One of my previous marketing seminars, which I will post some day, deals with the evolution of commerce, from person-to-person bartering, through local markets, to modern superstores and malls. And how that has dehumanized the transactions and made the buyer and seller unaware of each other. There is a great quote from Doc Searls: “customers who once looked you in the eye while hefting your wares in the market were transformed into consumers … More bureaucracy, more hierarchy and more command and control meant the customer who looked you in the eye [these days] was promptly escorted out of the building by security.”
He also notes that the shift from buyer and seller having equal amounts of power, to the seller holding almost all the cards has resulted in the emergence of the verb, “market.” A market is no longer a place where you go to buy things, it’s something that sellers do to consumers.
I like to think that the war is not lost to turn marketing into an honourable profession if we can use the technology now available to us to return to the time when you knew your butcher, baker and sausage-maker by their first names, and they knew you and your preferences. Amazon greets me by my first name every time I visit, and even recommends books that it thinks I will enjoy. In my maybe-future bar, I will greet people by their first names and know what their “usual” is. And any time I market to them, it will be for their benefit, not mine.