As Coroner I Must Aver …

A lot of people most likely do not understand what a coroner does.  I did not. For instance did you know that

  1. Coroners do not need medical degrees or understand pathology?
  2. Coroners do not need any training – medical or otherwise?
  3. Coroners do not perform autopsies?
  4. Coroners are appointed or elected by voters?
  5. To get the job they only need to be of legal age and have no felony convictions?

An year long investigative report by NPR goes into the details of the history and job of coroners and tells us what this job is about.

Once a person meets the basic age and criminal record …

“Basically, to be a coroner, you just have to be publicly popular. I guess it’s more of a popularity contest. Then you learn the job as you go.”

Actually there is no need to learn anything as well. They just need to pronounce people dead sign death certificates.

There are coroners everywhere you look in the management, marketing and social media world. They go by the name Gurus, Marketing ninjas and social media mavens  etc.  Just like a coroner these Gurus

  1. Don’t need any formal education
  2. Don’t need any training
  3. Don’t  have to run a business, met a payroll, struggled with product slips, market changes or internal IT systems
  4. Don’t need to look at a business anymore than what they see in newspapers  or their single visit to pronounce it dead (or alive)
  5. Don’t have to collect data, analyze or get second opinion
  6. Don’t need any basis in facts to pronounce you have reptilian brain, you are left brained, you need naps to kindle creativity, you get your best ideas in shower etc.
  7. They just need to be popular with enough people as followers who suspended their own curiosity and willingness to look for contradicting evidence

For all these factors the Gurus are just like coroners.

I see one difference though. I think coroners will get in trouble for pronouncing live people dead or dead people alive. On the other hand the coroners of management world, the Gurus, have no such worries. No one is going to call them out on their remarkable proclamations.

As coroner I must ever,

Blockbuster is not only merely dead but most sincerely dead!

Gurus Selling Old Knowledge Under New Brands

This is a long quote from a 1967 article published in Journal of Industrial Economics. This paper was written as a response to Galbraith’s theory of Consumer Sovereignty.

The sensible manufacturer works with the environment, not against it. He tries to satisfy desires, latent and patent, the consumer already has; it is much cheaper than creating new ones.

First, he tries to identify these desires. To do this he now has all the aids of marketing research. If he only researches into which detergent the consumer considers to wash cleanest, he may miss the fact that the consumer now also wants her detergent to be pleasantly perfumed.

That is why so many of the new products even of the biggest firms fail miserably in test market. It is rarely because they are poor products technically. It is because there is something in their mix of qualities that fails to appeal to the consumer.

Once the manufacturer has found out what he thinks the public wants, he has to embody it in a product.

When the manufacturer does find an answer at a reasonable price, he still has to sell it to the public. He may think the answer will work; he may feel the price to be reasonable. He does not know whether the public will see it as he does.

If you go further back you most likely will find yet another article saying the same thing in more arcane language.

Fast forward to present day and you have exactly the same concepts stated above packaged in so many different ways. Every Guru has a name for it, they want us to believe none of the existing methods work. They brand these as their own, e.g., “Trade-off“, “Customer Development”, “Freemium”, etc.

Unfortunately, when the audience suspends its skepticism or if the Gurus are popular enough, their re-packaged ideas take roots as original thesis. Worse, the original ideas these new brands represent are cast aside as anachronisms.

There really is nothing new in marketing. Only new catch-phrases that fit the language of the time.