Chaos theory

16 years ago   •   2 min read

By Marcia Kadanoff

Today, there isn’t a marketing pundit that doesn’t think that the rules of marketing as we know it are going through some kind of seismic upheaval. Bob Garfield, pundit and commentator over at Ad Age, calls the results of this upheaval “the chaos scenario” and notes that “There will be no transition.”

Mind you, I’m not talking about the death of marketing and media. I’m talking about a dramatic rebirth in marketing and media, in approximately the way the end of the last Ice Age yielded exponentially more species, and more advanced species, than had ever prospered on earth. When the TV Age finally succumbs to the Digital Age, we will be living a different world. —Bob Garfield, Ad Age, June 6, 2007

As the daughter of a chaos physicist{ref1}, I know more than a little about chaos. Bob correctly points out that one of the hallmarks of chaos is that there is no transition from one state to the next. Instead, chaos resolves itself by presenting new models that are surprisingly robust and stable given how young they are.

Much has been written about the antecedents of the marketing chaos facing us:

  • media fragmentation
  • 60% of households now have a DVR and 70% of DVR users skip commercials
  • reach and frequency, long the metrics used to judge the success or failure of traditional media plans, no longer predict behavior … but new metrics are slow in coming
  • 18-34 consumers fleeing TV and going online where they don’t want to view content but to create content … the rise of user-generated content
  • erosion of financial security at agencies, with the death of 15% commission

I won’t go over this old ground. Instead, I want to focus on some of the new marketing models that are just now stabilizing and taking center stage.

What these models have in common is that that they all assume that customers and companies want the same outcome: better products and services resulting in more demand for those products and services, so as to drive down the cost of producing and of supporting these products and services.

Done right, this becomes a virtuous circle, with companies and customers working together to determine how best to bring products and services to market.

This type of marketing doesn’t really have a name (yet) … or perhaps it goes by many names. In a later entry on this site, I’ll be able to show you how many of the marketing models that have proved successful borrow from the methods of open-source software. And for that reason, I’ve chosen to call the marketing models that power the virtuous circle “open marketing”.

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