Mark Zukerberg and a Copernican Moment, or the Earth does not revolve around SunChips

Cosmology and consumer markets evolve slowly. But both are in search of the center. In science it has been the sun since the 16th century. In marketing for the last century or so, it has been the brand. Now as our view of the universe is expanding so is our view of consumer markets. And the center is shifting.

Copernicus, Elizabeth I and Mark Zuckerberg all started revolutions. And the impact of each is now coming together to realign the stars of our consumer markets, and putting the consumer, not brands, at the center of the universe.

Just like Copernicus shifted the center of the universe from the Earth to the Sun, Zuckerberg and other folks creating new enabling technologies (teenagers now send a text message every 8 minutes, all day, every day) that are shifting the center of the consumer universe from the brand to the shopper.

History shows us that the center of our universe is a moving target. And one big shift in perception took place in the 16th century when the Copernican Revolution in science radically shifted the concept of our place in the universe. This new philosophy set aside the Ptolemaic model that had been the standard definition of the cosmos for 1,500 years. Horrors, the Earth was no longer the center of the universe.

Another kind of revolution, a foundation for western consumer markets, set in motion by Elizabeth I, also took place in the 16th century. A time that established a new consumer demand for goods in her royal court, created by a number factors including her hubris, the growing populations of London, increased global trade, and the gradual “civilizing” process of European culture.

These models have obviously proven to be important steps in the evolution of their respective areas of thought, and the impact of each on the cultural mindset of their time is undeniable. Just as the Copernican revolution set the stage for the eventual development of even more complex models of the universe, so the British consumer revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries set the stage for the development of modern brands in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Its hard to imagine that Mark Zuckerberg will have the same lasting influence on our world as Copernicus and Elizabeth I, but the enabling aspects of today’s technology, taken as a whole, are certainly responsible for a new revolution in consumer markets.

And as Frito Lay has learned in the last few weeks, the consumer is now moving to the center of the 21st century universe, or said in another way, the Earth no longer revolves around the Sunchips.

Their recent announcement, that they have listened to the consumer and are making a significant change in our Sunchips packaging, sounds very similar to the mea culpa made a year earlier by Tropicana. And sounds very much like a company that is still living in a gentler, more settled, time.

A time when brands were the center of the universe.

The photo of Mark Zuckerberg is by Emily Shur, and do these two guys look like brothers across the centuries or what.


About Richard Shear

designer, husband, teacher, blogger, father, athlete, author, historian Richard has over 25 years of brand identity and package design experience, with a wide range of clients such as Ahold, Coca-Cola, Hasbro, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Pernod Ricard and Procter & Gamble. He began his career working with the legendary advertising art director, and AIGA Medalist, George Lois and the British design manager Clive Chajet. In his next design management position at Lippincott & Margulies, he worked with Walter Margulies learning the complex skills of global corporate identity. He then became Creative Director and Partner at Peterson & Blyth, one of the premier brand identity and package design firms of the time. He is a founding faculty member of the Masters in Branding Program at New York’s School of Visual Arts. He publishes the blog The Package Unseen, and has been a guest lecturer at colleges including FIT, Trinity College and Tyler School of Art. He is a graduate of the Tyler School of Art at Temple University. Richard is a Board member of the AIGA MetroNorth Chapter, past President of AIGA‘s Brand Design Association, President of the Package Design Council and a member of its Board of Directors. He is a member of USA Cycling and US Rowing, a nationally ranked masters bicycle racer, and a member of The Saugatuck Rowing Club, the 2010 Masters Club National Champion.
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One Response to Mark Zukerberg and a Copernican Moment, or the Earth does not revolve around SunChips

  1. Nice, Richard. I love the connection to the Copernican from the Ptolemaic for brands. Brilliant. And you’re right: those 4 eyes look genetically connected indeed! Cheers.

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