For many years, and like many people, I was convinced that the key to understanding the driving forces within the marketplace was the information society. My reasoning was simple. Most people produce, process or disseminate information. The production of material goods has become largely automated. Factory floors in the United States and Europe are being depopulated. Machines have taken over hard manual labour to such a degree that most
people perspire more in their spare time, through sports and fitness, than they do at work. This could only have been dreamt of in the industrial age.
This transformation has been part of the long evolution of human society, from being based on hunter-gathers, to agriculture, to industry, to information. After a seminar some years ago, I was asked, “What comes after the information society ?” My answer, one book later, was the dream society. In richer parts of the world we are already as consumers living in both an information society and a dream society. Technology is rendering many forms of work obsolete. Material wealth, which is rising rapidly in many parts of the world, means that goods and services have to hold an appeal for us beyond mere function. When you buy a watch today you are no longer concerned just with its ability to function, because all watches are accurate.
The deciding factor in buying a particular watch is lifestyle. Whether you buy a Rolex or a Swatch is influenced by the lifestyle the watch represents. Price also becomes detached from the function of the watch. A Swatch is less expensive than a Rolex but can keep time as accurately.
Society will begin to place a higher value on the one human ability that cannot be automated : emotion.The appeal of products and services will be measured by how they appeal to human emotions. The companies that best understand this will have a competitive advantage. The companies that create the best stories and myths around their products and services will succeed. Story-telling will move beyond being just a buzzword in management, marketing and advertising. Story-telling that evokes human emotion will sell, and will do so because not all decisions are based on rationality.
Some are based on feelings. The product will become secondary; the company with the best story will win.