Marketing Is Technology – Insight for the Perplexed

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This post is the first in a series focused on revealing the essence of Technology.  These aim of these posts is to spark inquire into the nature of Technology and to provide some fresh insight for Marketers, PR professionals, technologists, bloggers, doctors, nurses and everyone else. It’s important that we understand the essence of Technology; to understand our relationship with it; how it influences our perceptions and feelings and actions; and how and why it’s critical to all of us to re-frame what we see and do in terms of a panning-out from our accustomed ways and habits. You can get these posts delivered to you by subscribing here. I’ve also started the blog Technescan: Revealing the Essence of Technology – you can subscribe to TechneScan’s Posterous here and follow @TechneScan on Twitter.

WHAT IN THE WORLD IS MARKETING?

What is Marketing? Is it an Art? Is it a Science? It’s possible to attribute characteristics of Art and Science to Marketing of course. In its essence, though, Marketing is neither an art nor a science. Rather, it is part of the domain of Technology.  And we must understand Technology before we can understand Marketing. Let me provide the first installment of what I mean.

WHAT IN THE WORLD IS TECHNOLOGY?

The essence of Technology is not just tools and gadgets. That may be how most people view Technology but that’s an incomplete understanding of Technology. A definition of Technology is very difficult without understanding its essence. Define Life – it’s not easy: and yet, like obscenity, we know it when we see it. Similarly, Technology is a difficult thing to define. The difference, however, is that we don’t always see or recognize things as Technology.

The root word of Technology is Techne. The ancient Greeks’ conception of Techne was not just tools or craft (in the sense that we conceive). Techne for the Greeks was a way of knowing and being – a way of understanding our relationship with the world around us. For them Art and Technique were bound up together into a way of interacting with the larger environment. It is this angle that can rescue us from our narrow conception of Technology which will reveal deeper insights into its essence. NOTE: This is a much harder task than one may think at first. You can read the philosopher Martin Heidegger’s works on the matter: but it’s very heady stuff.

Examples of Technology include but are not limited to: Culture, Law, the Internet, Capitalism, Democracy, Reading, Writing, Twitter, Politics, Civilization and Humanity. Think about the world you live in – the one which influenced your personal and professional history: it’s utterly bound up within the contexts and influences of Technology. Kevin Kelly is right to assert that Technology is the Seventh Kingdom of Life.

When we do things with Technology – say build telecommunications networks or cars or medical devices – the effect of our use is something beyond our initial perception of the technology. Technology offers us a new view of things: it reveals what was hidden to us before. Twitter, for example, has revealed a social construct which always existed but we just never realized. We didn’t know how much we could learn about each other in just a few bursts of 140 characters; nor did we know how far we would adopt Twitter and incorporate it into our daily communication and news gathering and sharing behaviors. If you were told four years ago that millions of people would be messaging each other en masse in 140 characters, you just wouldn’t believe it.

Thus: Technology is a Revealing influence.

MARKETING IS A REVEALING

So what does all this esoteric babble have to do with Marketing? Well, when marketers seek to solve problems such as getting the word out (WOM) or Branding or positioning or distribution, they are enframing their solutions within a Technological context. What technique shall we employ here? What metrics will we measure our success or failure? How can we engage our base? These are technological frameworks.

Oh yes, many professionals will respond: Well, what we’re doing is a human activity – we’re reaching out to humans and we engage in person-to-person communication. And this position is becoming increasingly popular in light of the emergence of a two-way Web. But even here, marketers who are just awakening to the conversational nature of modern Marketing are asking themselves technological questions: How can we properly use social media to reach and engage our customers?

How is a part of Techne. And that’s not to say that Marketing can’t be Human – it should be. But Marketers can easily confuse a Technological engraming for a human one.

So Marketers need to ask themselves what their efforts reveal. They also need to pan back from their day-to-day operations and re-frame what they’re looking at, so that they can reveal the essence of what they’re doing.

HOW MARKETERS CAN GET UNSTUCK

…if you’re not present, you can’t persuade.

Marketers often get stuck in certain ways of thinking and often over-focus on tools and tactics and techniques and algorithms. This explains why so many traditional marketers are struggling with “Social Media” and the shiny new social software and gadgets that continue to pop up. Even those who understand the need to dovetail traditional efforts with conversational ones maye risk forgetting the role Technology plays within the context of person-to-person communication.

If Marketers understand just how big Technology is, what it is in its essence, how it influences our daily perceptions and conceptions of the world around them, and what it might reveal, then they will find themselves with freshened perspectives and important insights into the essence of Marketing.

Marketing, just like Technology, is about Presence. Some marketers believe “all Marketing is Persuasion”. The fault in that mantra is simple: if you’re not present, you can’t persuade.

Technology reveals what is present in our world. Marketing reveals what is present in an organization’s or individual’s realm of possibilities. If you don’t understand Technology, you aren’t realizing the potential of Marketing in its fullest and most human form. After all, that’s the proper goal of Marketing: to transcend technique towards sincere human relationship.

Confused yet?

It’s OK if you’re confused by this. It’s a completely new way to view the world. That’s why I’m devoting a series (and a blog) to this topic. I hope you follow along, contribute in the comments and even contact me (Phil /at/ PhilBaumann /dot/ com or on Twitter or by phone – 484-3726-0451.)

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4 Comments

  1. Andrew,

    You made my day with:

    “You don’t take a snorkel when you go skydiving.”

    Yes, Techne is about making the known strange to us – well said.

    All the Powers of the old world are collapsing and it’s going to take bold perspectives to make the best of threatening changes.

    I can see how many marketing professionals would dismiss this view – it is, after all, “strange” – but I do think marketers need to start thinking more broadly about presence and learn to re-frame their world view.

  2. Phil, you’re setting the bar pretty high if this is the quality of work you’re going to be producing in 2010.

    It’s a stinging slap in the face for windy rhetoricians and advocates of High Church Marketing who want to deploy their decayed practices in an environment where they have no relevance.

    You don’t take a snorkel when you go skydiving.

    Techne is never about ‘the shiny’. It is, as you say, about ostranenie, defamiliarization, making the known strange to us, revealing hidden.

    The weirder it feels, the better it is.

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