Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Why Being Holistic Means Being Divided

No fear... this isn't a riddle like the one in front of the Sphinx.  It's just something that has occurred to me of late based on some articles i've been reading lately and some of the discussions I've been privy to "IRL" as they say.

In my last post, I told you I didn't understand why it would be that I could access my home voicemail via my iPhone but not through my laptop because my chosen browser is Safari.  It was really a call for more complete thinking and something that we could all be doing not only within our own departments (Finance, Marketing, Operations, etc.) but enterprise wide.

We've got to start thinking vertically, horizontally and diagonally -- as well as a bunch of non linear directions -- if we are to succeed long term.  Old habits die hard, I know, but if Amir's 81 year old aunt and 95 year old uncle are on Facebook and send emails, surely we can learn new ways of thinking and doing as well.

So what does thinking in a whole bunch of directions have to do with being holistic and divided all at the same time?  We've seen articles lately about demographic digital divides (here and here) as well as shopper divides (here and here).  I recommend reading all four to get a true glimpse of what's going on in the greater landscape but the net net is the following:
  • Minorities, in these cases, Latinos are more prevalent on Twitter than other groups.  More specifically, data show that 18 percent of Latino respondents who spend time online have a Twitter account, versus 13 percent of non-Hispanic blacks and 5 percent of non-Hispanic whites.
  • Though advertising shows otherwise, the average grocery shopper is not the young sprightly stay at home mom.  Very often, it's a career mother who has had children later in life or the dad who is making the trip to the grocery store.
At the same time, I've been hearing experts declare the death of direct mail and/or other older forms of marketing, etc.  I guess I don't technically disagree that certain forms of communication are less popular than others.  I'm also being told who is online and how these people behave online.  Hey, data are data.  But, as I mentioned in this post, we're making a lot of assumptions these days which I attribute to a bit of laziness and a form of "what's good for the goose" syndrome.

We're assuming that because of the proliferation (and use) of online channels that we all process information the same way on these online channels.  Or that we communicate the same way on these online channels.  Or that other channels that are not online are not valuable forms of communication.

We're also content to, despite what are obvious differences in what constitutes a household these days, assume that shoppers are just as they were many years ago.  Hey, some people don't want to get married at all.  Some households have two moms or two dads.  And, because we think shoppers are as the same as before, we assume they process information the same way as before or value the same types of messaging as before.

Honestly, the way we're conducting business with all of these assumptions is not really different from this quote from Henry Ford:

"People can have the Model T in any color - so long as it's black"

So, in my call for holistic multilinear thinking is a call for us to think that there may be diversity in who our customers are, how they choose to receive and how they choose to process information.  We may own our brands but we can't dictate to our customers or prospects in the way Henry Ford did.

We have to accept and respect differences.  And by accepting and respecting differences, we have to accept and respect that though direct mail or other older forms of communication may be passe for us, they may be exactly what the doctor ordered for some of our customers.  And while in our mind's eye, the shopper is a young mom, they may very well be a stay at home dad.

How are you thinking holistically?  Are you considering your customers or your markets holistically?

Parissa Behnia
Idea Chef


  1. Parissa: I will go one step further. We have to just start thinking period. We are slowly becoming victims of the tyranny of technology.

  2. Parissa: I tend to think about this issue in part as being driven by fact-based decision-making, as opposed to assumptive decision making. For most of the history of marketing and sales, we had poor tools to support our decisions - think about using surveys with fixed answer questions, or focus groups to decide product direction! Now the new tools of Web 2.0 have the potential to get more accurate data which in my view, can help us think holistically and in more dimensions.

  3. Thank you for the comments! @Ought: I agree with you 100% that new tools should, theoretically, help us think multi dimensionally. Yet I see that we revert back to easy assumptive behaviors in our work. I could forgive the assumptions many moons ago but I have a hard time wrapping my mind around them today.