Thursday, 11 February 2010
New Article for Mediacat
The 4 I’s of New Marketing
I have a new book out. It's number five. And I find myself at a 'taking stock' moment, searching for consistencies and threads running through these publications, my scattered writings, my many projects. One thing I realise is that I have a different (and perhaps dissident) idea of what the 'pillars' are within marketing strategy, compared to what I was taught all those years ago as an ad agency graduate trainee.
Most readers will be familiar with the 4P’s of the classic marketing mix; product, place, price and promotion. It’s a practical framework that grew out of the systematic management of marketing in large corporations like Coke, Proctor & Gamble and IBM. The dominant metaphor is society being 'like a machine'. Brands would be engineered to fit optimally within factory-like supermarkets of consumption.
I wrote the New Marketing Manifesto in 1998 to reflect the growth of an alternative, creative and spirited movement in marketing – one that mirrored the growth of new media, the new economy, shifts in culture (postmodernism) and so on. It is a more creative, entrepreneurial mindset. This grew up with companies like Apple, Virgin and eBay who ‘broke all the rules’ (but had their own rulebook). The dominant metaphor here is society as cult; led by word of mouth movements of fascination, enthusiasm and cultural meaning.
New Marketing has perhaps become the norm or at least much more commonplace. It is normal for companies like Pepsi to launch initiatives like Refresh – a US microfunding engagement platform where consumers choose and vote on charities and causes to receive funding. In many ways this is an echo of the MyObama (election) campaign? Exciting stuff. But how to think about strategy in this context?
I was sitting yesterday with a cultural entrepreneur and sketching out a strategy for her as a brand and her projects. And the headings we used – the 4 I’s - are similar to those I might apply not just to a friend's life planning; but to innovation, policy initiatives, start-ups, writing books – and above all to marketing programmes. They allow schemes like Pepsi Refresh to be planned, researched, given a business case and structure (rather than just being a purely creative question of ‘thinking up something a bit different’):
Anything fascinating in culture – a person, company, campaign – always has an interesting purpose. It wants to ‘change the world’. This is partly to do with the way our minds work. We are fundamentally inclined to look for human motivations – it's what makes the world seem alive to us and intelligible rather than soulless. IKEA’s founding intent was (and is) ‘to improve the everyday life of the majority of people’. The café I just had breakfast in (J+A) believes in replacing typical catering with ‘healthy and wholesome home cooking’. Lacking intent, we are left with alienating bureaucracies ‘just doing our job’, or communities with nothing in common but neighbour conflicts. Although it is questionable whether we ever receive a human artefact or institution as lacking intent – we will always impute motives like “all they care about is making money”.
Subjectively, creativity is (to misapply a quote from Winston Churchill) “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma”. The experience of having a new idea is always as alien and shocking as suddenly thinking of the answer to a tricky crossword clue. Objectively though ideas are very simple. Something I explored in my second book After Image - picking up on findings from cognitive linguistics. They are a surprising but coherent combination of two previously unconnected domains. And their fascination comes from these domains 'sparking off each other'. Most fascinating brands, people, companies have this hybried quality of fusion. They live, like San Francisco, on a fault line. Apple is fashion + technology. IKEA is democracy + design. Finding new ways to release energy on this fault line is where all 'our' really good ideas come from – ie not from us, our craft skills or good taste - but a kind of archetypal rediscovery.
My third book The Brand Innovation Manifesto put forward the idea that marketing and innovation today are so close as almost to be the same thing. What would Apple be without the iPod/iPhone/iPad...? That is different though from the mechanistic world of ‘NPD’ (new product development) in the old marketing mix. Resulting in tens of thousands of pointlessly tweaked product formulations per year, all just so the “New Improved” flash could be added to the pack! Real innovation is about developing radically new business concepts, with a breakthrough new resolution between the needs of people, planet and profit. It’s about expanding the space, developing new markets. Without true innovation marketing is reduced to rhetoric, it is basically a sham. This in sustainability is the truth about greenwash; claiming too much, doing too little. My fourth book the Green Marketing Manifesto countered this with a call for innovation and market development.
We live in an age of social media which are fundamentally reconfiguring social relationships and which create a thrilling range of possibilities which many working in the internet field believe we have only just started to tap. It’s not just a new channel or medium. It creates new ways for organisations and people to create value together. I am generally suspicious of any marketing which seems premised on the old assumption that we need to show or tell people something to make them do something. People are too savvy, fickle and connected to be herded. And in media potential terms it's like making wooden toys in the age of the Nintendo Wii. And this is far from a digital-limited insight; new forms of retailing, event, participation and even ownership are rife. This new world of social innovation and possibility is the subject of my new book Co-opportunity.
The 4 I's could read like an ingredient list. But beware putting fluid categories in the old fixed processes. It’s certainly not quite a recipe. Most of what I have ever written is a challenge to the idea of ‘strategy’ as a separate department or discipline. It calls for a collaborative process of development; an extreme form of which is the popular ‘open innovation’ format where a company makes a public call for ideas. What the 4I's call for instead is imaginative chefs who are sensitive to the restraints (for instance of local, seasonal ingredients), delight in experimentation and who have a straightforward love of cooking. And for all of these endless writings, I suspect that the simple truth may be that I believe above all in creative conversations?