Don’t Pursue Marketplace Success

The following essay was first published on A Clear Eye and is reproduced here in its entirety by permission of the author, Tom Asacker.

Don’t Pursue Marketplace Success

One of the most powerful and dangerous mindsets in business today is the mechanistic, Newtonian model of reality. It’s a pervasive myth. Most organizations continue to respond to our complex, rapidly changing and increasing uncertain marketplace with simplistic, cause-and-effect thinking and actions. Executives anxiously pursue marketplace success, trying to cause it to happen through an uninspiring hodgepodge of techniques and tactics, albeit measurable ones.
The marketplace is not an objective process, like a physical science where you try to influence the behavior of chemicals in a beaker or balls on a pool table. Appealing to customers (and employees) is a subjective blend of art and science, where you’re subtly attempting to influence feelings and, as a result, behavior. You’re dealing with the perceptions and actions of intelligent, curious, socially influenced human beings.
Think of yourself as a magnet and your audience as iron filings. You could either say that you – the magnet – cause the iron filings to move towards you. Or you could say that the iron filings value movement towards you. Scientifically speaking, both statements are exactly the same. But metaphorically speaking, they are very different.
To believe that you cause your audience to move towards you implies certainty. To believe that your audience is attracted to you implies preference. By pursuing success, by adopting the cause-and-effect metaphor, you’ll have a tendency to follow formulaic thinking even in the face of changing customer preferences and declining business. It’s a common mistake; one that has punished once great brands like General Motors, Blockbuster Video and Barnes & Noble.
Don’t pursue marketplace success. Attract it! Stay tuned in to your audience’s changing preferences and be turned on to continuously seduce them with emotion, passion, and daring creativity. Continue to challenge yourself and your people. Continue to move forward. Stay interesting, inventive and vital. It’s working for Apple. I know people who are still holding out for the elusive, white iPhone 4 (I told you people are crazy).



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.