Market in Motion: Mitch Joel, Transparency & Morphology

Back in November, I had the opportunity to hear Mitch Joel speak at the MRIA Qualitative Conference. For those of you who aren’t aware, Joel is the author of Six Pixels of Separation and a fairly prominent speaker in the area of digital marketing. It was kind of neat to hear his keynote on the evolution of digital dialogue, particularly since we’d presented earlier in the day on technology purchasing motivations (the tools that fuel digital reality).
A negative can be positive

The first point that Joel made in his presentation, was the importance of transparency (accepting both positive and negative) in digital dialogue. Contrary to popular opinion, Joel’s data showed that
“negative reviews are more positively correlated to sales than positive reviews. In fact they can make people trust you more.”
By way of explanation, Joel told a story about a camera he recently purchased. Like many of us he was researching online and narrowing down the selection, when he stumbled across a site with a negative review. This review was posted by a photographer, who called one particular model ‘an amateur camera that lacked the technical features needed by a professional’.

Once he read this review, he knew he’d found the right camera; since all he wanted was an amateur camera without too many technical features. What was negative for one person was positive for another.
The market in motion
The second, more interesting point that Joel made in his presentation, was about the need to embrace constant change in online behavior. According to some data he shared, “20% of Google searches done every day, have never been done before.” The implication being that we, as marketers, need to accept that “no market is ever stable; it evolves every day."
This idea of constant change is a challenging one for marketers; who often exist in a business ecosystem that is resistant, if not highly adverse, to change. And yet change is a fundamental part of the human condition, and requires tools and strategic techniques that are not only capable of dealing it, but actually embrace it.

Morphology; the study of formation and changes of formation (metamorphosis), is a powerful marketing tool because it embraces change. In fact, morphological research creates models that explain how human needs are dynamic and in a constant state of change.

A good example is the morphological tension between continuity and safety
(acquisition), and the opposing need for change and movement (transformation). As human beings, our lives are a function of both these needs working together in tension. Think of the small child who starts their first day of school (change) with their teddy-bear in hand (safety), or the young adult who mixes vodka (change) with some familiar lemonade (safety).

To build upon what Joel was saying, the digital world is not only a catalyst for change; it’s also making change visible (like stop motion animation). The challenge that this creates for marketing is huge; we need to stop seeing and measuring our markets like
static objects, and start appreciating them as dynamic organisms that evolve and change every day. Put simply, the market is always in motion.