Let Newton Ground You in the Bizarro World Of Marketing

The Three Laws of Motion Can Also Guide Us About Engaging Consumers

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Well, we're a quarter of the way into 2009, and I think it's all but official: The marketplace has morphed into Bizarro World. Nothing works like it should, so everything is up for grabs, including the fundamentals of marketing and brand strategy. I bet people have told you recently (with straight faces, no less):

  • The best way to get consumers to buy things is to avoid selling to them.
  • Only content that is apparently worthless possesses any value.
  • The more consumers get for free, the more money you'll make.
Some of the most exquisite nonsense has even appeared in this magazine, suggesting that you can't measure what's truly worth measuring.

Now, forget for a moment that the digital experts du jour violate their own rules -- they usually provide a service, valued by demand, for which you have to pay -- and consider the laws of classical physics that underpin their efforts. Our lives are still guided by Isaac Newton's three laws of motion, published in 1687. Maybe a quick recap might tell us something important about consumer marketing in the Bizarro World of 2009:

Jonathan Salem Baskin
Jonathan Salem Baskin is the author of "Branding Only Works on Cattle" and blogs about marketing at Dim Bulb.
Newton's first law says, "A body persists its state of rest or of uniform motion unless acted upon by an external unbalanced force." In other words, you can't change something unless you change it. It doesn't matter how brilliantly you engage, converse or play to people's inert biases or predispositions. You have to bring something new to the equation, and it must be relevant and useful enough to change the result.

The second law seems written to describe popular trends: "Force equals mass times acceleration," or, in marketing terms, "the more people involved, the more powerful the campaign." This doesn't describe a friend list on Facebook, or the volume of tweets during any given 10-second span, but rather the development of true, involving and sustainable communities. Get participants to participate on stuff that matters -- i.e. talk to customers first, because they have a vested interest in supporting you.

The third law is "To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction." So shouldn't the reactions to your marketing have something to do with your business proposition? If the response you're driving for is a chuckle, or just a pass-along to another consumer, no wonder the gurus don't want you to measure it. Given a nanosecond of time to interact with people, the best most of us can do is waste it?

I'm thinking that it makes sense to revisit these basics of physics before you approve that next reality-defying Bizarro World campaign. Let the apple hit you on the noggin first. No, not the brand. The fruit.

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