I just finished the forward thinking book Re-Imagine! by Tom Peters. It was a phenomenal read and a great thought provoker. I especially recommend the 4th section of the book, "New Business, New Brand" which focuses on marketing.
Tom argues that in marketing, experiences are king. The winners are those who can transform a physical commodity into a brand experience. For instance Harley isn't a motorcycle company. It is a lifestyle company. "A Harley big cheese put it this way 'What we sell is the ability for a 43 year old accountant to dress in black leather, ride through small towns and have people be afraid of him'".
Today's economy is an experience economy and successful brands like Starbucks, Harley, and Apple understand that by creating exceptional experiences they create the most value.
"For me at least, an experience is far more holistic, total, encompassing, emotional, and transforming, than a mere service. A service is a transaction good or bad. An experience is an event, an adventure, a happening, a soul-jogging, spirit lifting, phenomenon, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. An experience leaves an indelible memory, adds to my history, and provides fodder for a thousand future conversations with old pals and grand kids."
Peters describes the changing role of information workers in our flat world where satellite links to India effectively make India's huge pool of cheap white collar workers as close to us as New York or Chicago. He also predicts that by 2018, 70% of white collar workers will be replaced by automation.
"Welcome to a world where value, damn near all value, is based on intangibles, not lumpy objects but weightless figments of the economic imagination".
In the future, if not already, our ability to survive in the world's new economy will be based on our ability to create intangible value rather than physical value. Luckily for marketers, that is our specialty. Still the future is scary, for marketers too. Especially since the book cites Stephen Hawking's prediction that robots will take over the world.