Brains on Fire‘s Justine Foo (PhD) on the sustainability of value props, innovation, and the courage of looking beyond conventional ROI:
Maybe it’s the idealist in me, but I’m hoping sustainability isn’t just a trend. I’m hoping this is the beginning of a paradigm shift toward more sustainable business practices in general. Not just with respect to the use of renewable vs. non-renewable resources for manufacturing. But also with respect to the kinds of consumer goods we innovate, and how we communicate about products and services to people. I long to see sustainability as a price of entry for doing business, and yes marketing. Wouldn’t it be nice if you actually kept, for example, 80% of the mail you get instead of throwing it straight in the trash?
We spend billions of dollars on communications that are short-lived and sadly waste paper, vinyl, and other things. We know that mass advertising isn’t having the impact it used to, and that we need to look to other venues like word of mouth. But even then we’re still thinking short term; creating buzz, not lasting energy and enduring excitement.
You’ll think I’m crazy. But I’m hoping that oil prices stay high. That the “crisis” mainstream advertisers are in doesn’t subside. That consumers continue to grow their demand for pesticide-free, natural, organic. Even that food prices rise. It’s instabilities like these that drive REAL change. Why? Because they create the motivation for finding a better way to do things. They force us to innovate and not relax back into the status quo.
Marketing, like manufacturing, stands at the doorstep of a great opportunity. An opportunity to revolutionize how we think about growth, measure return, and exist in relation to the communities that support us. Will we invest in developing better, smarter, more efficient ways to excite people about our products? Or will we continue to play the numbers game and bask in a false sense of security we feel when we’re promised a reach of thousands and millions of people, even when our strategic objectives have moved beyond raising awareness.
It will take courage to look beyond conventional ROI. It will take dedication and creativity to see new ways to measure return. It will also take companies demanding sustainability from their marketing departments and partners. And the recognition that it emerges from passion and excitement, not impressions.
If you think that the gas prices comment is harsh, well… yeah. It is. But when we’re too set in our ways to make necessary changes on our own, the universe has a funny way of using the foot-in-ass technique to get us to move. It may not be pleasant, but that’s just how it is. Deal with it.
The same is true about business. Way too many companies are still in denial mode: “We’ve been doing it this way for 50 years and it’s worked fine!” (Yet their business is going down the drain and they can’t figure out why.) Wake up and smell what’s cooking. Numbers don’t lie. Customers don’t lie. Your bottom-line and market share don’t lie. Winners win and losers lose: What is true of athletes, nations, products and even species is also true of marketing campaigns and businesses.
Reality is often too harsh to bear. True leaders accept reality and deal with it. Far too many business executives, however, are not leaders. For them, competition, price pressures and innovation are the cosmic kicks to the rump that force them to cast their “business as usual” mentalities aside and get back in the game, sometimes much too late, when at all
Leaders and the companies they head will survive. Posers will not. I say let natural selection, market forces and user/customer communities sort them out.
Great post, Justine.
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