"The insidious ways that egoism, individualism, and narcissism destroy the conditions that make shared life possible."
--Alexis de Tocqueville
Since the dawn of Man, there has always been tension between individualism and our social nature. The tension is one of the forces that move our species along. We seemingly move from one end of the dichotomy to the other with increasingly breakneck speed.
Communism as a social, collective answer to brutal industrialization and the Nazi "ubermensch" ideal soon gave way to a totalitarian nightmare articulated by Orwell in 1984 and Animal Farm. The individualism of Ayn Rand became the antithesis of social responsibility and built an anthem to selfishness and contempt for the average man as the hero from The Fountainhead demonstrates in his description of Robin Hood:
"He was the man who robbed the rich and gave to the poor. I'm the man who robs the poor and gives to the rich, or to be more exact, the man who robs the thieving poor and gives back to the productive rich."
If you are asking what does this have to do with online marketing then read on.
We have experienced more than 50 years of catering to ever more individualistic impulses. That does not sound too bad on the surface. Until we end up with Ayn Rand's ode to narcissism. Our culture has become hooked on a false sense of individuality. Personalized license plates and our ability to customize our online news feeds give false impressions of individualism.
Twenty-eight different toothpastes in the supermarket aisle do nothing to foster real individuality. Exploding choices abound to feed the illusion of individuality. And in the midst of the tyranny of superficial choices, marketing mythologies have surfaced to feed the beast. Peppers and Rodgers wrote the marketing manifesto "One to One Marketing" which basically is a nonsensical premise that has found acolytes worldwide.
Marketing small suggests an end to the mass market. And what happens is we become small. But the endless dialectic is at work. We will see a return to a mass market because those that pay for our livelihoods; big brands, need it. Many brand managers have been temporarily seduced by the "one-to-one" mantra, no doubt aided by their monumentally flawed MBA training.
But there is an economic imperative that crushes what passes for conventional wisdom. Necessity dictates a return to the mass market. Necessary for whom? The big brands, that's who.
They need to sell tonnage and flirting with marketing to individual impulses only proved a folly. Scale and reach are necessary for them to accomplish their economic goals.
In the next installment, we will chart the course how we can get back to a mass market and a healthier ecosystem.
Jaffer Ali is the CEO of Vidsense and always welcomes comments. You can reach him via email at J (dot) Ali @ Vidsense (dotcom) or give him a call at 708-478-4500.
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