Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Recognition Marketing - 2008 Is The Year Of Emergent Complexity In Marketing

Are You Prepared To Win?

By David Miranda

Does life seem to be more complex than ever before? This is surely the case if you are a marketer. It seems like every day there is a new marketing channel to consider employing or a traditional channel that is less and less effective than before. The result, for most marketers, is cognitive dissonance on some scale. Cognitive dissonance, to refresh your memory, is a psychological term describing the uncomfortable tension that may result from having two conflicting thoughts at the same time, or from engaging in behavior that conflicts with one's beliefs. Sound familiar? Feel familiar.

Marketing is normally spoken of in macro terms, e.g. marketing strategy, brand positioning, etc. This macro approach is still relevant and needed in today's new landscape. The cognitive dissonance occurs in dealing with the complexity of how to best execute the macro strategy in a marketplace of uber-choice and uber-competition that produces desired results.

The answer lies in what researchers call "emergence" also known as "emergent complexity". (The PBS series "Nova" had an interesting program on emergence that ran in July of 2007.)

Scientists describe emergence as a science that studies how complex patterns and behaviors arise from the actions of individual units acting independently. The overall pattern that arises from the behavior of the individual parts is called emergent complexity.

Sounds complex, but consider this example.

We are all familiar with the games checkers or chess. The rules of these games, though few in number, give rise to a huge number of possible moves, most of them irrelevant or outright bad if the ultimate objective is to win, not just play, the game. Among these possibilities are those that greatly influence the possibility of winning (the right moves) assuming they are part of a strategy that includes only moves that positively contribute to winning. The "right moves" are those that exploit a game's basic rules but at a higher level of comprehension for those that play the game well. Winning (or success), therefore, is based on a player's keen understanding of the emergent complexity of the game including the basic rules, the level of competition, analysis of past performance, and the moves and counter-moves of each player in a dynamic environment.

Sound familiar? Feel familiar?

2008 will be a year of emergent complexity requiring new thinking to succeed. Using the chess analogy, it will be like playing three-dimensional chess where a move on one board will have an impact on the other boards in play. What are the boards? Search (organic and paid), mobile, social networking, blogs, product placement, PR, TV (broadcast, cable, satellite), POS, direct mail, etc. etc. etc. Each of these "games" have their own unique rules of play. Each demands their own keen contextual understanding to succeed. Each has their own respective emergent complexity. Each cannot be appreciated unless understanding their respective impact and influence on the greater good.

Here are some tips to exploiting emergent complexity:

  1. Understand the media behavior of your targeted audience.

  2. Understand the basic "rules" that apply to the channels your audience is using.

  3. Create an internal culture of continuous learning by exploiting the basic rules of each channel and developing appropriate strategies that employ "the best moves" while eliminating the "irrelevant or outright bad moves".

  4. Simultaneously, think horizontally, vertically and diagonally. Avoid "thought silos". A great chess player considers all the pieces on the board when considering a move.

  5. Organize thoughtfully. Put the right players of your organization in the right game, i.e. "a great checkers player doesn't necessarily make a great chess player."
In summary, be prepared to play the game of emergent complexity in 2008 or find yourself "checkmated" by the competition.