Archive for December, 2010

December 7, 2010
Jeffrey Heilbrunn

Life is a Rental

I was talking with my friend Wally about relationships and he mentioned to me the lack of a desire for long term commitment with people in his social circle. His comment got me to thinking about whether this is an emerging social value that marketing professionals need to acknowledge and deal with. Do we need to try harder to gain commitment or live within the concept of rental (or both)?

Why is Wally getting these vibes? Perhaps it is because people are losing the things that they built their long term relationships upon. They are losing their homes through foreclosure; 60% of marriages end in failure; retirement is in jeopardy; jobs and careers are out of control.

No wonder we live as renters rather than committed buyers. With renting comes less responsibility which we find easier to deal with when everything else is out of our control.

Marketers, I don’t believe renting is a desired state, but rather a coping mechanism. We still yearn to be committed, to be a part of something with others. But responsibility without control is also a strong and undesirable state.

Can you create a state of commitment while mitigating the responsibility for now?

Membership is a concept long used by not for profit organizations to convey a form of ownership and commitment without significant responsibility. The concept has served American Express very well for many years.

We can learn from the not for profit world…membership has a couple of important components with might be useful for marketers to work into their marketing efforts. First, members need some level of involvement…mere “checkbook” members (dues payers) are often not retained over time. Give members/customers a chance to get involved like the Pepsi Refresh Project.

Second, members want communications…but give the member/customer the ability to control the flow so they get the level they want. It’s easy in this internet era to provide a constant feed that feeds the interest of the customer.

The rental mentality is a reality of the times. It can also be a trap that moves us away from the value of relationships that is a vital underpinning of modern marketing. To maintain a relationship in business, perhaps we need a middle ground between ownership and rental…
Jh, December 7, 2010