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The Physics of Marketing – Absloute Zero

Zero My HeroAt just about -273 degrees Celsius, you reach the point at which all molecular motion ceases.  There is no heat.  None.  This is known as Absolute Zero, and it was developed in large part by Lord Kelvin.  In his honor, the Kelvin Scale, in which 0 degrees equals -273 C,  was named.  While scientists have some close to reaching absolute zero in laboratories, it may be impossible to accomplish because the act of measuring would require some level of heat be introduced.  Still, scientists have gotten really, really close to this temperature that is really, really, really cold.

There are some really “cool” things that happen to certain elements when you approach absolute zero, such as condensates – super cold liquids that can overcome adhesion and gravity to spontaneously flow out of their containers.  Needless to say, funny things happen near absolute zero.

So, from a Marketing Perspective, what is analogous to absolute zero?

I am inclined to say that the concept of the Long Tail, introduced by Chris Anderson, is analogous to this concept in some way.  The Long Tail states that, among other things, the internet empowers infinite consumer niches, and thus in a digital world where inventory is not much of an issue, there is a demand for just about everything.  So, that record you and your buddies made in the garage in 1976 might have one person out there somewhere, besides you, who is interested in it.  That record – once thought to be completely void of heat – now possesses a minuscule amount of movement.

Marketing professionals are paid to move products and services away from absolute zero – as far away as possible.  Marketing is some sense is about using resources for generating heat around a product or service, capitalizing on the Second Law of Thermodynamics (Thanks Geoff) to maximize the return on investment.   As the product life cycle would dictate, nothing lasts forever and today’s hot product becomes yesterday’s news pretty quickly.  Marketing moves on, and the product or service often loses heat until it finally dies – theoretical absolute marketing zero.

Still, the long tail being what it is, absolute zero for a product may never actually be reached.  As products or services approach this temperature, weird things happen.  Small groups of people may decide that they don’t want to let go of a product or service, and demand comes from seemingly out of nowhere to defy conventional wisdom.  That is why someone will pay $27.00 for the Shirt Tales lunch box on ebay.  Sometimes this remains isolated and sometimes the product begins to generate heat again and moves away from Absolute Zero.  Pabst Blue Ribbon comes to mind as a brand that was once near death, and then, somehow got to be trendy.  Now, bars in Columbus, Ohio can’t keep enough of it in stock to meet demand.  While this definitely differs from the absolute laws of physics, the ideas seem to be similar.

I am curious to hear from you on Absolute Zero.  How can you apply this to Marketing?  Please share your thoughts and join the discussion with your comments.