It’s time to forget about business-as-usual
According to futurist Richard Hames, society is in the early stages of a major reconfiguration that’s going to impact marketers in ways we can’t even begin to imagine.
From a review of what Hames calls “the cycle of desire and consumption” to the morphing of capitalism into something else, and even a cap on personal wealth, a swathe of different forces are already at play prompting leaders in a range of sectors to rethink how they do business.
“The CEOs and the CFOs I'm working with, especially in the Asia Pacific region, are beginning to realise that business-as-usual doesn't work. They've got to do things differently. And so the remit of everyone reporting to those people is going to change,” says Hames. “What marketers have got to do is take their eyes off what they have been doing and actually look at the context that is changing.”
On the face of it, a shift of this nature would seem to go against the very role marketers are tasked with but Hames says that is not entirely correct. “The first impression of those employed to conduct ‘business-as-usual’ is sheer horror. They typically recoil at what they interpret (incorrectly) to be a proposal to curtail sales,” he notes. “What I am proposing, because it will eventually be forced on the advertising and marketing industry anyway, is to find new stories/angles that can guide people to a more vital and healthier understanding of what we really need for human well-being and prosperity.”
This represents a real opportunity for businesses and especially marketers. “It's an opportunity for marketers and advertisers to step into a more strategic space and assist the shift from business-as-usual to a different story. And that's going to happen within the next two or three years significantly, right across all industries,” says Hames.
And given his track record, we’d do well to heed Hames’ warning. In recent years he has predicted a number of major events including the election of Donald Trump (Hames says the President is set to be reelected for a second term), 911 and the global financial crisis. Since last year, he has been forecasting an Australian recession which he believes is likely to hit in the third quarter of 2020.
At the heart of this sweeping global change, according to Hames, are legacy systems built at a time when the world’s population was significantly smaller. “The pressure on our systems such as agriculture, food, water, energy, all of those things have come under stress because, first of all, those systems weren't ever designed for such numbers,” he says.
Compounding this is our ability to see the quality of life those around us experience. Understandably, we all aspire to be healthy and comfortable. And when we are not, this leads to increased rates of anxiety and depression.
“The answer for marketing traditionally is, buy more stuff. Buy more medicine or buy a different medicine, buy another car, upgrade your phone and you'll be happy. And that's just leading to this cycle which is going round and round. We can't step off of the need to buy more and more stuff,” he says.
Hames says marketers need to change this thinking and focus instead on what should be produced with a view to eradicating obsolescence. “How can we turn business models on their heads so that stuff lasts us longer?” he says.
And few people are in a position to help change society’s outdated narrative in the way marketers are. “We have to start telling a new story about who we are, who humans are, what's important and what's not. And I think the major storytellers in society are in this industry,” he says. “This is why I regard the marketing industry as so important – they are storytellers and stories are powerful motivators. But they must find ways of moving from manipulative and predatory narratives which do great harm to more beneficial practices.”
Despite all this doom and gloom, Hames believes in the power of human ingenuity to solve many of the challenges to come. “As a species, we are ingenious, there's no doubt about that. But it seems as though we're going to have to suffer a lot more pain yet before we really get our act together and say, okay, enough is enough,” he says.
Richard Hames will be speaking at the ADMA Global Forum in March. Find out more and purchase your tickets here.