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As Einstein once said, messages make markets

My favorite Einstein quote is the one that says, it is the theory that determines the data.  ;-)

So writes someone to a mailing list I’m on. I couldn’t find a source for that, but it might derive from this Einstein quotation:

Whether you can observe a thing or not depends on the theory which you use. It is the theory which decides what can be observed.

 Unification of Fundamental Forces (1990) by Abdus Salam ISBN 0521371406, page 99, related by Heisenberg.

(By the way, my quick Internet “research” turned up no reliable sources for a related quotation often attributed to Marshall McLuhan: “I wouldn’t have seen it if I hadn’t believed it.” It sounds like him, though.)

But no matter. What I really want to talk about is how the Einstein quotation applies to marketing:

Messages create markets.

This is I think quite literally the case in the pre-personalization view of markets as corresponding to demographic slices. The particular demographics that are assumed to constitute a market are the ones that are believed to be susceptible to the same broadcast message. If white adolescents are thought to respond to “Be a Pepper”, then they are a market. If suburban dads are susceptible to “Come alive with Subaru!”, then they are a market. If short baseball fans are not susceptible to the same message, they are not a market.

Such markets have no reality other than their susceptibility to a message. If and when (= now) messages can be delivered to, and even designed for, based on particular traits, preferences, and behaviors of individuals,  “markets” ?cease to exist. Since personalization can more effectively play on human susceptibility to non-rational appeals, many of us, including me, are of course disturbed about this development. 

But there is another side of this as well.  As Doc Searls once said, markets are conversations. If customers and users now talk with one another about the things they want to buy and have bought, then markets once again have some actual reality. The fact that these conversations occur in and on networks makes these markets fluid but does not make them less real.

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