Thursday, May 7, 2009

Marketing in the 2009 Zeitgeist

It occurred to me that everything that happens in this country (at least currently) is about commerce -- which means that marketing is not only a dimension of all that is going on, but also a measurement of the operational efficiency of commerce in the Zeitgeist.

Before the Web kicked into high gear (pre-Web 2.0?), marketing drove the commerce train and pretty much told consumers not only what to buy, but also what to think, believe, appreciate, yearn for, and be (remember The Joneses?).

Interestingly, marketing practices-- how we buy and sell product and service -- reflects the larger commercial picture -- and by extension, the Zeitgeist itself. In other words, if it's not selling, we stop marketing that way. I'm no historian, but I suspect our traditional bent to push the message to consumers hit high points with the Sears Catalog, evolved to the Mad Men, racheted up in the direct mail boom, and has been cranking along pretty much unchallenged for the last 60 years or so. But something is different now. The Internet has made next-door neighbors of us all. Consumers now have the power to exchange viewpoints and experiences easily.

Meanwhile, the current Zeitgeist incorporates mistrust of government and authority, fear and uncertainty, exposure to global realities, an explosion of media options, getting by with "less," eco-consciousness, and a general "hunkering down" [everybody's got an opinion, of course, but futurist Ross Dawson cites the following trends for 2009: uncertainty, ageing, global connectivity, anxiety, power shift eastwards.]

How will marketers cope with this Zeitgiest? By its nature, in an effort to influence commerce, marketing will adjust accordingly. What succeeds now will be different than what succeeded then (which may be why social media with the old push/pull marketing mentality probably won't work). Maybe the new marketing involves lots more listening, lots less talking. Forewarned is forearmed.

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