What do all of these have in common?
- Your customers want to change their contact preference among mail, chat, phone number, second phone number, personal visit, text message, missed call and call back and so on and so forth. Every time you contact them, they wish you had contacted them from a different channel
- You have changed your Facebook profile picture 5 times today (officially). One before the job interview, one before meeting friends, one before meeting grandparents and the rest you can imagine
- You don’t recognise yourself as a proponent of any political party. You have a set of transient ideas in mind which are scattered among the manifestos of multiple parties
- Your next Facebook profile picture was automatically updated by an algorithm that predicted your behaviour faster than you could
- Your customers not only wish that you provide them payment services from their mobile app whenever they wish to buy– to avoid queues (Ex: Starbucks in the recent case), but also wish that their coffee was served at that very moment they wished to have it. Yes, whichever location, whenever they want, whatever they want, however they want. That is what they have been after. Isn’t it?
- You constantly complain that you are unable to pinpoint customer needs in a system that has become impossibly dynamic
It is liquid modernity.
Eastern contemplative philosophies and Buddhism in particular place impermanence as one of the everlasting truths of our existing world. It appears that, in the liquid modernity era, which is coined and researched by one of the eminent sociologists Zygmunt Bauman, world will exhibit impermanence in such an unprecedented pace that it will impact the way we observe and interpret the prevalent ideas in every institution mankind has so far built: social, political, economic and corporate– including marketing, to name a few. One of the repercussions of such an era that has already made inroads into our very lives is the imminent crashing of the concrete pillars on which such institutions were built (Bauman, 2013). And the more uncertain and staggering part of such a repercussion is that those solid pillars will be replaced with no pillars at all, unlike what used to happen before: such as the transition from product centric to customer centric approach. We will be left to feel the absolute freedom in the absence of such concrete pillars and will exist momentarily and whimsically: such as in that YouTube video film of abstract shapes and colours that are projected endlessly till; hopefully death– that is if today’s technology permits (Read Google’s brain). In its extreme manifestation of liquid modernity, the very idea of questioning and making sense of the current state itself is rendered meaningless. It is like the abstract that is trying to understand itself– which can only reflect more and more abstractions of various kinds.
I will try to summarize in a simpler way. Liquid modernity states our lives are becoming more fluid: lighter, faster and consisting more transient options (Bauman, 2013). Those examples I gave earlier demonstrate these. We will no more have solid ideals, relationships, individuality, locations, sexual identities etc., but we will and we already have lighter shades of a mixture of these solid states at different points of time thereby demonstrating impermanence– so much so, that this frequent change itself will become the state of affairs. In such a transient state of things, one can say that only those business systems flourish that can take shape, function and dismantle at a rate which is even faster than the impermanent fluid states which we assume momentarily. Technology will be the prime mover behind these immense changes in the thought and form of mankind and is going to dismantle the solid pillars we had built, thereby establishing unparalleled freedom. Was this the freedom that you were after?
Having said that, it appears that as liquid modernity takes shape, it will not be without resistance as any such huge movement shall face when it tries to impose itself universally. Also, human mind in its continuous search for change can always revert to those solid pillars as a change from fluidity itself. One can argue that the changes are so fast that such a solid state cannot be retained for long. But, time and again we have also observed freedom coming under the grip of solid ideals and countries stagnating and flowing alternatively. Despite all opposition, this time it is the technology that is driving such a freedom and it is competing with the mind itself and bringing forth changes that even the minds which create such a technology are unable to anticipate. So it appears, technology can take over our lives to a certain degree and reinforce fluid modernity. This is how far my dissolving liquid modern mind can anticipate. I give up here.
Coming back to segmentation: In marketing segmentation there is division of prospect base into segments such as traditionalist segment: which is more loyal, young segment: which is less loyal, family segment: which can be marketed with combo products etc. However, under the influence of the forces of liquid modernity each individual changes continuously with time. So, from an analytics perspective we need data and algorithms that can capture these changing individual states and aggregate them continuously, rather than having fixed segments and plans. Each individual can be imagined as a market in itself– with all the varieties of the market displayed at different points of time. In such a scenario, instead of looking into segments, each individual is treated separately depending on his temporary fluid state. The aggregated information of such fluid states of all the individuals concerned can be captured real time and based on such an aggregation the teams and processes form and dismantle seamlessly to cater to the instantaneous needs.
The above interpretation is of course an idealistic scenario. But we now at least know the direction that the marketing teams need to take: More fluid– lighter, faster and more and more transient options for every decision that is to be made. I have cherry picked a few scenarios related to marketing analytics here. The applications of liquid modernity can be extended to every possible field and it will be very interesting to listen to such ideas.
Ufff. I will try and use a speech to text application next time in the true spirit of liquid modernity J
Bauman (2013), Liquid Modernity, Polity. Available from: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Liquid-Modernity-Zygmunt-Bauman-ebook/dp/B00E6OQBAE/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr= [Accessed 1 October 2015].
Molesworth (2015), Key themes in Marketing, lecture notes distributed in the module MANG6262, Marketing in the 21st Century, at the University of Southampton, 28 September.