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Isaac Newton and the Future of Marketing

Last year I wrote this post as part of my ongoing series The Physics of Markeitng.  The post discussed ways that Newton’s Law of Gravity might pertain to marketing.  There were some excellent comments about the post and it has actually led me to think differently about the marketing – past, present, and future.  Particularly, a comment my brother in law Chad, an engineer by trade, made about the formula for gravity itself.

The gravitational force between any two bodies can be described as follows:

F = G*M1*M2/d^2

So the force (F) is linearly proportional to mass but the distance effect is squared. So if you double the distance (d), the force drops to 1/4th. Being close to your customers is more important than being big.

The last century of marketing was largely about mass.  Limited media channels and constraints regarding information and communication made mass a great approach.  Get big by buying up the media channels for your product, drawing customers in through your sheer mass.  Proximity was secondary.

In the future, I believe that marketing will be much more about proximity than about mass.  Technology plays a large part in this shift.  With fragmented media,  a million channels of distribution, an empowered and consumer driven world, google search, mobile devices, blogs, social networks, and other shifts in how we consume and distribute information, mass is just not as easy as it once was.  However, proximity has never been easier.  People will tell you what they want, when they want it, and often will do so for free.  Now a business can more easily than ever engage with people, know the value they deliver, make friends, and get closer to their customers.

Just as with Newton’s theory, proximity is truly more powerful than mass when it comes to word of mouth advertising.  If you operate in close proximity  to your customers – listening to them and meeting their needs in new and creative ways – you will generate positive word of mouth and grow exponentially.  This costs nothing and yields better results than any form of advertising known to man.  (Except perhaps Richard Simmons / Gene Simmons.  They are of another universe.)

Does this mean big brands and mass advertising methods will be gone?  No, mass will remain part of the equation, but it will be approached with a different mindset.  It will become secondary to proximity.  Mass is more difficult to achieve, and attraction or gravity almost impossible to sustain without proximity.  So as you approach your marketing, think not about how do I “get the word out” to get customers to gravitate to your business, but more about “how do I get and stay closer to my customers and the citizens whom I would like to become my customers.”

Realize though that proximity has implications.  You are going to have to listen to your customers.  You may be forced to actually change your business – and not just your logo –  as a result of moving toward proximity.  If you are up close and personal, customers are going to be able to see through any trickery, so be authentic.  (Keep it real YO!)

Seek to help people, understand people, and listen to people. This is all much different from the Mass approach of just be bigger and louder.  It is also better than that approach in my opinion.   To get gravity, start with a focus on proximity.