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New Marketing – Mob Rule


 

The Mob Rules

The Mob Rules

In 1991, I found myself in a lonely part of the Central African Republic, cycling towards the capital, Bangui, with my brother, Dan. We had been cycling for over six months since leaving the UK. The route we were on took us along dusty roads and tracks, through rain forest and into the odd town. The particular town we were in was fairly typical of most small towns in the region, being made of buildings built from wattle, daub and wriggly tin on the roof. The difference with this town was that we met a guy who was working for the American ‘Peace Corps.’

He was welcoming and invited us to stay for a night or two. Over dinner that night, he talked about what he was doing there for the Peace Corps. His role was to help the local people generate cash from fish farming. He was showing them how to build fish ponds, nurture and tend the fish to the point where they could sell them to earn a decent living from it. He was very frank and said that it was a hopeless task.

Fish farming was not as easy it seemed. Digging fish ponds, filling them, feeding the fish and making sure they are healthywas not for the faint hearted. In reality, he said, the local people could earn money far more easily by planting a banana seed in the rich soil, and then walk away only to come back a few weeks later to harvest the bananas without having broken out in a sweat. 

He believed that his task was one which the Peace Corps believed was beneficial to the local people because of the greater amount of money they could earn through fish farming. But they had misunderstood that there were far easier ways to earn a living for the people and that earning money from harvesting bananas was good enough. The locals were not interested in the good intentions of the Peace Corps.

Years later, I was working as a commercial manager in a large training company. One particular sales team was struggling to meet its sales targets because their clients were asking for the courses to be customised to their requirements. A director of the business, in a frustrated yet revealing moment in a meeting, raised their voice saying “Why can’t they just sell what we have to their customers?” It was a classic moment of a company selling what they wanted to their customers rather than enabling their customers to buy what they needed. 

Both of these instances show how organisations and individuals became out of touch with their ‘audience’ and which used old ways of thinking about providing what they thought their audience needed. And this way of thinking for a business in the world we are in now will leave them obsolete very quickly if they do not adapt. 

Marketers in large corporations have until now launched a new product with a large ‘push’, spending huge sums of money telling their customers that they should buy their new product. This was the status quo. And it was risky, so the marketers spent a lot of time and money researching their customers seeking reassurance that their customers would buy the new product. They employed lots of consultants and experts to reassure them that this was the right thing to do. This all took months, even years, before the new product was launched. 

And then came along the internet and the customers started to say what they thought about the new product and the good marketers listened. The marketers started to provide tools so that instead of hiring a few highly paid experts to tell them if their product would sell, their customers had ideas about what they would like and other customers started to vote for the best idea. 

The marketer suddenly became the best listener in the world and put down their megaphone and old ways and realised that the mob now ruled and that employing ten thousand for free was infinitely more effective and quicker than paying a small number of experts to see if customers liked what they assumed they would like. 

Long live the mob.

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  1. 18/03/2009 at 10:12 pm

    Beautiful post. Beautiful because it is an age-old certainty wonderfully applied in a lost, modern world.

    • 31/03/2009 at 12:23 pm

      Hi Russell,

      Thank you for your comments. Times are changing rapidly and for the better, I think!

      Like your blog!

      Will

  2. 19/03/2009 at 9:07 am

    Interesting blog, I’ll try and spread the word.

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