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The thought leaders have taken over the asylum

The bar for inspiring and informing the market about the future has fallen so low that we are all guilty of creating content blindness, which is what happens when people stop noticing what we say.

Time was when the keys to the future belonged to a handful of senior consultants at Bain, McKinsey and the defunct Andersen Consulting. And you had to wait until they pronounced – generally in January.

Even when I was authoring huge research reports at the Financial Times, the FT could never reference itself; it had to quote the consultants. And even if we published yards of graphs from the likes of IDC and Mintel, we still had to defer to the consultants to tell us what they all meant.

Now, we are all thought leaders, predicting and prescribing the future of retail based sometimes on solid research, but more often on pure whim. Everyone is an expert, even when they are ‘validating’ their ‘insight’ by referencing third party research. All we need to do is paraphrase our CV, download some nice images and fonts and there we are, gurus all.

OK, I’m being cynical.

All this content has its place – to inspire and to inform – but I worry that much of it is no longer helping. There’s too much of it; it’s too samey; and very little of it really pushes the boundaries. Also it generally does not address what the people it is directed at are focused on right now.

I want marketing to rethink what it really expects all this expertise to achieve. This means more time spent in good old-fashioned research – with the salespeople, with their targets, as well as the audiences they are in turn trying to reach, the consumer.

Doing this will ensure that the ensuing content is firmly grounded in what retailers are stressed about right now. That content may as a result not always be inspiring or innovative, but it will relevant and applicable.

Otherwise we’re going to carry on in a world where retailers and vendors are talking about different things, until the bubble bursts.


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