Marketing Strategies in the Age of Networks

Lessons from Professor Jerry Wind’s course designed to inspire new ways of thinking and adaptation to change

Can you guess how many Fortune 500 firms from 1955 still exist today? That’s one of the questions marketing professor Jerry Wind asks in “Marketing Strategy with Added Corporate Projects,” a course he first developed 35 years ago and is teaching this fall, his 50th and final year in the classroom at Wharton. Don’t let the course’s longevity fool you—the Lauder Professor and director of the SEI Center for Advanced Studies in Management insists that his students adopt a forward-looking approach to both marketing and the global forces that impact their goals, in business and beyond.

Ramo, Bannister, Rifkin W67

Joshua Cooper Ramo, Roger Bannister, Jeremy Rifkin W67

The centerpiece of Wind’s class is a group project that matches students with real-world company challenges—strategies for the new Microsoft/LinkedIn alliance; marketing virtual reality tech with an Israeli startup; creating a wealth management platform with SEI; attracting audiences for the Philadelphia Museum of Art—and gives them an opportunity to present their ideas to those businesses.

That’s not exactly a project you can replicate at home. But with a few key books from Wind’s extensive reading list (and a TedX talk aimed at kick-starting your creativity), you can apply the essential lessons of the course to almost any business: Stay curious, embrace new technology, and ride the waves of global change. (As for those Fortune 500 firms from the mid-’50s? Only 12 percent have survived.)

 

Should You and Can You Inspire Curiosity?

In a nearly 20-minute TedX talk posted on YouTube, Wind argues that “curiosity is a necessary condition of creativity” and suggests tools you can use to enhance inquisitiveness. Among his guidelines for sparking curiosity: Encourage improvisation and challenge the mental models that are holding you back.

 

Beyond Advertising: Creating Value Through All Customer Touchpoints

The consumer is in control— that’s the launch point for Wind’s latest book, co-authored by Wharton Future of Advertising Program executive director Catharine Findiesen Hays. So how can a company reach its customers on their terms? Perspectives from more than 200 thought leaders from industries across the globe are synthesized here, along with a deeper dive into Wind’s TedX talk about transforming mental models from roadblocks into highways toward innovation. Example: Before Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile mark in 1954, the feat was thought to be impossible. Within the next three years, 16 more athletes followed him into the record books, proving that the real barrier was mental. What’s your four-minute-mile mark, and how can you break through it?

 

The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism

Wind calls this book by author and social thinker Jeremy Rifkin W67 a “classic.” It examines the rise in anti-capitalism and the many ways in which technology causes chaos in competitive markets (see: Uber’s disruption of the taxi industry). Along the way, it reinforces a major theme of the course, which is that as markets and consumer behaviors shift, so must marketing strategies.

 

The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power Is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World

Everything in the course relates to new realities in business that are driven by our rapidly changing world: If you rely on antiquated ways of thinking, you (and your company) won’t be around for long. At its most essential, Rifkin’s text—which has been adopted by the EU and China and is the guideline for their economic policies—is critical in re-imagining the roles of companies and individuals in a global environment.

 

The Seventh Sense: Power, Fortune and Survival in the Age of Networks

As a companion piece to Wind’s The Network Imperative and his online column for Knowledge@Wharton, this book by Kissinger Associates co-CEO Joshua Cooper Ramo examines the increasing importance of networks from a broader perspective, ranging from new technologies to global power shifts to the rise of the Islamic State.

 

The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future

This best-seller from Wired‘s Kevin Kelly offers something that’s all too rare among the futurists of our time—optimism. In identifying the trends that will define the next three decades, Kelly says understanding and adaptation are both essential for survival and fully possible. Consider this a road map for where your business is headed and a guide to embracing change for maximum success.

 

Published as “Marketing Through Darwinism” in the Fall 2016 issue of Wharton Magazine.

 

 

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