Creative Destruction

September 27, 2011

I first came across the term Creative Destruction when I read Alan Greenspan’s memoir, The Age of Turbulence (a quick Google tells me it was actually Karl Marx who came up with the term). The former Chairman of the United States’ Federal Reserve used the term to hypothesise that for economic markets to grow, existing trading methods need to be broken down and then rebuilt in new improved forms. Reading the book back in January 2008 it felt like reading the blueprint for financial success. I’m sure if I were to revisit the book now it would feel more like a blueprint for financial disaster. Context is everything.

I came across the term recently again as I dipped into John Hegarty’s book, Hegarty on Advertising. He defines Creative Destruction as the breaking down of old habits and practices that, in turn, create new and more powerful means of expression. He sets it in the context of various cultural revolutions through the ages, from Caravaggio to Elvis, from Michelangelo to punk, and applies it to modern day advertising, which he encourages to embrace technology and the new branding techniques and audience landscapes that come with it.

Last week announcements in the world of social media, were I guess, the latest form of Creative Destruction as both Facebook and Google moved to the next steps of their evolutionary processes. Indeed Facebook spell it out to us with the introduction of Timeline. And while a lot of the debate has focused on the corporate power plays of both of these organisations, the more fundamental point is that of John Hegarty. People, our consumers in marketing speak, are changing their behaviours every day and some companies adapt quicker to them than others. I’m told that Google+ has made 91 documented changes in its first 90 days of existence.  Now a breakfast cereal mightn’t be able to do that, but it can evolve its communication because if not, relevance can be lost in this modern world very quickly.

I read yesterday that in the world of marketing, Google is currently the most desired company to work for and on some levels one can see why.  Yet their world, all encompassing in so many ways, is only part of the picture in others. There have been more water cooler conversations about Downton Abbey in the office this week than Google and it’s the skill of understanding how all consumer touchpoints come together that give a broader perspective and understanding of the world that makes media the intellectually challenging and fun environment of which Google and Facebook are but an important (if rather sizeable) part.

Tim

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