by Kenneth Rudich
Anyone familiar with the halcyon years of the American industrial revolution will surely appreciate just how dramatically different things are today when it comes to the role of marketing.
Back then, business revolved around the idea of achieving profitability through mass standardization. It was about cookie cutter efficiencies and economies of scale; unskilled labor and assembly line construction; few product choices and one-size-fits-all customer care. It could be labeled inside-out thinking, and perhaps nothing exemplified this formula better than Henry Ford’s rumored quip about the Model T, when he reportedly said, “You can have it in any color as long as it’s black.”
Of course, people ultimately were given a few more options than that, but the companies themselves tended to replicate the same business model. There was mass production, with mass marketing and mass distribution, for mass consumption. Seldom did you see a major player stray far from this heavily trodden path.
Though that time period has long since receded from view, it does deserve some credit for keeping the U.S. economy humming along over several decades, and its enormous success — at least in that regard — led not only to the rise of a robust middle class but also a consumer culture. As it turns out, that same consumer culture — or rather, the maturation of it — is what lies behind the emergence of another, newer, post-industrial age marketing trend.
In a significant reversal of thinking, today’s single biggest challenge centers on building a memorable brand from an outside-in perspective. Outside-in thinking attempts to craft a product or service that speaks directly to people’s motives and promises to fulfill them. And with help from innovative technologies, modular designs, and creative business practices, it has indeed become possible to satisfy needs, desires and tastes unlike ever before.
This in turn has given birth to the idea of mass customization (almost sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it?). Consider, for example, the stark contrast between Henry Ford’s musing about the Model T and a current tv commercial tag line for a contemporary phone vendor, in which the announcer proclaims, “You don’t need to get a phone, you need a phone that gets you.” Or another commercial with the claim: “Auto insurance isn’t something you should carry; it’s something that should carry you.” And then, too, there is the internet itself, with all the countless examples it has to offer.
Whether you use mass marketing, mass customization, or some combination of the two, the age of the product or service experience is upon us. How have you tailored your brand to keep it fresh and make it stand out from the crowd?