Thick value and re-engineering the marketing value-chain for networks


Thick value is a concept Umair has ben talking about for a while. The idea is that businesses look to create value rather than extract as much as they can get.

Thick value’s a useful neologism that you can use instead of saying things like “that business model is flogging a dead horse”. Or shorthand for “that company doesn’t really care about its customers does it? I think they just want to squeeze as much money out of people as possible. Herd them into the value-extraction (be it cash or attention) corral…


Recently he has started talking about marketing examples – like Mischief‘s brilliant Heathrow / Alain De Boton concept – of creating thick value. A much nicer PR approach than the thin value created by some PR stock-in-trade tactics like pseudo-surveys and pollution of knowledge / information media and network (see Flat Earth News and for more on that)…

There’s a phrase which a lot of people in agency-land use at the moment: “Earned Media“.
It’s a loaded-phrase very much double-edged and justifies a mixed metaphor (which may go off in your hand).

On the one hand, for marketers whose stock in trade has been blockbuster or wannabe-blockbuster creative, distributed via paid media, earned media helps them understand and explain what they are doing when they create content that they want to spread through social networks, through word of mouth. I use the phrase sometimes, because it displaces an old approach with a new approach.

So it describes the future, right? It shows old-school marketing getting its head around the shock of the new, doesn’t it?

Well not entirely. It means that the rest of the value-chain, or value-degrading-chain, the business model, the approach has not changed. Most importantly, the principles have not changed. They have the same ad-creation process that was there before, they are just swapping out the distribution element.

Paid Earned media will do the job of inflicting the message on the masses.

Wrong. Every aspect of marketing needs to be re-engineered, re-designed, to be successful in networks.

It starts with principles. Understand your networks, Be useful in your networks, Be live in your networks. It starts with a desire to create thick value.
If you start, rather than just finish, with the idea of creating thick value in marketing it changes everything about a campaign or the job of looking after a brand. You research to find out what people need, how you can benefit them directly, or create value in networks by making those networks work better, rather than just looking for opportunities to drop message bombs on their world.

You think about measurement as something that will help you refine the creative and conversational elements of what you are doing, rather than an after-the-fact justification for the activity itself. You think of ideas and creative as something that happens in response to what is happening in the networks around you, rather than a single hero-concept that is going to be thrown at consumers until they notice.

Guerilla marketing and earned media might be thought of as troubling phrases then because they extend bad analogies for relating to people that are important to a company. Guerilla marketing is the same bad war on attrition on attention by other means (we’ll plant improvised explosive messages by the roadside, we’ll booby trap bits of media and objects in the real world so that the message will blow up in their faces when they touch it).

Anyway, I need to go and do some more book-writing… As I said before – normal service on this blog will be restored in September. Just need to get this out of my system.
Meantime here’s Mr Haque talking about thick value…