Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Reexamining business school fundamentals (reconsidered) 6: marketing and CRM in an interconnected global context

Posted in reexamining the fundamentals by Timothy Platt on February 21, 2017

This is my sixth installment to a series of brief, single issue sketches in which I reconsider each of a set of core issues that I first addressed in this format in a 2010 series. See Section II of my directory: Reexamining the Fundamentals for that earlier related series, and in particular see my earlier same-name counterpart posting to this one as included there: Reexamining business school fundamentals – marketing and CRM in an interconnected global context.

I just reread that 2010 posting in anticipation of writing this one, and have to admit that all of the basic main points raised there, still fully and forcefully apply here too. That noted, I acknowledge that I offered my earlier fundamentals series and that posting in it, at a time when global connectivity and flattening were more actively on the rise and before the real start of the backlash to it that we are so forcefully seeing now as of this writing. That is not to say that there was no resistance, no suspicion, no fear of the change that global flattening was offering, 2010 edition. The more widely held and organized resistance to that change, as we see facing it now in early 2017, can all be traced back to that earlier point in time. But the European Union was still holding strong and for all of its economic issues, and 2010 was still essentially entirely pre-Brexit in its thinking – and even if some citizens of the United Kingdom were already dreaming of that arising. Wide-ranging trade agreements such as the EU itself, and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) were still seen for the most part, as globally enriching positives. And we were still at a high point of what by historical pattern might best be considered a cyclical process of acceptance and resistance, that in general trends toward increased globalization at least long-term. And according to that perspective, globalization and the ongoing “two steps forward and one step back” trend towards it, follows essentially the same basic pattern that can be found when essentially any type of disruptive innovation arises and seeks to diffuse out into wider and even routine acceptance, and certainly when it arises in stages and as an ongoing long-term process. As of this writing, we are enmeshed in a one step back phase of that cycle, and now for example,some of France’s political leaders are raising the example of the United Kingdom and its Brexit as a path that their country might pursue too.

And this orienting background note brings me directly to the issues of crafting and developing and conveying a message, and in an increasingly globally interactive context where talking without listening, writing without reading, and a failure to engage, involve and include are bound to lead to failure. And I find myself holding up the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) here, as a “bridge too far”, poster child example of how increased globalization efforts can fail – and in ways that create backlash against trade agreements and other globalization initiatives per se, and specifically because of the way they are developed, and certainly if they are negotiated in isolation and in the dark, and without necessary communication or buy-in for building support from any larger stakeholder communities.

I have cited the TPP and its failure as a negotiated trade agreement in other postings to this series and raise its specter here too, for the way it died as a result of silence and a failure to involve or include when it was being formulated and negotiated – leaving any and all “outsider” stakeholders out of the room and imagining the worst from that.

I at least touched upon the message that I seek to convey here, in my 2010 posting on marketing and customer relations management (CRM) in an interconnected global context, when I cited the perhaps partly apocryphal story of the Ford Nova automobile and its marketplace failures in Latin America. Failures to communicate with or understand the audiences that Ford wanted and needed to sell to, led to a failure to thrive for the Nova in these potentially large car buying markets. In a fundamental sense I am just adding a few complexities to the basic narrative offered in that posting, and reframing them in a larger context here, where I note that:

• Friction and resistance and failures to effectively communicate that drive them, take more forms and are more emotionally driven now, than they were in 2010,
• And are enabled by increased proliferation of a type of barrier to mutual understanding that I addressed in a more restricted political context in my 2016 posting: Thinking Through the Words We Use in Our Political Monologs: epistemic bubbles (also called filter bubbles.)
• And epistemic bubbles, and our way too common pattern of simply hearing our own opinions reflected back upon us from the like-minded, have become all but hermetically sealed when no one on the outside who might be able to argue a different point of view is willing to engage and include beyond their own bubbles, in real dialog either.

Positing this in TPP terms, I know a number of intelligent, informed people who came to see the Trans-Pacific Partnership as a source of what amounts to great evil in the world – and precisely because the people seeking to build this agreement did so in secrecy and because people like my friends kept hearing the echo chamber concerns and predictions of their socio-politically aligned epistemic bubble, and without opportunity to hear any countervailing messages. They simply were not made available by those who could have been in the best position to offer them.

• What is the real, lasting lesson of the TPP and its all but certain stillborn demise, as of this writing? If I was to assay an at least preliminary answer to that, I would begin with a warning that its failure compellingly conveys: that silence is not golden. Silence is and can be deadly and certainly in this type of context. Failure to engage potential stakeholders as allies and partners in developing and promoting such an agreement and from early on, can doom it and in ways that post hoc reviews would call inevitable. The people who worked so hard to build a viable trade agreement out of their TPP negations never, ever tried to connect with anyone outside of their own select-group bubbles, in the larger communities that came to distrust their effort from the secrecy that it was wrapped in – and who they ultimately would need buy-in from if their effort was to succeed.

Marketing and Customer Relations Management (CRM) from this perspective, are not just business terms and they are definitely not just one-way communicated business-to-consumer messaging services. The more globally interconnected we all are an in our businesses and markets and the ecosystems they enter into – and with social and political forces and voices included too, the more need there is for us all to see and use these tools more widely and more openly, and with a goal of expanding participation and buy-in and across the bubble wall barriers we face.

Why are we seeing an upswing in resistance to open globalization and connectedness in 2017, as is exemplified by the way trade agreements have become political targets? There are a number of compelling reasons and even more contributing factors that would enter into any full answer to that type of question, and I have only touched upon a few of them here. But ultimately, failure to actively communicate and engage and involve – and a failure to include what can perhaps best be called interactive marketing and CRM in processes such as the TPP development initiative, amount to potential stakes through the heart for those agreements. And that self-inflicted vulnerability on what they were doing, on the part of the people who drafted the TPP, ultimately killed their trade agreement.

I am going to continue this series in a next installment, in which I will address the issues raised in my 2010 posting: Reexamining Business School Fundamentals – supply chains and value chains as drivers of sustaining value. Meanwhile, you can find this and other related postings and series at Reexamining the Fundamentals, with this series offered as a new Section VII in that directory.


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