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B2B Marketing and the Euro: In the Same Boat

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It’s easy to pontificate, as I have done, about the state of marketing and my belief that ‘everything has changed.’ Everything – that’s a strong word. It’s used to try to convey the urgency out there that too many are underestimating, or ‘misunderestimating’ if you’re George Bush. To put it bluntly: if we’re not fully aware that old methods are no longer applicable in the pre-2008 ways they once were, then we’re liable to think that we’ve got things figured when we don’t. Not only are our solutions ineffective, they can and usually do compound the situation.

Let’s take this out of marketing and into politics. Why? Because so many in marketing are so set in their ways and convinced of their beliefs that the mere suggestion that things have changed causes an odd combination of denial, anger and panic.

It’s politics (and economics), then: Please consider the state of the EU and its Euro. Since 2008, political leaders and economic experts have been working to solve the debt crisis in countries like Greece, Spain, Italy, Ireland, Portugal and now, perhaps, France. Yet, after three years matters have gotten worse.

Why?

Incompetency? Sure, I’ll give you that.

Greedy politicians and bankers? OK, certainly they’ve played the role of thieves.

But the largest contributor to the continued and growing failure (growing is the key word here) is the application of old methods to new problems by well meaning economists and legislators. When in doubt, fall back on what’s always seemed to work.

Obviously, the results have been catastrophic: like putting out fire with petrol.

Before you dismiss my analysis please consider the 13 November Sunday Times. Large sections on the debt and Euro crisis, how it happened and what can be done. I’ll summarise:

Ten years ago it was unthinkable that EU member states could or would drop out of the union. Now it seems likely a few will. From unthinkable to likely, get that? The Times reports that Germany is already making plans for a new, smaller EU.

Five years ago it was unthinkable that there might be the need for a two-tiered Euro, one valued more than the other. Now Sarkozy, according to the Times, is making speeches on the value of having both Euro North and Euro South currencies. From unthinkable to likely.

Three years ago it was unthinkable that the European Central Bank would resort to printing money to help bail out countries. As the Times reports, it’s likely that this is the only solution left to the ECU if Italy defaults – there is simply not enough money to cover a 2 trillion Euro shortfall so more money has to be printed. From unthinkable to likely.

In their own world of economic theory, some of the most intelligent men and women refused to see the no-going-back changes that happened in 2008. They confidently and, I might add, glibly went on their way babbling about Keynes and supply side economics and trickle down and balanced budgets: olde worlde solutions you could always count on. Until now!

You don’t really think marketing is immune, do you? That we don’t have to think the unthinkable? That the phrase ‘everything has changed’ is an exaggeration? It’s the same for marketing as it is for the EU, only made more dramatic because marketing moves faster than economics.

Would you want your business to be in the financial condition of Italy (82% debt to GNP)? Then why are you still counting on ‘past due’ ideas to move ahead? Look at the world around you, look at your own country… and then tell me traditional answers will solve never seen before problems.

I hope you’re right… but I wouldn’t bet on it… which is what you’re doing if you’re not thinking of different ways to market, to sell and to manage… not slightly different, but ‘radical’ things that were unthinkable just a couple of years ago.

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