(Image by Chris Jordan)
How do you sell the idea of enough?
I don’t mean more, but enough. Just enough. Enough to be happy with, enough to be getting on with. Enough to build a business around, that might be still be here in say 40 or 50 years from now.
Advertising is used to talking about if not the best, then certainly better. We’re used to demanding the best, expecting the best, not settling for less. Enough doesn’t usually feel enough. It’s not quite the full article, not everything we might need, not everything we could possibly want.
In their book The Spirit Level Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett pose a challenge, “Having come to the end of what higher material living standards can offer us, we are the first generation to have to find other ways of improving real quality of life.”
More isn’t making us anymore happy. Unlimited choice doesn’t make us feel any more individual. At some point we have to ask when is enough actually enough?
This is a tough question for a business that is more comfortable playing on the positive and accentuating the superior.
Umair Haque in his new book, The New Capitalist Manifesto, suggests ”In a world where anyone can make, market, and retail 10 billion kinds of jeans, socks, and T-shirts almost instantaneously, the question becomes: what is most worth producing in the first place?”
Rather than wasting our talents on getting one product chosen over another, we might be better off using these skills to better decide which products actually get made in the first place.
Right for me, feels like it should be enough for anyone, especially for any marketer coming to terms with margin pressures, resource scarcity and competition from all sides. So why aren’t more companies taking this approach?
Enough is fine for MUJI who don’t want to lure customers into believing that ‘this is best’ or ‘I must have this’. Patagonia will happily turn you away from the till by asking ‘do you really need this?’
Up until recently for most it wasn’t really possible to know how much was enough. They had no idea who was buying what, when or where. But with all kinds of data from all kinds of behaviour, matching up just the right goods to just the right needs should mean just enough for everybody.
Being so tightly woven into the fabric of our clients businesses should be pretty attractive for agencies of all sorts.
Flexing creative muscle to shift exactly what’s wanted rather than what we need to shift should be less wasteful and create more satisfaction all round, and hopefully be more lucrative as well.
Or at the very least just lucrative enough.
(A version of this post first appeared in Campaign Magazine.)