Blog Post By: Ian J. Jennings, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Baer Performance Marketing
Your business is imaginary, and your products and services probably solve an imaginary problem. No matter where you work or what you do in business, your position and the company exist to solve a problem. If the company makes cheese, it exists to provide cheese to people who desire it. Lacking cheese is a big problem if you want to make a grilled cheese sandwich or omelet. It’s an even bigger problem if you don’t own the means to make the cheese yourself, because now you must hope enough people also agree not having cheese is a real problem. If they do, someone will come along and try to solve the problem for profit.
But is needing cheese a real or imagined problem? I think you know the answer. Nobody requires cheese to survive. They want cheese because they like the taste, have been raised to believe it’s nutritious, or simply can’t ‘imagine’ life without cheese curds. Nowhere in any of this reasoning exists an objective/biological requirement to consume cheese. Survival is not on the line here.
This stands in contrast to real problems. If someone believes they don’t need to consume water to survive, they will die. It doesn’t matter if they don’t believe it. The need for water to sustain human life is an objective fact. No matter how badly someone wants to avoid believing water is necessary, they’ll be wrong. The same could be said about fire. It will burn you. It doesn’t matter if you think it won’t. It will burn you every time.
Your company most likely solves an imaginary problem, that is to say, a subjective problem that enough of us have agreed to believe in. Even better, your company is imaginary itself. It only exists because enough people working there believe it does. Some person or persons at some point in time decided to solve a problem, agreed how to do it, and probably filed legal paperwork to make it official. If everyone at the company stopped believing the company was a company today, it would cease to exist. Let me explain.
The Packers exist because enough people decided sports were necessary, fun, and entertaining. They didn’t exist when the Roman Empire ruled the civilized world. Hell, they didn’t exist when Teddy Roosevelt occupied the White House. If enough people collectively decided football was unnecessary, it would just go away. The Packers exist simply because we imagined a need for them. Think cricket. Americans don’t care if it exists, and many have probably never heard of it. If countries where it’s played stopped believing it needed to exist, it would stop existing. Americans haven’t imagined a need for it. The same can’t be said about water or fire. The entire globe can’t imagine water or fire out of existence no matter how hard they try.
If you’re still skeptical, think it through in your head over your morning coffee. Look around your house. Do you need the carpet in your living room, or did someone at some point decide it looked and felt nice, thereby spreading an imaginary need for carpet? Do you need a living room at all? Or did our society imagine a need for one at some point? I’d be willing to bet that King Tut did not have carpet in his pyramid, but here we are today.
So where am I going with this? I’ll get to the point. Your company and products are imaginary. Even if you sell water, a necessary element of human life, your company is still imaginary. We have oceans, rivers, and streams, not to mention filtered water in almost every home in America. We don’t have a need for Dasani or Fiji Water. We imagined one, or more accurately, a marketing department imagined one for us, and we bought it hook, line, and sinker.
That’s marketing in a nutshell. If almost every business and product solves an imaginary need, imagination is the thing that must be shaped to grow your business. There are millions of companies that sell carpet, glass, lawn ornaments, and coffee cups because they know an imagined need exists for such things. I can drink coffee out of anything that holds liquid. I don’t need a coffee cup. I just believe I do. An imagined need must be created for your specific business, or it will fail, and herein lies your marketing strategy. Your company must decide how it will take the established imaginary need for its product and influence it to become a specific imagined need for your specific company’s product. It’s easy if you own a company like Facebook.
Facebook solves a ton of imaginary needs, and does it better than everyone because it has convinced us to imagine a world where we can be in constant contact with every person we know on earth. We certainly don’t have an objective need for this, but we’ve chosen to participate in the farce. Another company can copy Facebook, but we can’t imagine leaving Facebook for a competitor because enough of us have bought into the idea that we NEED it to perform the tasks it facilitates. We don’t of course, and if we stopped believing that tomorrow, Facebook would go out of business.
To grow your business, you must identify and understand how these imaginary needs came to be, how people think and act on these imaginary needs, and how you can influence their imagination in a way that leads them to purchase your product or service. Your company exists because you and others imagine it does. It doesn’t need to exist, and likely won’t if we look far enough into the future. The success of your business relies entirely on your ability to make others believe in your company and your product, despite both having no objective reason to exist. Imagine that.
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