sound is an authentic beast, but it doesn't have a tree-hugging or wet liberal bone in its body. But authenticity is even more sharp as an issue - a knife edge - in the green marketing space (vs greenwash). So it's very relevant to us and it's good to see Joe pushing companies to go green as part of being authentic. Anyway Joe's one of my favourite business authors so it was a huge pleasure to catch him again recently in Belgium. (By way of excuse - I didn't blog about this originally partly because it was nearly xmas and partly you might have thought I was name dropping!) :J

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