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The New ‘We’ Economy

Over the past few years you may have noticed a change in not just the economy – but our culture.

To oversimplify it – there’s been a shift from ‘me’ to ‘we’.

And this shift is critical to understand both in the tone of your marketing, but also the style of it.

Let me back this up.

According to book publishing coach Michael Drew (who’s put over 60 books on the NYT best seller list) couple of decades ago, our culture seemed to be all about being, ‘an idealistic individual’.

It was about being an individual, unique and setting big goals! Land a man on the moon, own a huge mansion, buy your own private jet. We were told “you can achieve anything”. We were constantly reminded that we can be bigger and better than we really are. We weren’t encouraged to think about limits or taking responsibility for our own actions. There was an overall air of individual entitlement. “I can do whatever I want.” we were raised to think.

But all this ‘me’ focus but eventually became plastic, phony, and turned us into a culture of narcissistic posers.

What I want to suggest is that that cycle is done.

But that a lot of people are doing their marketing as if it weren’t.

We are now moving into a “Conscious Community” cycle.

You’re probably seeing it everywhere. The rise of green business and local food, crafts, arts . . . everything. Volunteerism is on the rise. Coops are on the rise. We’re seeing the rise of social media (e.g. facebook, twitter and linked in).

People have started talking to each other.

And this really is a change. Twenty years ago there were lots of progressive people. But now they talking to each other – they’re creating meet-up groups, facebook groups, NING communities.

The age of the ‘guru’ is rapidly coming to a close and the dawn of the ‘everyman’ is on the rise. Every day, thousands of new blogs go up. Thousands of new videos. People are sharing links and files with each other.

We’ve moved from the days of the gourmet chef to more of a ‘stone soup’ model.

Lord of the Rings is a good metaphor. A rag tag group of people working together for a common cause larger than themselves.

People are learning from each other.

The whole seminar business is feeling the pinch of this. Numbers (even for the big names) are at an all time record low.


Why go to a seminar when you can buy the book or DVD cheap, when you have friends who lead seminars too, or you can download the audio for free online (because in an age of file sharing – what does ‘copyright’ mean anyway?) And plus – why spend thousands on a seminar when most of the ones you’ve been to were way overhyped anyway? Why go to a seminar when they’re likely going to use the whole three days to just sell you into another seminar.

We’ve become a bit more cynical about where we spend our ‘personal growth’ dollars these days.

Even huge corporations getting into the game by sponsoring charities or creating their own big ’cause related’ events.

  • British Petroleum rebrands itself as “Beyond Petroleum” (leaving us beyond belief).
  • HSBC (a huge multinational bank) rebrands itself as ‘the world’s local bank’.
  • Becel Margarine takes on ‘heart disease’ (a condition that it’s product no doubt contributes to)
  • Dove creates the ‘Real Beauty’ campaign all about self image issues for women.

Why are they doing this?

Because they realize that this shift isn’t so much ‘happening’ as that it’s already ‘happened’.

In this cycle of conscious community we value small actions, doing your part, we value use and utility over hype.

We are encouraged to do what’s best for society as a whole. It’s about coming together as a team. In a word – Community. We’re not so important as individuals.

And we’re craving things that are authentic, transparent and real.

The picture to the left is from the Burning Man festival. It’s a massive convergence where no commerce is allowed and people are encouraged to be their freaky, real selves.

And, more and more, we want something ‘real’.

“Talk is cheap,” we tell people. “Do something. Help somebody. Give me something real.” These days most of us want the truth, even if it’s ugly. And we hate pretense. We hate ‘fake’. We hate hype where everything is ‘AMAZING! Never before seen! One time only! Life changing!” etc. We hate telemarketers calling us with ‘sales scripts’. We are likely the generation with the most finely tuned BS censors in the history of our culture.

We want humility, straight talk and a genuine point of view.

It used to be enough to say things powerfully (sell the sizzle not the steak). But these days you actually have to say something powerful.

Increasingly – shared values and ‘seeing things the same way as your customers’ is vital. Increasingly, it’s not just what you’re selling – they’re buying a perspective, a point of view. They are buying based on your vibe. They’re buying based on whether or not you’re a part of their community – or, compellingly, if you’re able to create a community that they want to be a part of.

Crowd sourcing. User generated content. Collective ownership.

Something real.

Jusy Wicks said it best when she spoke of wanting to foster and economy that values, “fair trade not “Free” trade, alternative education that nurtures the whole child, not just reading, writing and “rithmetic”, a maximization of relationships, not of profits; honesty and transparency, not more lies, hype and manipulation; naturalness, not pretense; the growth of consciousness and creativity, not brands and market share; democracy and decentralized ownership, not concentrated wealth; a living return, not the highest return; a living wage, not the minimum wage; a fair price, not the lowest price; sharing, not hoarding; simplicity, not luxury; life-serving, not self-serving; partnership, not domination; cooperation, not competition; win-win exchange, not win-lose exploitation; family farms, not factory farms; biodiversity, not monocrops; cultural diversity, not monoculture; creativity, not conformity; slow food, not fast food; our bucks, not Starbucks; our mart, not Wal-Mart; a love of life, not a love of money.”


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