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Marketing Barack Obama Innovation

The importance of mindful marketing – or why this industry needs to start drinking its own pee

By Dan Machen, director of innovation

April 6, 2016 | 5 min read

SXSW 2016 saw president Obama speak at the global tech and innovation conference for the first time. Challenging the tech community, Obama rightly pointed out that we are not putting the important jobs first:

“It’s easier to order a pizza than it is to vote.”

This made me think of two things. Well, actually two people: Elon Musk and Bear Grylls.

Musk, because he is famous for ‘first principles thinking’ – breaking down a challenge into its constituent parts and then tackling each element in priority order. This is why his to-do list (and companies) includes getting us to another planet (through Space X), harvesting solar energy (Solar City) and electrifying the motorcar (Tesla Motors).

Similarly, Bear Grylls prioritises well. He and Obama famously went on a hike and… discussed drinking their own pee. Bear is so famous for it there’s a whole net meme on the subject. In a time of limited resources, Bear says, we need to drink our own pee before the water runs out. Wise man. (Hope he brushes his teeth.)

NB. I deny responsibility for this – the internet made it, not me:

The ‘first principles’ approach here, relevant to marketing and tech, is the fact that we need to be more mindful, in an age of scarce resources, of how we deploy them. This could refer to food, water… even human and organisational attention.

Or how about the rare earth metals found in most tech devices? You might not have heard of all 17 of these elements – scandium, yttrium, gadolinium etc – but they enable smartphones and all the rest of the tech we hold so dear. Their rarity is why Google is now pushing into modular smartphones through Project Ara – a phone you can upgrade various bits of, so you don’t throw away the core.

Another dwindling resource of which we are all aware is energy. Elon Musk has said he doesn’t understand why we worry about energy, when we have a free nuclear fusion reactor hanging in the sky. At a SXSW session on 'Science’s next decade', the speaker shared the startling fact that: “Every hour, enough solar energy hits the Earth to power our world for a year.”

94 terawatts wasted, every hour. That, as Buddhists would say, is a ‘golden shame’. Being enlightened, but remaining in ego – this was something said about Steve Jobs. Because, if we know better, yet don’t act upon that awareness… well, that’s piss poor.

So, what first principles should inform an approach to mindful marketing?

Here are 3 initial thoughts:

  • Think about energy efficiency – we can get lost chasing the latest shiny, so what other tech solutions could work most efficiently? Eg in South Korea they use QR codes on their tube floors. Or, in thinner substrate smartwatches, we could explore bioheat or even kinetic energy ‘hybrid’ charging. Imagine a Prius for your wrist.
  • Think about less available attention – less is more. Both for internal project management and communications solutions. At HeyHuman, we focus on behaviours, relationships and neuroscience to optimise our ‘brain-friendly creative’ – re-engineered for this attention deficit disorder age.
  • Think about collaboration – if your organisational size is stalling innovation, or leading to the same old solutions, work with brilliant start-up forums such as The Friday Club, to forge brilliant, scalable collaborations

Before the sun finally sets on our ‘pale blue dot’ – as Carl Sagan famously called this precious planet – it’s time for marketing to metaphorically start drinking its own pee.

All the resources lie before us. Only first principle thinking, now, will really determine if we fall, or fly…

… shall we?

Dan Machen is director of innovation at HeyHuman and member of the IPA's Brand Tech Group which provides an industry view on the impact technology is having on brands, consumers and agencies

Marketing Barack Obama Innovation

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