Thursday, February 23, 2012

Grass Growers and Grass Cutters

A problem that is common in modern business and particularly in marketing is applying old thinking to a new situation, product, technology or problem and not realising that in the information age consumers can get informed and inform each other.

Football pitches through the ages
Once upon a time before pitch technology improved the average amateur teams pitch would get a bit bare. The solution offered to this was always “leave it alone and let the grass grow a bit” and all would be well.
The problem of course was that it never was and we perpetually had poor playing surfaces for our field sports. This is the old thinking.

Since the 90’s though the number of purpose built pitches has increased dramatically. The dissemination of knowledge about pitch care has too. So on our modern pitches we now expect good surfaces. An important thing learned along the way is that it’s not just about the grass it’s about the roots and the soil too. The more roots we have the stronger our pitch surface is, the more blades of grass we have the less likely we are to have pitch wear. So cutting grass shorter more regularly and aerating the soil is the best way to maintain a pitch.

So it bemused me no end recently to hear an older groundsman dictate on how he was leaving the pitch be and letting the grass grow to help restore the pitch. I didn't have much hope of an improvement in the quality of the playing surface. Old thinking, new era, informed customer.

Dangerous thinking
That’s the danger of applying an old way of thinking to a new situation and with this new generation of informed consumers, brand marketers especially need to be wary of the trap.
Remember these 3 things always before assuming that what you learned in a marketing or business degree course is relevant to the current situation.
  1. The old wisdom, while accepted, may have been wrong even in the old world but we never had the means to test it.
  2. It may not produce the effect or results you were hoping for (and perhaps it never did)
  3. Do you want to run the risk of alienating a customer who is better informed than you about:
    • The problem itself
    • How easy it is to be informed about it accurately (If I know, why don’t you?)
    • How you ought to communicate it
    • The value of what you do
And you better believe that they are more informed because in this new connected age the information is here at their finger tips and communication is baked in.

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