07 Jun Just Do the Right Thing

Complex problems seem to drive people to the extreme edges of the debate.

Unfortunately, extreme solutions are more likely to result in one step forward – two steps back, failing to deliver long term progress.

The right thing to do is “down the middle”.

Finding that sweet spot isn’t easy. Because it has to embrace both sides of the debate. Not to eliminate discord, but to have the balance of the yin-yang.   It is sort of like “consensus with reservation”:  Both sides must concede something to make progress, but reserve the right to maintain some conflicting points of view.

The process is hard, but this is when decisions are made that make progress towards improvement in the longrun.

It’s a lot easier to see my point in the context of politics.  But it’s a lot harder to appreciate it in the context of one’s day-to-day life and business domain.  Specifically, in the media and marketing world, I find people gripping so hard to the edge that you can’t even get them to consider that there might be a reason to consider the possibility that there’s alternative to consider.

So here’s a stab at it. I don’t think the future is a choice between mass media vs. one-to-one media. The future is not making mass media more interactive or controlling one-to-one media. The future will be realized through a media that is right down the middle between mass media and one-to-one media. It is complementary not competitive.

It complements mass media by being a place where ideas and audiences are cultivated. It complements one-to-one media by giving the “consumer” a way to initiate or control conversations with commercial resources.

Demand for this intermediate media emerged in the late 1980’s before the technology to satisfy it existed. So the market dried up, but the factors which created the demand for an intermediary between mass media and one-to-one media still exist. In the late 1970-80’s, many Fortune 100 Companies realized that growth through mass marketing had reached a saturation point. New product introductions targeted to a mass market were failing at a high rate because competitive distinctions weren’t significant enough to be noticed. So many companies, with Coke being the first started doing segmentation research to identify discreet market segments in with needs unmet by mainstream brands. Brands developed for these market niches could be differentiated from mainstream brands and targeted to the consumer market segments and retailers or special merchandising sections of mass retailers. However, there was no efficient way to reach and market to these consumer segments. The segmentations were based on esoteric concepts like psychographics, e.g., “Actualizers” or “Believers”, or, “need states”, e.g., hunger or reward. Since the currency for media was audience counts measured as age groups, e.g., 18-14, there was no straightforward way to design a media plan and price it to target a segment . Since these studies were very expensive – from $50-100,000, but not actionable – the study budgets and agency research departments were eliminated.

However, the need for more nuanced targeting to differentiate brands still exists. And today, there is technology to both find and target interest groups and the infrastructure to target “need states” at local events and retailers on a large scale. But so far, the market is not capitalizing on the capability to satisfy the latent demand for an intermediate media between mass media and one-to one media.