Totally “Awesome”, Dude…
September 21, 2009
I seem to be hearing more and more about “Awesomeness” these days. But not in the usual venues where one would expect to here the term frequently, video gaming, extreme sports, or rock concerts. Its seems to be becoming a powerful buzzward in economic theory and, as a result, advertising. Economic theory? Yes economic theory straight from Harvard Business School of all places. Check out the blog “The Awesomeness Manifesto” ( http://blogs.harvardbusiness.org/haque/2009/09/is_your_business_innovative_or.html ). In this article Umair Haque brings up the 20th century economist Joseph Schumpeter and his classic economic theory of “creative destruction” with a twist. A true 21st century thinker, Mr. Haque has a very clear eye on the 20th century business models of the past, what I call “Smoke Stack” economics, and it’s now obvious failings.
According to both Shumpeter and Haque, true capitalism prides itself on innovation creating new markets, new value and new businesses that are in turn destroyed by newer innovation destroying old markets, old value and old businesses. This cycle, always a “disruptive” process was also, by today’s standards, a “slow” process”. Horse -drawn buggies would eventually be replaced by automobiles, but it would take a good generation or two to do so, giving the people who worked in the buggy industry a little time to “adjust” to the new economies created by the automobile. The buggy wheel maker is replaced by the tire manufacturer, the buggy driver becomes the taxi driver, the horse retires to the stud farm or the glue factory; disruptive but not cataclysmic (at least not for humans).
The Digital Age has changed all that as the current “Economic Crisis” suggests. When things change these days, they change fast! But as cataclysmic as the recent events have been to some, its been barely noticeable to others. For example, while other “technology segment” companies like Intel, Dell, and even the almighty Microsoft have taken a pretty good beaten over the last few months, Apple Computer has never done better. Riding a peak of “innovative” products that just keep right on selling regardless of the tough economic times. Products I might add that aren’t exactly “cheap”. I put the term “innovative” in quotes because according to Mr. Haque: ”
…successful innovation is normally a source of temporary market power, eroding the profits and position of old firms, yet ultimately succumbing to the pressure of new inventions commercialised by competing entrants.”
But somehow Apple has managed to avoid, even overcome this problem despite the hordes of competitors, imitators and naysayers that have been chomping at its heels since the mid 1980s. Why? Its Mr. Haque’s theory that its because Apple doesn’t just sell products, Apple sells “Awesomeness”. And apparently they can’t sell enough of it. A visionary in the truest sense of the word, the world has already forgotten that Steve Jobs was actually ousted from Apple in the late 80s for trying to push this very concept to a board of directors firmly mired in 20th century thinking. They thought he was crazy and actually through him out. Thankfully for Apple shareholders, when the company teetered on failing in the early 90s, Apple had enough sense to bring him back. He’s been “innovating” Awesomeness ever sense.
In doing so, Jobs has managed to avoid the “destructive” cycle. You cannot destroy “Awesomeness”. You either propogate it or you don’t. Once you have the knack of creating it, you have your “genie” in a bottle. Instead of Destructive Capitalism you have a self-rejuvenating Constructive Capitalism. Unfortunately (or fortunately for Apple) Steve seems to be the only one who “gets” it…so far. Yes, it is all about marketing but its much more than that. A basic axiom of advertising is before you can sell a product you have to have a product. Most people, businesses and advertisers alike, think of awesomeness as a concept not a product. Yet Apple sells it with every Imac, Nano and Iphone they ship. Constructive capitalism can be “green” or “organic” or whatever you want to call it when someone makes something they love and sells it to somebody who loves it.
Gen M knows “awesomeness” when we see it — that’s why its part of our vernacular. It’s a precise concept, with meaning, depth, and resonance.
True these kinds of “fuzzy-wuzzy” words have had little place in the corporate boardroom of the past, but they’re ready to become a part of the everyday vernacular of the future. Ad agencies, large and small, better be prepared to create their own brand of “Awesomeness”, not only to sell their client’s products, but themselves as well.
From toothpaste to luxury cars, its going to be a tough sell going into the future unless they’re wrapped in a good healthy dose of “awesome”. The consumer of today is demanding it…the consumer of tomorrow will expect it.