I want to direct you to a post from Paul which I think is an important one. Paul references the large cloud of uncertainty and doubt that is with many people right now, causing them to question things that they might have been doing for years. Whatever happens now, the economic situation we find ourselves in is truly unprecedented. Regardless of when or how we come out of this, things will not be the same.
So it's unsurprising that The Economist is writing about how the recession is sparking not just temporary, but quite profound shifts in shoppers psychology. The implosion of the housing and stock markets, the people who've lost jobs, the threat over the remaining jobs, the bank-led crunch in consumer credit, the focus on protecting savings and assets, the decline in value of nest eggs is leading to, it says, a long-term change in consumer behaviour. Where once people viewed affluence as a 'norm', and were prepared to go into debt to fulfill it, now many "no longer seem consumed by the desire to consume; instead, they are planning to live within their means". Unnecessary extravagance suddenly doesn't feel quite so comfortable.
And all this comes at a time when trust in corporates, business and advertising is at an all time low. So it seems that there has never been a better time to ask the big questions.
Like what is economic growth actually for? And as Mark quotes Eric Hobsbawm should it not be a means rather than an end? With the end being "what it does to the lives, life-chances and hopes of people." Perhaps it is unsurprising that we are where we are. A place where, as Rory Sutherland says:
"We have an economic system that is much better at delivering efficiency than it is at inspiring affection. The obsession with shareholder value has perhaps created autistic businesses – of a kind that nobody much wants to work for or buy from"
But as Paul says, when it comes down to it, we have a choice.
"Every day, we are presented with opportunities to help make someone's day, or life even, a little bit better. When a new project comes in, we have a choice. We can take the easy route and just do what is being asked of us; or, we can choose to go beyond the assignment and look for a bigger opportunity to help make products and services more meaningful to people. Sure, it might be harder work than just doing what was asked, but from harder work comes greater reward. We just have to start asking different and bigger questions."
I like the way that Eaon looks at this – as the choice between value creation and value subtraction. Or put another way, earned rather than bought attention. And as Adrian points out, this doesn't have to be a one-way equation:
"The best marketing ideas have multiple dimensions of value. The best ideas create value for the company AND the customer. It’s entirely possible create value beyond even these two audiences. Great marketing ideas also create value for shareholders, communities and potentially, the planet."
I keep chickens. And I grow vegetables in my garden. One of the reasons I do this is because I want my two girls to have an appreciation of where their food comes from. That someone, somewhere, has put a lot of effort into getting it onto their plate and that alone is a good enough reason to appreciate it. I want them to have a connection with the world around them. A real one.
I believe the problems begin when people or organisations or industries become detached. It's what happened with the banks. Financial products so removed from the people who were losing their houses, and so complex that even the traders didn't really understand what they were trading.
I think a good starting point for putting this right is Mark's thought that "Whatever you want to do, do it "with" people, (not "to" or "at" them)". I've talked before about changing the language we use, and the importance of being human. In the comments to another of Mark's posts, 'David' says: "I heard the poet Robert Creeley read once: 'we disappears with the use of us and them'".
Gareth is right when he says that we should focus on social ideas rather than social media: "There are two types of ideas in the world – social ideas and anti-social ideas. And it's plain to me that those ideas that contribute positively to culture are the ones that are going to help build business."
Like Paul says, we have a choice.