July 1st, 2011 by Tim Greenhalgh
Marketing is the art of making people believe that they need goods and services, which, if they reflected, would not be strictly necessary to their lives. Marketing is essential to the current economic model we have.
I was reminded of this when I read “Embracing Context in a World of Complexity” by Gunther Sonnenfeld online today.
I’m a writer by trade and vocation so I often miss the granular details of marketing but Gunther’s post gave me pause for thought, from the point of view of a marketing outsider.
I read and re-read his post, trying to establish how we embrace context in a world of complexity. I wish I could report that I found the solution or tangents to that. But I could not.
Apart from the tyranny of type (we believe what we read), Gunther’s style is seductive as he moves towards the main point of his article, which is to promote a software application. On the way to this point, Gunther lays out his table, in some detail.
How do we embrace context in a world of complexity? Gunther opens his position thus:
“It seems that, finally, a collective realization has been made: that content – whether in the form of stories, news articles, messages, ad units or otherwise – is meaningless without a definitive reference to situation, use and/or need. Better yet, these things are meaningless without definitive relationships to one another.”
That’s an extraordinary statement. The word “collective” should be used with respect and extreme caution. We’d need to see the data on this point.
Gunther presses on: “Well, simply put, interactions in any environment are defined by relationships. The way we consume, the way we talk and the way we connect are, of course, relationship based. But this also means that the things we share or leave behind – imprints or expressions, if you will – have their own relatedness.
Well, we could argue with him on the first point about consumption and I’m no also wiser after several readings and discussions with colleagues on his secondary point on “relatedness”.
Gunther then hits us with a key thought: “,,,a much larger construct, which is how to build (and measure) personal relationships without losing their collective intent.”
I wish I knew what that meant, particularly the ‘collective’ element. If you have a ghost (the collective) at the heart of your proposition then you will have problems in defining, developing and coding the metrics.
Then we come to the heart of the article, and the problem I have with Gunther’s thinking:
“It goes without saying that trust is the most prized commodity in our consumptive world. What isn’t so obvious is why trust is so easily violated or mistreated. More important, when we build trust, objects, opportunities and stories, emerge.”
Since when has trust been a commodity? Last time I looked at the markets, I could buy wheat, orange juice, even corn – but I can’t see the current market price for trust. Trust is, and never will be, an object of exchange on global markets. It will never be a commodity.
I could go on but I’m too tired of this. At base, if we want to communicate with people we want to sell things and services to then we say the truth, be honest, do the right thing. When we talk with them, we are open to criticism and new ideas. Together we might make something better, or even great. It’s not complex – it’s really simple and the context is something we already know in our hearts.