AdAsia asked me to talk about Strategy in an Uncertain World, and Solving Problems the Saatchi Way. Here’s what I had to say.
The God that failed
Uncertainty, the new certainty
“You begin saving the world by saving one person at a time; all else is grandiose romanticism or politics.” ~ Charles Bukowski
In Leviathan, his 1651 treatise on man’s civic existence, Hobbes refers to the State as “mortal God under immortal God”, alluding to the two drivers of constancy and meaning: Religion and the State.
With the accelerated inter -connectedness of societies on the one hand, and attritional (and largely unnecessary) wars and the abdication of forward-thinking by the State on the other, a third ‘institution’ arose in the late 20th century that could be tasked with the job of giving us a semblance of constancy and meaning – the free-market.
It’s not as outlandish as it might seem. In the developed and developing world, identity is as easily cued by what shoes you wear or what car you drive (i.e. access and taste, = choice), as much as by where you’re from or which God you worship (i.e. birth, = fate.)
The biggest ‘thing’ firms produce today, regardless of what it is they produce, is “meaning”. It goes for any major brand you could think of. Meaning is implicit in the design of a product or a service. But quite often design ends up being “clever” packaging of a feature-set, rather than its elegant core. When you think about it, this analogy explains why the iPod succeeded where better-featured mp3 players didn’t, or why Facebook and Twitter have little to fear from Google+ in its present avatar. Good design reimagines behavior; it doesn’t merely add a layer to existing behavior.
With the challenges the World faces today, we have an opportunity to take meaning-making further, and help build what Thoreau called ‘corporations of conscience’. There is a mandate to help answer the bigger questions of environmental, economic and social sustainability through meaningful design and meaningful business. To lead and build culture, not just mimic and recycle it. To make a genuine difference in the lives of people, instead of merely figuring out how to sell more to them.
We can only do this by focusing on the individual and the family, the human beings at the heart of it all, remaining cognizant of the social, political and economic braids that surround them.
The path to love is illuminated by solutions based on helpfulness, understanding and feeling, not communication based on apps, ads or activations.
In an uncertain world, that much, at least, is certain.
Strategy Director @Saatchi & Saatchi – The Lovemarks Company