Thinking about the Future of Brands, and Humanity

The Future of Brands and Humanity_2 The Future of Brands and Humanity_2   I was recently asked by my lovely colleague, Susan Fournier, to write a chapter for her book examining Consumer-Brand Relationships. That notion of relationships was so endlessly interesting and worthy of exploration. I had to say yes.

So I thought about this topic and what was so interesting to me. And I thought…hey, the future of these relationships is something that we would like to be able to predict. Can we do that prediction in a cultural sense, then? What would that mean?

The Future of Brands

And Also of Humanity

 

What would it mean to go beyond anthropology as study and writing to anthropology as action, as a practice, as a reclamation of a set of rituals?

For the idea of ethnography has for a while been to learn practices, to actually do and seek to become like the member of the culture, a full participating member.

In order to predict the future of brands, I will use a range of techniques, and combine them, I thought to myself.

I will think of this as a performance, an artwork, an experiment, and a marketing demonstration. Promotional material for my personal brand, in other words.

And at that moment it struck me, like a bolt out of the deep deep blue. ANTHROPOLOGY

 

The union of these two elements, these social media elemental opposites–the corporate brand online and the personal brand online, this is the future of brands.

And I sought from there to find some data with which to explore this idea, and I chanced upon Textualized Prediction HISTORY: some great candidate books, including

  • UBIK, Eye in the Sky, and Perky Pat’s Stigmata that Matter: each by Philip K. Dick
  • Down and Out in The Magic Kingdom: by Cory Doctorow
  • Idoru and All Tomorrow’s Parties: by William Gibson

NETNOGRAPHY BOOK COVER_APRIL29_14_2NETNOGRAPHY BOOK COVER_APRIL29_14_2I chose to start my work on this topic here, thinking about one of this group of books, as I also contemplate, in public and private, the content for the new netnography book, a book that will be crowdsourced more than anything I have ever tried before

(although much of academic work is, in fact, crowdsourced, which is why it often reads like a crowdsourced text).

In the next blog post, I not only tell you what I am writing about. I start to reveal it to you in the freshest first draft…why not?

Let us begin to try to answer these questions about the future of brands, and along the way of course, of humanity itself.

Human history. And our humanity itself as a quality of Being Human. And then, to reward my loyal readers, I begin to weave in a whole other plotline. One I hope you will follow on CNN as it breaks major marketing news (or does not–a null hypothesis!) in headline form for social media brilliance by a marketing professor who tests the limits of academic theory at the current time. Or not. NETNOGRAPHY BOOK COVER_APRIL29_14_2

Making Triangles: Marketing Positioning for the Social Media Age

ValknutA lot has changed about marketing  in the last decade. And therefore a lot has changed about marketing strategy in the last decade.

But our theories of  marketing strategy have stayed strangely the same.

I have been waiting for a reasonable solution the these challenges for over a decade. And while I have been waiting, I have also been working on a solution of my own.

I have cobbled together what I consider to be the best of existing theory and thinking, and tested it through MBA classrooms around the world with some of the best students in the world. And now I have tried to unify it into one theory, a theory that balances accuracy with elegance to try to answer the following question:

How Should We Analyze Marketing Positioning in this New, Complex, and Multifaceted Age of Many Media (traditional, new, and social)?

The Answer, It Turns out, Is In The Interlacing Tri-Triangular Shape of an Ancient Norse Symbol: The Valknut.

People-Centered Marketing: An Introduction

people_kozinets.gifThe latest phase of my career is taking an interesting new direction. I am trying to get a more holistic look at “marketing” as a discipline and a practice, and analyze how all the elements of “marketing”, such as marketing research and brand management, fit together with management as a field. I’ve been thinking about this for over a year, and last year wrote an editorial for Canada’s national business newspaper, The National Post, on the topic. I originally titled it rather dramatically as “The End of Marketing” but they published it more positively as “Marketing’s Evolution.” Here is the original article, if you are interested.

Talking with the brilliant and insightful marketing researcher, consultant, professor, and author Shira Nayman about some mutual interests about six weeks ago, I was struggling with a term for what I was trying to say. “Consumer-centered marketing” was clumsy, but it was all I had. Wordsmith that she is, she suggested the term “People-Centered Marketing” and it really fit.

So when Ruth Bolton and the Marketing Science Institute came calling and asked me to present to their Annual Trustee’s meeting in San Francisco, this topic of “People-Centered Marketing” came to mind immediately as something I definitely wanted to introduce to their high-level group of academics and practitioners, in order to get their feedback and have them help me develop it.

The presentation was great, and the comments I received were extremely helpful. I thought I would share the introduction to the presentation with you, my beloved blog audience, in order to give you a flavor of this work and share some of what is to come.

consumer_knowledge.jpgFollowing is the introduction to the presentation, where I lay out the idea of People-Centered Marketing in basic form, and give the essential outline of the talk.

As an anthropologist, I am drawn to the history of marketing-which likes in face-to-face, interpersonal exchange. It’s an aspect that lives on in service encounters and in marketing throughout much of the developing world, accounting for perhaps eighty percent of all exchanges.

Modern marketing, marketing as we know it, has moved away from face-to-face encounters, of course. That has happened for very good reasons of scale. But in this move away from the face of the consumer, something has been lost. Something vitally important. Marketing as a field has become increasing distanced form the consumer and her world.

The consumer has become less and less of a person, and more and more of an abstraction. An object, if you will.

In this presentation, I will propose that marketing as a field is in a state of slow decline. I will speculate that an important reason for this deterioration is because we have been following almost exclusively one somewhat limited model of understanding the consumer. This is a model which abstract, distances, and objectifies not only the consumer, but the marketer and the very act of marketing.

Acting as a bit of an agent provacateur, I will provoke more questions rather than propose answers to this dilemma.

Overall, I will suggest that we need to rethink how we think about consumer understanding. How will we seek to know our consumers? In our difficult and dynamic environment, that intensely philosophical examination is actually an extremely urgent question with immensely practical ramifications for how we do marketing and how we do business.

So, using and proposing the term “People-Centered Marketing” for the very first time, here, I will propose a more relational, conversational, lifeworld-centered style of both understanding and interacting with consumers as we go forward in these changing, challenging times.

dehumanized_2.jpgHere is how I will frame this view:

  1. I will begin with a high-level look at the field of marketing as it currently stands
  2. Then, drawing on my own experiences as the founder of a new marketing research approach, I will reflect on why I think marketing must deal with these issues
  3. Then, the presentation takes a turn into philosophical terrains—into phenomenology and the “conservative wing of Heideggerian hermeneutics” to be exact—in order to unpack the meaning of understanding in relation to “understanding the consumer”
  4. From there, I explain three ways of understanding consumers which show how we need to refucos and balance what we do as marketers and marketing researchers
  5. Finally, I offer a few examples and some very cursory ideas about first steps towards strategically implementing these changes in the practice of day-to-day marketing and management.

 And, yes, I did it all in a 35 minute presentation! I can’t quite believe that myself.

And if you want more, as *they* say, “Ya gotta buy the book.” Except it isn’t written yet… Comments from you, Gentle Readers, are always welcome. Thanks for listening, and for “understanding”….(see how subtle my patented fractal-segue-conclusions can be?….).