The Message is the Medium


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A talk I did at the GDI Trend Day in Zurich, 2014 on how the Internet is inverting the traditional McLuhanesque idea of "the medium is the message."

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The Message is the Medium

  1. 1. The Message is the Medium Venkatesh Rao Twitter: @vgr European Trend Day, March 19, 2014
  2. 2. “Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two–and only two–basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.” -- Peter Drucker (1967) ^ and keep Grand Unified Theory of marketing today…
  3. 3. Marketing by this theory is almost 100 years old….
  4. 4. the BIG assumption The medium is the message (Marshall McLuhan) how a message spreads shapes what it means
  5. 5. Medium is the Message in the 1960s Radio listeners thought Nixon had won Television watchers thought Kennedy had won Producer context: studio Consumer context: living room
  6. 6. The message is the medium what a message means shapes how it spreads but what if…?
  7. 7. Message is the Medium in the 1960s Message: “Social Object” Jyri Engestrom, 2005 Tupperware party Party is consumer context Producer context: product Consumer context: party
  8. 8. Producer context Medium is the message Consumer context Message is the medium Two contexts for all marketing…
  9. 9. The Internet is a planet-wide Tupperware party. On Steroids.
  10. 10. Producer context Consumer context Revenge of the 99%: Increasing reach share 1970 2014 2030?
  11. 11. I’m the CMO, I’m in charge here! CMO budgets now exceed CIO budgets! Do you feel in charge? And that gives you power over IT?
  12. 12. “Phil doesn't just go on one date with Rita, he goes on thousands of dates. During each date, he makes note of what she likes and responds to, and drops everything she doesn't. At the end he arrives at -- quite literally -- the perfect date….But at the end of this perfect date, something impossible happens: Rita rejects Phil.”* -- Jeff Atwood, Coding Horror *
  13. 13. 3/16/2014 Venkatesh G. Rao 13 “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half.” – John Wanamaker 100 Years Ago… Now… “99% of the money is wasted, but we know EXACTLY which 99%” – Ghost of John Wanamaker
  14. 14. Increasing certainty in execution Decreasing certainty in objectives
  15. 15. 1890 1920 1950 1970 1990 2010 2030 Certainty Yellow Press Vicks Salesman Mad Men Al Ries P. T. Barnum Seth Godin Radio Mature Press TV Internet Tim Ferriss ? Hypothesis: Peak Attention ~1970 Ed Bernays AdBusters Whitaker and Baxter
  16. 16. Medium is the Message in 2014
  17. 17. If you try to increase control of consumer context by increasing investment in producer context, you get a race to the bottom Focus less on episodic campaigns Focus more on persistent presence
  18. 18. Finite game: goals lead to episodic behaviors Infinite game: persistent behaviors lead to goals
  19. 19. Producer context Consumer context 1970: Customers as babies – parental authority (0-12) 2014: Customers as teenagers – peer pressure (12 – 19) 2030: Customers as adults – personal choices (19 - ?) Why?
  20. 20. High Speed Low Effort High Control Slow Marketing Three Infinite Games in Marketing Pick two out of three
  21. 21. Growth hacking Manage the stage that contains the consumer context Examples: Tim Ferriss, Ryan Holliday, Patrick Vlaskovits
  22. 22. Scene hacking Steward language evolution in the consumer context Examples: O’Reilly media, Maker movement, Andreessen- Horowitz
  23. 23. Slow marketing Be the True North in the consumption context Examples: Google, Paul Graham, Elon Musk
  24. 24. the purpose of business is to create and keep a customer -- Peter Drucker v 2.0 to catch and release v 2.1 to tag and release v 2.2 to recognize and release v 2.3 to arm and release v 2.4 to equip and release
  25. 25. Acknowledgements: Seb Paquet, Patrick Vlaskovits, Rob Salkowitz, Jeremy Epstein, Marc Andreessen and many others. Thank You! Blog: Twitter: @vgr Email:
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