Time for a grandiose, macro view of the universe, post. For around 4000 years our world has been run top down. From the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, to the Ottomans, Spanish, British and French, to the American, Russians and Chinese, nations have tried to define a societal ‘way’ and impose that ‘way’ on their own populations and, by conquest, on others.
They achieved this through impressive military establishments and logistics and by controlling the message. If you have the only voice that can be heard, you have the only voice.
The same by and large is true of marketing. The factories are the armies, the supply chain is the logistics, advertising is the voice by which the message is controlled.
So consider China and Facebook. The perception is that China is the ultimate example of top down but it is not really true. Sure the China ‘brand’ is represented everywhere and sure the system controls the overall message and structure but if that were utterly true how can we explain the change that is sweeping that country?
The answer is that China really operates bottom up these days where local people slowly stretch the rules of behavior and, in particular, ownership of capital and entrepreneurship and VERY local politicians determine if the the stretch is acceptable. When they do a new base line is drawn and the process continues until, from time to time, the new line is crossed and the center says ‘enough’ but then the it all happens again. All in all it appears to be six steps forward and one step back.
Facebook is similar. Rather than one giant community controlled from the top it is tens of thousands of communities controlled by individuals and small groups. Now and again the ‘big community’ allows change such as opening the paltform to new groups and to developers of applications but it is individuals that take that new base and begin to build what they want and cast aside what they don’t want.
In marketing top down is also rapidly to be consigned to imperial history. Marketers no longer control the message, the armies and logistics are changing. Today we need to think of how we seed influence to the smallest and most valuable populations and how to arm these brand militias to undertake conquest willingly and on our behalf.