Marketing Communication Anthropology: Social Branding, Media Machines, Netnography The blog of Robert Kozinets, USC communication/marketing professor

April 14, 2009

Which Career to Choose? Certainly Not Finance…

A NY Times article on Friday asked “With Finance Disgraced, Which Career Will Be King?” As if a single career needs to be “King.” That’s elitist, totalizing, and sexist….but….

According to the article, massive distributions in intellectual capital are now at hand: “[T]he industry whose troubles are having the greatest impact on the rethinking of careers, especially at the nation’s elite universities, is the one at the center of the country’s economic downturn — finance. For years, the hefty paychecks and social status on Wall Street proved irresistible to many of America’s brightest young people, but the jobs, money and social respect there are much diminished today.”

The article concludes that it isn’t definitive, but early results, based on grad school applications and course enrollments, preliminary job-placement results, and the anecdotal accounts of students and professors, indicate that there is “a new pattern of occupational choice” emerging. “Public service, government, the sciences and even teaching look to be winners, while fewer shiny, young minds are embarking on careers in finance and business consulting.

That’s interesting, but I don’t see these changes as permanent. Nor do I think finance is coming back the way it was.

Recall that, in a post in the fall, I talked about the way Harvard Marketing Professor John Deighton discussed (and foresaw) some of these changes, and indicated that marketing might be the b-school field to succeed finance. That’s still very possible.

Look at the options.

  1. Public service. The great young minds of today being civil servants? Possible, yes. But the bureaucracy, the very system they will serve will need radical change. It may happen. I hope it does happen. But in the meantime, a lot of good people will not be able to tolerate it.
  2. The Sciences. Basic science ain’t for everyone. What we need, and what a lot of young people today are attracted to, is applied science. Science education is shifting (to a more applied model, like in Germany), and that’s a good thing. But everyone can’t be a scientist.
  3. Teaching. Academia, again. Bureaucracy and public service, again. Again, not everyone is going to have the stomach for this.But it is totally, vitally important that we support and(re)build our education systems as never before.

Where do we need some of our powerful innovation and new thinking today? In education. From primary right through to post-secondary.

We’re going to see demand for new, boundary-stretching education and boundary-stretching jobs that better help us learn about and adapt to the rapid changes all around us. The results won’t be basic or applied science, fundamental or advanced education, public or private orientation, but things in-between and changeable.

I’m thinking about programs that can teach a combination of innovation, sustainability, design, customer-centricity media, and technology. There are overlaps in all of these areas, but they are all needed for actual innovation to take place.

Will marketing play an important role in such programs? Absolutely. But perhaps it won’t be called marketing any more. Many of marketings theories, tools, and techniques will be brought to bear.

But maybe the Age of Marketing (as such) is drawing to a close.

April 11, 2009

Deep Thinking about Deep Recession, Part VII: Turning towards Deep Economics

Remember what your Mother taught you….

In the last few postings, I’ve been analyzing the economic crisis we all face. And I’ve been wondering why we are trying to stimulate a flagging, failing, flawed economy, without making significant changes in it–while we have a window of opportunity open to us. This is the final section.

These questions are fodder for thinkers and scholars around the world. I’ve long been a fan of Bill McKibben and his work on this front, and his new book Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future is a useful start to this dialog.

I hope that McKibben’s book, and the work of others, can help to inspire a field of Deep Economics, based on a blending of the ideas of the Deep Ecologists who consider the non-human world to be valuable in and of itself.

Deep Ecology is “deep” because it brings a philosophical, and even spiritual sense to the endeavor of science, avoiding utilitarianism and consequentialist ethics in favor of a type of appreciation and even reverence for Life.

Deep ecology see Life as sacred, not only because it is useful, but because there is place deep within our psyches that knows that it is special, that as living beings we are all connected.

earth economy so deep?What would happen if we were to bring that sort of thinking fully into our lives? What would happen if we had a Deep Society, a Deep Economics, a Deep Marketing (could we?). What would change about:

  • Our work?
  • Our economy?
  • Our businesses?
  • Our academic studies and education system?
  • Our daily lives?
  • Our government?

It’s going to require all that we know. Anthropology, sociology, psychology, network analysis, environmental analysis, and economics.

What will happen when we bring it all together into something greater than what we are thinking, than what we know today, greater than what we are currently doing? What will happen when we envision and fully apprehend a Deep Society based upon Deep Principles, and implement it, act on it. Our challenge today is to build a truly different approach, to make a truly deep approach to our existence as social human beings, and sharers of a planet, real.

What will it be like? I’m hoping that we find out. And soon.

April 8, 2009

Deep Thinking about Deep Recession VI: Questioning “Growth” and “One Big Number”

Relative Size of Nation’s GDP

Globalization. Digitization. Green Consumerism. All of them, as we’ve read in the last few posts, reducing economic growth, as measured by our most popular measures. Driving us deeper and deeper into this deep recession.

What’s the problem? What’s the problem with the current solutions being offered by world governments like the G20 alliance? What’s the problem with stoking the economy, with massive Keynesian spending projects matched by huge debt and enormous deficits? With building the IMF into the overfunded, legitimizing cavalry?

The problem is we’re working with the same flawed system. We’re legitimizing it and patching it with bandaids while we pump it full of borrowed-from-our-future resources. We’re measuring growth in the same flawed ways. We’re reifying expenditures and consumption levels far, far, over their sustainable, or even long-term workable, levels. We’re using GNP and GDP as the One Big Number. One Number to Rule them all. One Number to Bind Them to a system.

There’s a big problem with that. And it requires us to look at the One Big Number and question it. And question it again.

“The world has changed and we must change with it.” Isn’t that what President Obama said in his inauguration speech? Well, I think that real change has to start with changes in what we’re measuring, with how we are keeping score.

Gross National Product and Gross Domestic Product just aren’t doing the job anymore. Maybe we don’t need replace them entirely. But maybe we can supplement them, bring in something different. Or make them more subtle, less universal and totalized. Bring a little postmodern reflexive doubt into the economic realm, for once.

One of the best books I’ve read on this topic is by my York University colleague Peter Victor. Peter’s book is called “Managing Without Growth: Slower by Design, Not Disaster (Advances in Ecological Economics).”

Prof. Victor talks about how we have gotten into this mindframe where “economic” “growth,” measured and defined in certain very rigid ways (what I’m calling the “One Big Number” problem) by those with entrenched interests (One Big Number is easier to Rule With, remember), has become the over-arching policy objective of countries around the world, the way that governments, corporations, teams, and individuals are assessed, and the way that resources become allocated. Economic Growth is actually a fairly new ideology, emerging only about a half century ago, and Peter shows how it has become rooted to the loaded ideology of the notion of ‘progress.’

Peter argues three points convincingly.

  1. First, that economic growth the way we’ve been doing it just isn’t sustainable in the long term. Period.
  2. Secondly, he repeats the established finding that economic growth and income growth doesn’t seem to lead to happiness. There’s an inverted U-relationship. If you’re destitute, increases in income increase happiness, to some point. After that point, happiness tails off. In my observations of people, I’d say this works fairly well on an individual level, too.
  3. Finally, he shows that economic growth doesn’t and probably won’t ever, eliminate poverty. It does, however, increase greenhouse gas emissions, and has lots of related consequences for the natural environment.

His work is related to the work by the Club of Rome, recent updated in The Limits to growth: A report for the Club of Rome’s Project on the Predicament of Mankind, where we see that, eventually, growth stalls out, flattens, declines, and then major disruptions in the biosphere begin to play havoc with human life.

This thinking raises some extremely important questions. These are the kinds of ideological, paradigmatic questions that the recent G20 activism, that the cracks in the global financial accord should draw us towards.

These are “Second Chance” questions to try to get out system on a better path.

These questions show us how accounting (well, at least measurement) is a critical component of making the world a better place. They ask us:

  • What should we be focusing on?
  • What should we be measuring as well as financial growth?
  • How can we develop qualitatively as a society? What would that look like?
  • Can we measure global equality and opportunity, instead of residual measures like GDP?
  • Can we measure human happiness and welfare? Can we maximize it, while minimizing the impact on the environment?
  • Can we measure the health and stability of our communities?
  • What would a carbon-neutral economic measure look like?
  • What would a zero-impact on habitat destruction look like?
  • What would a sustainability measure, or set of measures, look like?
  • What are the contributions of mental health, optimism, joyfulness, and spirituality to these other measures? How would we factor them in?
  • What would business look like in such a world? What would marketing become?

We need thoughtful answers. And we need them soon.

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