The world has turned on its axis again, and here in the Northern Hemisphere that imperceptible line which divides summer from autumn has been passed. It’s one of those happenings you can only determine when it’s passed. The mornings are colder now, the evenings darker and the heating thermostats start clicking again. The trees have turned to wonderful colours as seen here in the beautiful Saale valley just outside Naumburg in Germany.
The leaves fall, as fall they must before winter comes. Autumn winds blow them against walls where children of all ages kick them around in that eternal autumn game. The very size of these heaps ought bring some sense of awe to us, rather than a shrug of the gardener’s shoulder as his blower rounds them up into manageable heaps. Leaves are seen as something to be rid of, dispose of.
There’s No Chaos In Nature.
Only I’d like to take a different look at these myriad leaves that now flutter down on us from the skies. Because we know since we were children that no two are ever the same. Here’s a picture of some maple leaves – they’re all different, yet they’re all distinctly “maple”. They are all different yet they’re all much the same. Living in a world where mass produced objects are almost literally the same, we unthinkingly apply this to nature too. Only when meeting it’s innate diversity, we stammer “it’s total chaos”. That’s when we can’t cope with it. That’s when the scientist turns to statistics to somehow try and tie it down and make it manageable with hard numbers.
There’s a very real problem with this approach, and that is each and every leaf that’s ever existed is unique. The difference may be imperceptible, the fact remains. More importantly, this is how nature works – and is a huge head-scratcher for the scientist who demands his proofs be repeatable! Because in marketing – just as in nature – nothing ever happens twice. Something can appear to be the same, but there will be a difference be it ever so small. Insisting that things must be the same simply will not do when it comes to nature; whilst it is true for the mineral realm, where growth is concerned, it most certainly is not. If nothing in nature can ever happen twice, how can it be repeatable?
Which is where the marketer needs a different set of tools to the scientist. If you cannot repeat something and expect the same result twice – as demonstrated by our collection of leaves – how then are we to tackle this chaos? So take a look at our leaves again, and the trick has already been disclosed. A maple leaf looks like a maple leaf, and not an oak, cherry or birch leaf. Apple leaves will have similarities to plum, hawthorn and rose – for they are all of the rose family. The trick here is to recognize the character of the leaf and not by any measure that is numerical. Forcing number on these forms merely squeezes the richness from your understanding of something that is truly dynamic. As ever, you need an imaginative conception of what a maple leaf is, whilst allowing it to exist in all its possible forms. This is something that number cannot but let slip through the gaps. It was a major reason for my dissatisfaction with university, and has taken decades to discover the dazzlingly colourful realities.
Better Customers Have Form And Purpose.
Whilst numberless, nature is anything but formless. Nothing happens in nature that does not conform to some pattern; chaotic is the very last thing that nature is! Notions of chaos only appear as soon as you try to force limits on nature. Meet the world as the world has been conceived and you will find something radically different. This is crucially important for the marketer. This is a photo taken at Utrecht Centraal railway station yesterday evening. It appears to be total chaos, people going in every possible direction save skywards! Yet each and every one of them is going somewhere, has come from somewhere and a destination.
Knowing the character of your best clients will tell you which platform most of them’ll be leaving from*. Because they live in that district. Advertising to them there whilst they’re waiting for their train to arrive will be a great deal more effective than advertising on all the other platforms put together. You can say this is outlandish rubbish … until you try it for yourself. The real power in advertising lies in advertising to the right people.
(*Any good marketer can tell you the district where their best customers come from – as a newbie, mine’s down to an area of around 4 million. These things take time to refine).