Construction marketing innovation and entropy: How do you make the right choices?


I’ve always been intrigued by how history has a tendency to repeat itself, but not. For example, way back when I returned from Africa in 1980, airlines around the world were announcing a brand new innovation for flyers paying the full economy (not discounted) fares: They would be accommodated in a special Business Class section between First Class and regular economy.

And if you go back further, say to the 40s and 50s, before the jet age, “sleeper seats” and “private berths” were certainly available to premium class cabin clients on trans-oceanic routes.

Gradually, Business Class improved to the point that it had most of the trappings of First Class, which has disappeared except on specialized routes (and Business Class has been renamed “Executive First” — and, well, a “new” class has been set up, Premium Economy that seems to me awfully like the old Business Class of the 1980s.

Old stories reinvent, discount carriers “upgrade”, and new cheap players emerge on the scene; and the story seems to repeat and repeat, allowing sometimes a few decades for the cycle to reinvent.

The real changes underlying the seemingly repetitive patterns, of course, are the underlying technologies. Obviously none of these aviation classes existed before the airplane was invented (though of course multi-class travel certainly has always been a fact of life on ships, especially cruise lines).

And with marketing, many of the basic concepts of advertising, public/media relations and sales (direct and through distribution channels) have been around for so long that you could ask your great-grandfather to cite the concepts, and he (and certainly back then a man rather than a woman would have been the marketer/business developer) would have said: “Hey, I think I know how this works.”

The changes, effectively, adapt the old to new technology. Google connected the auction with the Internet; and Facebook solved the riddle of combining personalization and human one-on-one relationships with the mass media. Both systems operated largely algorithmically; of course leaving themselves open for scamming and manipulation, and now a new level of regulatory control and monitoring.

I’m making these observations to demonstrate that you don’t need to spend too much energy worrying about technological changes and marketing trends. Sure, it helps to be aware of them and adapt them to your business practices.

But if you think about the basics: How your current and former customers recall and relate to your business; how your employees and supplier/contractors relate to each other and to the clients, and how you measure simple things like sales margins, client retention rates, and client satisfaction, you should have a reasonable probability of succeeding, regardless of what shiny new thing the markets reinvent. And, yes, some things indeed change — it isn’t cool any more to light up a cigarette on your transatlantic flight.

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