While discussing the current, industrial-era “elite”, Venkatesh Rao has this to say about the elite’s counterpart, the masses:
The world measures you. Height, weight, gender, wealth, skin color, zip code, credit score, criminal record, degrees, job titles, parentage, and so on. This is what makes you part of the industrial-age masses.
For me, this sounds familiar. It sounds like the century-old practice of database-driven demographic targeting, recently supercharged by Big Tech’s collective mass-appropriation of private information. You could also say, “Big Tech takes your measure. Height, weight, gender, wealth”, etcetera.
This type of analytics-driven digital marketing can be a bit slimy (not always). Do people really understand Facebook and Google’s Terms of Service? Or do they just want to see family photos or find income? It depends.
A less-conflicted form of digital advertising is retargeting. All you need to know to retarget is, “did this device-user recently visit my site and almost buy something?“. Don’t need to know pedigree, genotype, credit score, or phrenological measurements. But retargeting doesn’t help fill the “top of the funnel”.
And let’s be honest, mass-marketing and advertising will keep slicing and dicing people as long as it’s allowed to. Running demographically-targeted ads on Facebook/Instagram is world’s most effective form of cold selling (which retargeting isn’t). Cold ads work.
In fact, thanks to the Internet, we are living through the height of “industrial marketing”.
Yet at the same time..
- we have to ask how long will industrial internet marketing last – and will it crash and burn or diffuse slowly?
- we’ve already entered a new era of marketing that is also – paradoxically – hastened by the Internet: post-industrial marketing
What does that look like for independent consultants and entrepreneurs?
Simple answer: a content marketing practice. ‘Building a Storybrand’ won’t enough (though it helps!).
Better answer: not sure yet. But here are some ideas.
Learning. Probably some kind of structured self-learning practice that forces us to make better products and design better services, among other things. I met a woman in an Akimbo workshop who “was in a PhD program” – of her own creation. Because there was no Dharma PhD program on the market. Another name for the program is “Independent PhD in the Philosophy of Mindfulness”. It consists of practice, scholarship, teaching and discourse, each of which she mindmaps on her site.
Connection. This means some kind of content marketing practice that connects what your business does, or your opinions as a business owner, beyond what you now think of as your client base and your peers. We have to figure out a way to connect what we do to the broader world that you would never see at an industry conference.
Paradoxically, the things we make or do will still need to apply for a small group of people. But the connection with the broader world will help you clarify why your business exists and make it more appealing to that small group.
Make-and-advise mentality. Speaking of what we do and of content marketing, the mindset of consultants (and product developers) should be: I make things and I advise. By make things, I obviously don’t mean the plastic garbage on Shark Tank. I mean make content. But I also don’t mean the lead-magnet type of content products that have been standard the last 10 years. The bar will be a little higher.
All of this will take a Hunger Games level of guts – because what if it’s not just a “crazy year” but a “crazy decade”, as seems inevitable?
Towards the end of Venkatesh’s reflections on what the new elites will look like at the close of this decade, he asks, if you want to be an elite, what kind of elite? If you want to be a non-elite, what kind of non-elite? Because both are up fro grabs. But this will take courage. As he puts it.
To lead is to ultimately function as a model to non-elites on how to live, and not just live, but live with, for want of a better word, courage. Since that’s what it means to be the measure of the world, take risks, and deal with uncertainty. Otherwise you’re just a parasite pretending to be a lordly predator. And there’s no real way to fake this. People can tell when you are living courageously.
The Dharma PhD student (here’s her independent PhD formula, if you’re interested) is example of the kind of courage we need. Beeple making and publishing a piece of digital art every day for 13 years is another example. A fairly famous musician, Nick Cave, publishing an email newsletter after his son died, and discussing that tragedy openly and artfully, is another.
There are many examples of the courage we’ll need to figure out what post-industrial marketing looks like; I hope you find one that resonates with you.
Meanwhile, have a great weekend (: