Tuesday, February 3, 2009

What can We Learn from this Economic Mess

It's all about perception now. There's not a greater takeaway to be had - and we're not even at hindsight yet. Let's recap just what we know thus far.
  • Banks maintain motivation by using taxpayer money for conferences at spas
  • The big 3 auto makers use private jets to beg for help keeping their business afloat
  • Financial institutions pay enormous bonuses to retain the same employees that oversaw the fallout
  • Girlfriends of finance workers need a support group to help them cope with their dwindling vacation quotas and allowance cuts
  • Citi needs the president to tell them no - otherwise, they would be taking possession of their new corporate jet today
  • BoA insists that their multi million dollar sponsorship of the Super Bowl is necessary to business operations and maintaining profitability
So what can we learn beyond the obvious fact that the way companies are perceived today matters?

We learn that corporations are not going to change. They achieved success by doing it 'their way'. No amount of persuasion or legislation is going to change that.

So where does change happen? It happens from the ground up. We've already seen this in some industries. Travel has been shaken and reinvented by digital destinations that replaced travel agents. The auto dealer association was successfully able to shut down online distribution and purchase of new cars many years ago. Same for liquor distribution - although they needed some help from legislation.

When fighting for your business model requires incredible spending on lobbyists, you know your business is shortly to be on the wrong side of history (to take from our own president's vision).

What's missing from today's marketing vision is the threat that loom just under the surface. Marketing has turned into a reactive business. We make small changes to make what has worked in the past a little better. When the market or competition changes, we react.

The market has changed. However, marketers don't know where to look anymore. The usual suspects are equally confused. The success is happening under the radar. It's happening with niche groups and with palm sized devices. There's a revolution, well expected 10 years ago by 'The Cluetrain Manifesto'. And although warned, there have been little preparation for these changes. If the money returns, where will it go? That's the big question.

So what have we learned from this economic mess we find ourselves in now? We have learned that regardless of success, failure, blame or rationale - we are all irrational beasts. We see things the way we see them. No special offer can change what we believe, and we can spin stories to fit our perceptions. We have learned that marketers better focus on proactively crafting our perceptions lest we be lost to the undercurrent of competitors waiting to nibble away at our digital fronts. And when digital turns mainstream*, they will own the lions share. (*today's digital generations are not abandoning their behavior as they age - rather they further embrace)

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