Marketers must roll the dice more often
We need to take more chances if we want to succeed in a market where the cultural side of innovation is less recognised
KNOWING WHAT will work in the market is an increasingly difficult challenge for marketers. Consumers have become not only increasingly fickle but also hugely inscrutable. Capturing the zeitgeist is not easy.
According to the author of a new book, a new approach is needed that involves testing the waters with experimental probes to see what works.
These probes can be based on loose ideas and should have a high degree of elasticity. Formed on hunches and inexpensive to produce, they can be fired quickly into the market to see if they fly. If they fail, they fail quickly and you simply try again.
This is the central idea in anthropologist Grant McCracken’s book Culturematic. While the book focuses largely on the creative and media industries, the observations are ones that can be applied across all brands.
A culturematic, McCracken explains, is a little machine, or app if you like, for making culture. It is designed to do three things: to test the world, to discover meaning and unleash value. Some of the more successful examples of culturematics include Twitter, smart mobs, fantasy football and reality TV. In essence, they were all outputs of experiments based on “what ifs”.
The growing inscrutability of the world, he says, haunts all producers of culture from movie studios, design houses, publishers of newspapers, books and magazines, and even RD labs. The failure rate for TV shows is over 90 per cent and Hollywood is no longer sure it can predict what will work at the box office. “In the United States, traditional genres have been dying and audiences are becoming increasingly sophisticated and less gullible. Media literacy is increasing and there’s a growing diversity of media outlets and this is creating opportunities for innovation,” he says.
McCracken says he had a number of motivations for writing the book. He wanted to mirror Boing Boing, the website that charts the latest innovations in science and technology. Technical innovation is booming, he notes, but the cultural side of innovation is less impressive or at least less recognised.
A second motivation then was to document culturematics at work and in the process champion a new way of looking at things.
“In a culturematic future, creatives will run their own culturematic investigations and experiments. Clients will have to change as well, giving these creatives more time and more budget. We are no longer asking these creatives to work with known materials, the present periodical table. We are asking them to find the fundamental changes taking place in our culture and the opportunities these open up. This will require room for error and experiment. We need a line in the budget that reads ‘5 per cent culturematics’.”