Desire: Connecting With What Customers Want

Bill Breen, Fast Company, Jan 24, 2003
Commentary by Stephen Downes

OK, here's the business recipe (via elearningpost) for short term gains, loss of perspective, and ultimately harmful business practices. I hate to sound so negative. But the point of this article is to show that our socioeconomic structure is largely about selling ideas. "Our work is largely mind driven: intellectual capital, the power of image, brand identity, consumer confidence, investor courage -- all of these intangible things are quite real." A company's brand therefore its greatest asset, its marketing is about creating a demand for the brand, and this demand is created by associating the brand with what people really want, identified (incorrectly) in this article as peace of mind, a sense of importance, and someone to choose for you. Now why is this bad? Because the article recommends essentially that you base your business on selling nothing and fooling your consumers into thinking that they're buying something. A business based on selling nothing can't last, but it can do a lot of social damage while pretending otherwise. If you wonder why people have lost faith in government and business, this is why. And when you realize that this entire business model is about getting the consumer to, as the author says, "submit to authority," the very real dangers become clear. So. What works instead? A sound business will provide people with the tools that help them define and meet their own interests and objectives in their own way, that helps them govern themselves rather than be governed, that lets them create, for themselves, genuine peace of mind, self-importance, and capacity to decide. Or whatever else they might happen to want and would value more, perhaps, than the lives of contented sheep: a sense of adventure, the overcoming of challenges, the capacity to create and imagine... Teachers: are you listening?
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