Surviving the economic slump

Whether the pitcher hits the stone or the stone hits the pitcher, it’s bad luck for the pitcher.

This is one of my favorite proverbs from Sancho, who goes on to say that, “as for the stone and the pitcher, even a blind man can see that.”

Economically, we have a stone and the pitcher scenario right now – everyone can see that. Consumer confidence, retail sales, housing starts, auto sales, the stock market – all down, down, down. The stone and the pitcher have met, and it has been terrible luck for the pitcher.

There was a telling comment from one of the Big 3 auto makers today, saying how Detroit has been “chasing down consumer demand for bigger, more powerful cars and trucks” – which was his explanation as to why they are in such a predicament today, and why they don’t have the right products right now. The telling part? That they have been “chasing” consumers. Since when has our job as marketers become to “chase” demand? I thought we were supposed to understand where demand was headed in the future and create demand for our products and services? No wonder why the stone has hit their pitcher…

Another interesting quote in the paper today talked about Wayne Gretzky’s philosophy on greatness. He liked to say that the average hockey player skated to where the puck was. He, on the other hand, would skate to where the puck was going. Smart. And what we as marketers should be doing, and what the Big 3 should have been doing all along. If you know where the stone is going to go, it’s a lot easier for the pitcher to get out of the way.

Now is the time to look into the crystal ball and figure out where the need for our products and services is going. Only then will we be well positioned to capitalize on the spending and investment that will happen when we emerge from this terrible economic slump. The temptation is to chase demand – and we all need to do some of that to keep cash flowing into our businesses – but the wise course of action is to understand how to create demand in the future.

My money is on Gretzky rather than the automaker – I’m going to figure out where the puck is going rather than spend my time and resources to chase it. It’s harder for a stone to hit a moving target…

~ by chuckmattina on November 19, 2008.

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