(Here we go. I've been thinking on stuff for several weeks now and have mapped out a multi-part post on conventional wisdom, which is just a nice word for herd mentality. The opinions expressed are my own, but the are based on the insights of dozens of journalists, analysts, investors, entrepreneurs and even qualified marketers, some of whom have been quoted and interviewed on this blog. I don't expect a lot of agreement here, but I ask that before you react, just consider for a moment, that I might be right.)
I was at a tradeshow recently and listened to a panel of experts talk about the state of their industry. What was entirely remarkable was that in the midst of an economic downturn; when their industry as a whole is growing slower than the rest of the economy; when Wall Street it self was calling the industry an horrible investment opportunity, these experts believed all is well in their own little section of the world.
This was not an isolated instance. Whenever I talk to someone about the state of any industry, the general belief is the industry is in trouble, but each individual states publicly that their company is doing just fine.
There are two reasons for this. First, the economy really isn't as bad as one might think. Second, people believe their own marketing. These are not mutually exclusive reasons.
The economy is not in great shape right now, but to read the media accounts we're on the verge of a sustained worldwide economic collapse. However, I've been hearing that prediction since 1970 from economists, journalists and preachers. If someone keeps saying it, eventually it's going to come true, but it's not something I would bet on. But one of the big reasons the economy is the way it is is because we don't really have much of a media left to filter out the marketing crap. All we have left is what we are telling ourselves.
At the conclusion of the panel session, through which I was consistently shaking my head in stunned unbelief, I heard several people in the audience congratulating themselves on attending such a positive event. Looking at the badges of these commentators I noticed they were all with the leading companies of the industry, and they were all marketers. These companies are congratulating themselves, as well, on completing years with between 1 and 4 percent annual revenue increases. In this same year, multiple start ups actually went bankrupt or were picked up for pennies on the dollar of investment. The market "increases" for the big companies came from, in no small measure, from the growing lack of competition in their industry.
The marketers can't see this because they have divorced themselves from the concept that they actually need third-party endorsement of their positions to know where they really are. That's why industry is cutting it's support of not only media but independent market research. Like I said yesterday, it's bad news if it doesn't line up with your world view and therefore it is not reliable.
Our economy would be much healthier if we had real analysis of the market data. At the moment, that analysis is dying a slow death from lack of support, and the closer we get to that death, the worse it is going to get for our economy. But before we get to that, we're going to look deeper into the marketing group think. Later.