I just returned from the Forbes CMO Summit at Meadowood in Napa Valley. My wife and I spent a couple of days discussing marketing issues and sampling wine with the wonderful people from Forbes and many of the nation's top marketing executives. Honestly, the Forbes folks, including Jim Berrien, Rich Karlgaard, Deborah Himmelfarb, Mike Woods and others were so gracious, warm, and friendly we felt more adopted than invited.
On Friday morning I shared PyroMarketing with the group. Just after breakfast, and before my presentation, Jim Berrien threw his arm around me, gave me a squeeze, and with a smile said, "Don't screw up." It was just what I needed. I must have done okay because several attendees requested additional copies of PyroMarketing for their staff.
John Hayes of American Express presented before me and shared the very smart plans he and his team used to launch American Express Red in the UK. Though he was not yet aware of the PyroMarketing architecture, many of his tactics exhibited Pyroprinciples. He said we market in an era where the consumer says, "I'll decide, not you." Quite often that's true, but I think that increased choice means that more and more consumers are saying, "I can't decide, so I'll watch you." Rather than trying to decide for themselves, these consumers copy the choices of their social peers making word-of-mouth more important than ever. See my earlier post called Where You Start Determines How You Finish. Either way, marketers and companies have less influence over the process than they once did.
I'm reading Sync: The Emerging Science of Spontaneous Order by Steven Strogatz right now. His description of why it's difficult for us to understand the forces driving spontaneous synchronization could easily describe why people with a mass marketing mind-set struggle to comprehend the dynamics of word-of-mouth. He writes, "Unfortunately our minds are bad at grasping these kinds of problems [enourmous numbers of players linked in complex webs]. We're accustomed to thinking in terms of centralized control, clear chains of command, the straightforward logic of cause and effect. But in huge, interconnected systems, where every player ultimately affects every other, our standard ways of thinking fall apart."
When standard ways of thinking fall apart, I find metaphors can be quite helpful. Marketing behaves like fire, anyone? Spread the fire. GS