Make Marketing Sociable.
I just found this old paper by social network anthropologist Danah Boyd. I was particularly drawn to her thoughts on the need to make technology sociable since they echoed my thoughts that our collective goal is to create sociable products and services. The technology sector is just a subset of this so when reading the following extracts, try substituting your own product or service in place of the word technology.
"There are three ways to make technology work in the context of people:
#1: Make a technology, market the hell out of it and demand that it fit into people's lives. When this fails, logroll. In other words, bundle it with something that they need so that they're forced to use it. Personally, I think that this is pretty disgusting, although I recognize that it is the way that the majority of our industry works.
#2: Make a technology, throw it out to the public and see what catches on. Follow the people who use it. Understand them. Understand what they are doing and why and how the technology fits into their lives. Evolve to better meet the needs and desires of the people who love the technology.
#3: Understand a group of people and their needs and then develop a technology that comfortably embeds itself within the practices of those people. Make technology ubiquitous."
From my perspective, I believe a combination of her #2 and #3 is the ideal. Just throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks pushes #2 a bit too close to the mass marketing of #1 for my liking. Have an affinity with the people you expect to be serving while being prepared to adapt to what reality throws at you - that is the mindset most likely to lead to success.
"Users may do the darndest things, but they're only peculiar when you try to understand it in your framework. Reframe what they are doing in their framework....The trick then is to design from that perspective, to truly get it, not just be tolerant of it. When we ::groan:: about those darn users, we're missing the point. They're not interacting with technology to prove a point to us. They're interacting with technology because it fits into their framework of the world. Understanding that, really getting that... that is the key."
In other words, you exist to serve the customer.