A while ago I wrote an article about Consuming versus producing . The idea for that blog post was initially born out of the conviction that being someone who spends much time producing ideas, services or products is an ideal to strive towards. Conversely, someone who is just consuming and, furthermore, defines himself through what he consumes, usually lacks the depth that you only get from producing yourself. But what would happen if everyone thought that way?
A good way to test any suggestion that you give people is to ask yourself: what if everyone followed this advice?
In this case, if everyone valued producing more than consuming, people would maximise the time they spend producing and minimise the time they spend consuming. As a result, a lot more would get produced and a lot less would be consumed. Which then invariably leads to the question: is producing still valuable if no-one is consuming the result?
Also, if people get really great at whatever they produce (because they spend so much time refining their craft), doesn’t that make it more worth it to consume?
So the real question that you are facing each day is not whether or not you should consume at all. We all are consumers most of the time. The real question is: what is it you should consume? How do you know what is really worth your time and money? And how to you tell great products apart from just mediocre products with great marketing?
Great marketing vs. great products
Since we live in a consumer society, the environment around us constantly encourages us to consume. The problem with that is that it became almost impossible to make an unbiased decision. If you need to consume, you might as well consume the products that commercials, friends and family members endorse, which might not be the best ones, but the ones with the largest marketing budget to back it. This then creates a bias towards the mainstream products from established companies, simply because they are the mainstream and therefore by definition most people around us agree that they are the best. This is called the bandwagon effect.
How to make it with a great product and no marketing
Of course there is a considerable overlap between great products and great marketing with great exposure. But unfortunately, there are also great products out there that never reach a wide public awareness, because they never manage to penetrate the market in a way that they challenge the market leaders (the ones with the deep pockets). The problem is is that it is not enough to be better than the market leader. You have to be a lot better! You have to be outstanding!
So when someone tries to challenge the status quo, it has to be with a product or service that not only incrementally improves what others offer, but instead is a real game changer. Only then do you stand a chance when going up against already established products with great marketing strategists.
Seth Godin talks about this in his book “Tribes”. It is important to gain a 100 true fans. When you achieve that, you’re good. Cause these people love what you do so much that they will tell others about you. At this point, if your product is amazing, you can lean back and see the word spread. But in order to reach this point, you need to first create something that is great enough to deserve a 100 true fans. Try it. It is not easy.
Consuming is part of our culture, and even though I propagate the idea that one should at least be reflective on what and how much we consume, I am fully aware that it is not possible to avoid consumerism altogether. So if you then think “well, at least I want to get the best product out there, not the product that advertising tells me is the best“, good. That is a first step. You then pay attention to the people around you. What are they truly passionate about? What do they tell you about without you asking? In short: what do people you trust advertise to you unasked, without gaining anything from that? Chances are that those are the products or services that are really worth it.