Seems like many of the blogs I read just posted their best or worst of lists for 2010. I thought maybe it would be a little more useful to create a list of five important ideas for marketing success in 2011.
1 The Future Started Yesterday.
When I speak on social media issues at corporate conferences, I always tell my audiences that “this whole Internet thing is going to catch on…it’s going to be huge.” Before you award me The Master Of The Bleeding Obvious medal of honor, please take my statement to heart. If your company hasn’t fully embraced the new online technologies, you’re already out of business; you just don’t know it yet.
2 Good Enough is Good Enough.
Trained as an art director, I always considered part of my position to be the protector of quality. We designers would spend hours on typesetting, worrying about kerning and line spacing, for example – painstaking chores that can now be done with the click of a mouse. In the name of fine resolution, we’d also fight with our clients to spend enormous sums for 16 or 35mm film when today you can buy a higher resolution Canon HDSLR for less than two grand. But regardless of what equipment you use, when was the last time you heard someone complain about the resolution on YouTube? Fact is, resolution has gotten so good, so cheap, and often so unimportant, that there are now cameras such as the Holga and iPhone apps like Hipstamatic that are popular because they deliver the humanistic artiness of lo-res.
As Sting sang in Consider Me Gone, “To search for perfection is all very well. But to look for heaven is to live here in hell.” Or as Seth Godin wrote, “Get it out the door” already.
3 Faster, Cheaper. Better. Pick All Three.
The old line used to be, “Faster. Cheaper. Better. Pick any two.” If you wanted it fast and good it was going to be expensive. Good and cheap would take time. And if you wanted it fast and cheap it would suck. But that was back in the day when our clients used to ask “what have you done for me lately?”
With the advent of online technologies, today’s question is “what have you done for me next?” As the taciturn comedian Steven Wright quipped, “I put instant coffee in a microwave oven and almost went back in time.” Or to quote Groucho Marx, “I’ll stay a week or two, I’ll stay the summer through. But I am telling you that I must be going.”
No one’s going to wait around for you to get it done. Not when there are Internet services, freelancers, Asian entrepreneurs, in-house departments, and computer programs just itching to do it. And because these days good enough very often is good enough, it had better be fast and cheap too.
4 Be Different. Or Be Dead.
And speaking of Asian entrepreneurs, in his best-selling book “A Whole New Mind,” Daniel Pink writes about the dangers of the ‘Three As’: Abundance, Asia, and Automation. Pink explains that anything that can be created in abundance will be; anything that can be made in Asia will; and anything that can be automated will be as well. As Pink sees it, if your products or services are so generic or duplicatable that those three factors can come to bear, you’re in big trouble.
Pink’s solution? Develop and cultivate six senses: design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning. His example of a successful business that can’t be copied; Madonna. (Needless to say, the book was written before the rise of Lady Gaga.) In other words, just standing up isn’t enough anymore. To be successful you have to stand out and stand for something. Otherwise, no one will care.
5 They Don’t Buy What You Do. They Buy Who You Are.
Because of the three As, and because good enough is now good enough, consumers no longer need to buy products or services for their functions. Not because the functions no longer matter but because the functions have become ubiquitous. Instead, the best sellers are purchased because of the relationships they create with their buyers.
If Madonna is the perfect product, then what steps can you take to build your brand and its value (both real and perceived) to your customer? After all, if you’re not providing it then someone else will. And as we’ve already seen, they’ll do it faster, cheaper and maybe, even better.
Taken together, these five observations may appear discouraging, suggesting that technology has superseded the need for quality and craftsmanship. Instead, I think they provide benchmarks for building a successful and creative business in this new technological age.
As I see it, the future for everyone in my business and all creative businesses is in their ability to create powerful, compelling ideas. Whether it’s a new way to get attention, a new way to deliver customer service or a new way to build a better mousetrap, 2011 will be the year of the idea. After all, despite how powerful computers have become, they haven’t started to think…yet.
I’ll explore that further with you next week. In the meantime, here’s to a happy, healthy and very creative 2011 for you and everyone you hold dear!