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.