Convergence Theory – Part 3

Again the notion of the growing importance of convergence theory, and the power of the individual to influence crowds, has shown up in a prominent place. This time in a column written yesterday by Tom Friedman, where he states,

“The world system is currently being challenged by two new forces: a rising superpower, called China, and a rising collection of superempowered individuals, as represented by the WikiLeakers, among others. What globalization, technological integration and the general flattening of the world have done is to superempower individuals to such a degree that they can actually challenge any hierarchy — from a global bank to a nation state — as individuals.”

Pretty powerful stuff. And he goes on to talk about the impact one individual, Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, has had on the actions of a very large group . . . China.

But what does this mean for marketers of consumer products? Two things I think.

1. Convergent brands will have significant impact, and quicker
Starbucks, Apple, and Method were a tiny part of the their respective industries, and some would argue they still are. But each has had an outsized impact on the businesses they are part of.

Apple obviously drove personal computing toward windows and the mouse. The adoption took about a decade. Starbucks is certainly driving a new approach to restaurant design (been to a new McDonald’s lately). And again this took about a decade.

But the Method approach of super concentrating its detergents and using more environmentally responsible formulations and packaging, is influencing the big detergent marketers, almost in real time. P&G has announced a major initiative, called Future Friendly, to compact its powder detergents, introduce more gels, and other moves that will, “create benefits for the environment and ultimately improve consumers’ lives.” in the words of Maurice Coffey, marketing director, P&G Future Friendly.

2. Convergent individuals will have influence on major marketers
I can’t say where precisely this trend will go. But it will likely lead to more transparency on the part of product marketers as they seek to have influence with individuals rather than large consumer “segments”.


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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