Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The selfish gene: self-reference in the AdAge

Richard Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist, published a book in 1976 called The Selfish Gene. In an oversimplification of his point of view, the idea is that genes are a means unto themselves (rather than being merely players in supporting the evolution of the organism that employs them).

Sometimes, according to Dawkins, genes even act in ways that benefit themselves at the expense of the organism (think genetically induced diseases for instance).

What does this have to do with marketing? Or advertising? Or the interwebs?

Traditional advertising is a selfish approach to marketing. It not that it presumes to know what others want or need...that's not selfish, it's arrogant. It's that traditional approaches to advertising interrupt and demand that attention be rendered unto it.

Once upon a time when time seemed less scarce, when mass media was the only option, and before media consumers were themselves media producers, selfish advertising worked. It worked for it's own interests.

The environment has changed. Customers and prospects are all selfish, sometimes in a very public way. I'm not talking about people being uncaring or without charity. Quite the contrary. I'm talking about the selfishness of individual choices and self expression in the marketplace.

Consumers (not a term, I trust, most of us would choose to define our interests) have always been's just that in the always-on, democratized media environment today, selfish advertising doesn't stand a chance against the infinite choices in self interest a person now has.

When an environment changes, organisms must adapt to survive. The same holds true for marketers. They must be cognizant that selfish prospects want to decide what's good for themselves. A marketer who takes an unselfish approach to engaging self-interested prospects might just find a way to survive...and thrive.

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