Posted by Kate Phizackerley on 01:31

10 years ago I said the skill people needed when entering the business market was design ability. The new PC publishing packages had placed content publication into the hands of all but most lacked the design skills to differentiate their message.

That remains the case. Those instinctively capable of putting together the best visual presentation or advert are natural winners. It's something seen every week on TV's Apprentice.

I was wrong in part, however. Since few people possess great design skills, incumbents protected themselves by making design a specialist, backroom activity. In that way assistance could be hired but bounds set so those assistants couldn't out-compete existing leaders. The change I predicted will happen and is continuing to happen, but more slowly As the next generation takes over, I believe that those with superior design and presentation skills will have a material advantage.

Since the 50's the marketing psychologists have dominated. It perhaps reached it's zenith in the 90's in a world of spin, house-staging by realtors, and supermarkets using the choice of background music and even olfactory clues to influence buying behaviour.

I see a new skill set coming to the fore and supplanting marketing psychology. It's the skill right now I'd recommend to those entering business in the way I recommended design skills a decade ago. What is that skill? Anthropology.

There's been talk of tribes, or more properly neo-tribes, within marketing for a couple of years now It was popularised by Seth Godin but the ideas had been circulating well before Seth's book, Tribes. I've instinctively been using those skills. My News from the Valley of the Kings blog has encouraged reader contributions and comment and, rather than merely being a single voice (mine), has taken on some attributes of a neo-tribe. A friend and I are intending to take the concept further and build a whole online magazine supported by a tribe.  (See http://egyptological.wordpress.com/)  It seems totally natural. As editors we'll set some boundaries (essentially defining quality threshold s) to maintain community cohesion and enrol volunteer support. Within that platform it'll evolve flexibly around the dynamics of the tribe.

In a business sense, flexible evolution of products, brands and projects is the stuff of nightmares in cultures where the emphasis has been on control. Allowing the customer base to participate in, and even direct, the evolution of commercial offerings is challenging. It appears to be unwanted, and hard to control, democratisation.

In a commercial setting it cannot be, of course. That evolution must be shaped. Understanding and controlling, or at least influencing, the evolution requires the application of anthropological principles and theories, what I would dub neo-anthropology.

There is more, of course. Right now the hot new thinking is about creating and unleashing the power of tribes. But what happens once your competitors have built tribes? How should your tribe compete with them?

America will be seeing such a battle on TV in the next year when Simon Cowell brings X Factor to American screens to compete against the incumbent American Idol. I predict the winner is clear. Reality TV competitions succeed by fostering viewer engagement in a tribal effect. Simply put, X Factor deepens that level of engagement. In the UK, X Factor has become that must-know show for social engagement. While screened, a very common opening social gambit when networking were questions like, "Do you hate Jedward?" (Jedward referred to twins taking part in the 2009 season.)

More controversially, is it possible to subvert your competitors' tribes? Suppose a radio station has built itself around a tribal following - as many radio stations have. The tribe may have an expected style of both music and commentary. In traditional marketing, a competing radio station would attempt to offer something alternative. But what if a competitor's tribe could be manipulated, maybe to change the socio-economic background of the tribe to emphasise a less affluent membership? For instance could the base be manipulated towards school students and away from young wage earners?

I believe unleashing and manipulating the power of tribes will be the differentiator in marketing over the next couple of decades.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on 00:30

I've just be browsing some articles in the CodeBreakers-Journal.   (As a mathematician by education, and with a background in IT, I occasionally like to see what's going on in the field of crypography.)   I came across the following quote by Bruce Schneier:

If you think technology can solve your security problems, then you don’t understand the problems and you don’t understand the technology

 That's so accurate; and so often I see clients who believe that technology is the answer to their security needs. Mohammed Fadel Mokbel, the author of the paper I was reading, went on to say:
... the most important and perilous factor in computer/internet security is the human integration with the technology   
That neatly explains why technology so often fails to deliver the level of security organisations expect.  I remember auditing one firm which proudly told clients it's offices were protected by pass cards so that only authorised staff could access work areas.  True.  During the day.  In the evening, however, once the managemenr team had gone home, the cleaners propped all the security doors open with buckets to create one vast open space.  By then the security guard on the front door had gone home and it was also pretty easy to get in via the front door - just catch the eye of any of the cleaners and look like you belonged there.  Essentially security during the evenings was non-existent.  Management of cleaners is a dull affair and is often passed well down the food chain to somebody has no clue about security.  (It shouldn't be, of course.  Office managers need to vary their hours and be in the office at a wide range of times.)  Technology is no defence again human ignorance, nor from managers who don't make staff understand why the technology matters.

A second problem is that technology is added on top of processes which are inherently insecure.  That doesn't work.  Security needs to be embedded into the process design and the process design integrated into the technology.  One of my pet hates is consultants who perform process reviews but don't have a background in IT and systems - and indeed don't have a background in organisation effectiveness in terms of human dynamics.  Process design requires a true multi-disciplinary approach.

Perhaps the underlying issue is managers who believe their security is fixed because they bought some technology "to take care of everything".  They know that's the case because the salesman told them it would.  Ignorance is the single biggest cause of security holes.

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