“That’s really what businesses do when they are at their most innovative. They know us slightly better than we know ourselves.” – Alain de Botton, Philosophy of Innovation
In a world of big data, A/B testing and marketing automation, marketers seemingly don’t need to think much anymore. Run the algorithm, see what works and do more they say. Need some customer insight? Run a focus group, gather some research and go forward.
But can being introspective and reflective make us better marketers? Can it make us more creative? Are we relying too much on external validation and not enough on our own experiences? Lately, I’ve been reading works by Alain de Botton and he has me thinking deeply about marketing and philosophy. Alain is a master at communicating the art of personal meaning. His works on travel, love, purpose and happiness are best-sellers and frequently referenced. But, his work has greater implications for business, and in particular, marketing.
Here are important insights de Botton has provided on marketing and philosophy. While they aren’t necessarily breakthrough, are important reminders of our role as influencers.
Innovate By Looking Inward
Think about your the cumulative experiences in your life. Think about all the data points your own self contains. And think about the fact that the only person you can analyze in a transparent manner is your self. You are indeed the best focus group available. Alain de Botton recommends that we should practice the art of introspection. This is the only way to find out what your customers are truly looking for, but understanding our own deepest wants and needs.
Think Deeply About Psychological Need
Instead of asking how do we beat our competitors, businesses should be asking how do we position our products to fit a psychological need? How does your product or service provide meaning to customers? How does it make people feel safer or happier? Do you think Starbucks is only about the coffee? Starbucks wins because they provide community and status, items at the core of every human. According to Coffee Review, their coffee isn’t even considered great. Decent, but not great.
How do you figure out what psychological needs you will fill? It’s simple. What makes you happy and fulfilled? What makes you feel safe and accepted? Look inward and you’ll find the answers.
Don’t Ignore the Realities of Life
We tend to gloss over the harsh realities that our customers are facing. Loneliness, exhaustion, and lack of meaning to name a few. We’ve all suffered from these at points, but we tend to not address these in meetings about our customers. If you’re looking for an introspective look at some harsh realities, check out de Botton’s work The Book of Life. His insights into work, love, capitalism and more are fantastic.
If you want to be a great marketer, you need to truly understand people. Philosophy is a crucial part of the history of our understanding.