We as a culture have a tendency to look at indigenous cultures as primitive or savage. Just look at any depiction of an Aztec medicine man holding a ceremonial dagger over the heart of a young maiden, or Johnny Depp in The Lone Ranger.
It’s hard to gauge a civilisations technological developments when it is so different from your own. Our western understanding of technology have been commonly based around gears, wheels and circuitry but that wasn’t what the America’s peoples were good at. It was Agriculture.
Modern day farming revolves around Monoculture farming, miles and miles of unnaturally occurring fields of the same plant. In the more ‘primitive' indigenous culture of Mesoamerica, a different form of farming was used. Polyculture. Polyculture uses multiple crops in the same space, in the attempt to imitate the diversity of natural ecosystems. A Chinese study showed that planting varieties of rice in the same field increased yields by 89%. This was, for the most part, due to the incredible decrease (of 94%) in the incidence of disease. For balance, this type of farming is more labour intensive but has, seemingly, major advantages.
What does this have to do with marketing? Think of your marketing as agriculture. Each channel is a different type of crop. You have your direct email in one field, your Facebook ads in another, your LinkedIn posting in another, and you’ve just invested in some Snapchat that you think could be the new kale! Each Channel has its own audience and for a long time has been eating from your field. Each field has its own acquisition, retention and churn issues. Your audience is divided, and divided they fall. How do you make better use of the land? You want to feed more people, without the problems of pesticides, birds and bugs. You also want to give them some variety, people get bored when all they eat is the same thing day in day out. So how do we give our customers a more varied and nutritious diet? It’s about Polyculture.
Every time we start a marketing campaign, we need to plant our seedlings from every crop into one field. Have a Facebook campaign that cross-pollinates with your LinkedIn. Snapchat your Instagrammers, Twitch your Periscopers with a YouTube video you found on Reddit. This isn’t just a list of trendy social media words, this is the ecosystem that we live in, and it’s evolving faster than we can keep up. So we need to shift the paradigm in how we communicate our messages. We need to speak to our customers, wherever they are, whenever they are, and that needs to be in the groundwork of what we do. The messaging needs to not only be consistent but complimentary, fastidious and fluid. Shotgunning the same message to your market in every form takes out the delicate nuances of each channel and waters down the flavour of the content (I’m really sticking with this metaphor). Just as a broad example - have your message be prettier in Instagram that links to your more formal post on Linkedin, which leads to your personable event invite on Facebook with a little link to your e-commerce site for conversion. This sounds basic but think about how much richer your campaign would be when it has its tendrils in every field. Surprise your customers by letting them find your sproutlings popping in places they may not have expected. Not only do you have their attention, you’re building trust, awareness and an understanding of you and where you’re coming from. Customers are more cynical than ever, and staying up to date with where they're communicating keeps you relevant.
Now for Permaculture, if you don’t know what it is, it’s essentially a nice term for hippy utopia. The idea is about creating a self-sustaining agriculture that is built around fostering farms that are reflective of naturally occurring eco-systems. The following twelve design principles created by David Holmgren in Permaculture: Principals and Pathways Beyond Sustainability, goes some ways to explain the philosophy behind Permaculture. I also think they’re pretty good for marketing as a whole, with a little imagination. Just replace words like ‘nature’ with ‘audience’ etc, you get the gist, metaphors. My interpretations will be in italics, feel free to interpret them your own way.
Observe and interact: By taking the time to engage with nature we can design solutions that suit our particular situation. - Engage with your audience and take note, learn about them.
Catch and store energy: By developing systems that collect resources at peak abundance, we can use them in times of need. - Cultivate your core audience, they will always be the foundation you rely on.
Obtain a yield: Ensure that you are getting truly useful rewards as part of the work that you are doing. - Well, this one speaks for itself
Apply self-regulation and accept feedback: We need to discourage inappropriate activity to ensure that systems can continue to function well. - Self regulation is the cornerstone of avoiding external regulation, and listening to feedback, positive or negative is always best practice.
Use and value renewable resources and services: Make the best use of nature's abundance to reduce our consumptive behaviour and dependence on non-renewable resources. - This I read to mean, taking advantage of any unpaid advertising avenues. Facebook groups, social media, noticeboards etc.
Produce no waste: By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste. - It's an ideal, of course, but something every facet of industry should strive for.
Design from patterns to details: By stepping back, we can observe patterns in nature and society. These can form the backbone of our designs, with the details filled in as we go. - Stepping outside of the micro and into the macro allows you to refine your marketing funnel.
Integrate rather than segregate: By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between those things and they work together to support each other. - Cultivate a harmonious content plan, and ensure that your content speaks to and supports each other.
Use small and slow solutions: Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resources and producing more sustainable outcomes. - I like this one, only do what you can manage, make sure you work towards your goals in a sustainable manner.
Use and value diversity: Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides. - Sometime's there is a channel that would be perfect for a campaign, but you haven't used it before? Use it.
Use edges and value the marginal: The interface between things is where the most interesting events take place. These are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system. - Those people on the fringes of your media, will be the ones with the most crossover with other media. Don't think outside the box, embrace the edges.
Creatively use and respond to change: We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing, and then intervening at the right time. - If a campaign isn't going your way it hasn't failed, turn it's weakness on it's head and find a new approach.
What the Art of War is to Salespeople (and fans of Glengarry Glen Ross), Permaculture should be to Marketing.