Marketing in a World of Questions and High Expectations
Do you ever find yourself asking questions? Questions for a project at work, or the argument you’re engaging in with your significant other, maybe even just idle curiosity comes knocking as you drive across town? Regardless of the time or place, questions tend to work their way into our minds at some point or another throughout the day. When questions surface, our instincts automatically lean towards finding an answer. Today, companies such as Google enable these burning questions to be answered almost instantaneously. Simply type the question into a search bar or ask Siri and in a matter of seconds, thousands of resources pop up to provide the best possible solution to your inquiry. The majority of answers have become disposable, given their ease of access and high status of availability. In today’s day in age, finding answers has become easier than ever before. Google ensures essentially immediate resolutions, which only seems appropriate given that the average person asks Google seven questions per day. Answers remain the least significant of the two when taking into consideration the effects of both questions and answers. Without questions, answers would lack existence at all. Questions push us to pursue new inventions and they encourage scrutiny and an evaluation of our surroundings leading into the future.
Technology enables the achievement of what once possessed an air of unfeasibility. The continuous technological advancements transpiring on a daily basis slowly molds society’s evolution towards a world filled with constant connectivity and the cognitive development of the objects that make up life’s daily occurrences. As technology advances, so do the expectations of every one of its users. What was once considered cutting edge and revolutionary now sits in places long forgotten, with each new addition of technology replacing its predecessor. This practice is apparent in the release of essentially every new Apple IPhone ever released. As each new version becomes available, the old product becomes irrelevant to the purchaser and they dispose of it, purchasing the new product as its replacement. The need for continuous upgrading has rooted its way into the minds of consumers, creating a demand for better products and an expectation of the next best thing at the forefront of everyone’s mind.
The standards have not only changed for technology, but for content as well. Technology enables society to stay connected at the touch of a button. It facilitates a movement for globalization and allows people living continents apart to view the same videos, photos, memes, and articles largely in real-time. The convenience and accessibility of material relentlessly uploaded to the internet garnered a change in society’s way of life all on its own. The sheer number of portable cameras present on a daily basis allow for the immediate documentation of improbable, unexpected occurrences and incredible human feats. The recurrent exposure to events out of the norm created a new anticipation for content viewers as the extraordinary occurrences of everyday life transform into the new expectation. Kevin Kelley notes, “We are exposed to the greatest range of human experience and we are exposed to superlatives all day long until it seems normal.”
In a world where the accomplishments of others are broadcasted for all eyes to see, the expectations of individuals, companies, products, and brands alike continue to climb higher and higher. Attention is less easily captured and engagement more difficult to secure than ever before. We consistently want more knowledge, more options, more access, ultimately more everything. We build up perceptions and expect faster, better-quality results in every aspect of life. Technology has taken over our lives in more ways than one, and eventually technology will replace the majority of all we’ve become accustomed to. Consumers value a different set of principles in today’s day in age and those principles will continue to evolve as technology evolves and our way of life redefines itself in a repetitive cycle.
Transitioning from the subject of society’s revised expectations and perceptions as a result of technology and our newfound infinite communication capabilities, the theories Kevin Kelley describes in Chapter Eleven of The Inevitable surround the idea of questioning and relate back to these points of discussion. What actually qualifies as a perfect question? Kevin Kelly states that “Ironically, a good question is worth a million good answers. A good question can’t be answered immediately and it challenges previous answers.” To add to this declaration, good questions challenge your thought process and probes the inner workings of your mind, forcing creativity and original ideas to come forward. “It [the question] skirts on the edge of what is known and what is not known.” Kelley likewise points out that good questions are what humans are for. As a race, we choose to ask questions and discover solutions as well as uncover answers as each problem develops. The gap between questions and answers continues to increase and “we keep discovering greater unknowns as our knowledge expands.” With each invention and each answer stems new questions altogether, initiating a cyclic pattern of problem-solving and innovation. At some point, questions have become the new object of value as opposed to the answers themselves.
The theory of questioning applies suitably to companies that breach the gap of impossibility and reach success despite the many obstacles they may face and the naysayers advocating for their collapse. A good example of a company who breaks the stereotypes and expectations of a successful organizations is Tesla. Tesla redefines the typical business model and breaks the rules in regards to their operating style and implementation of alternative sales and marketing tactics. Tesla answers questions as well as generates questions at an elevated level. Their question and answer routine sparked innovations the world only dreamed of for the past decade. Their products skirt on the edge of futurism and their marketing strategies disrupt the assumptions of what it means to successfully sell a product. In fact, the reason these assumptions remain broken revolves around the concept of Tesla’s intentional lack of marketing. They made the decision to initiate their marketing methods as virtually nonexistent.
Tesla has also taken the opposite approach in regards to strategic planning in comparison to most start ups. As opposed to targeting a low-priced market with lower-quality technology, they decided to target the high-end consumer with a product that possesses an air of such high-quality that passing it up might result in a fear of missing out. Consumer Reports called Tesla’s Model S the best overall car on the market for the past two years (Forbes), which only adds to the frenzy that comprises the demand for Tesla’s entirely battery-powered infrastructure. The distance capabilities reach revolutionary results, with a week’s worth of driving available after one single charge. The Model S goes from 0–60 in three seconds and dominates the industry when it comes to safety. If the car itself isn’t incentive enough to make the purchase, the purchase method might change your mind. The transaction can take place from the comfort of your own home. Tesla’s unique buying service enables consumers to order the vehicle online and receive it shipped and ready to go at their door.
Obviously Tesla provides an innovative, high-quality product, but their innovation lies not only in their batteries and vehicles, but the implementation of charging stations across the country. The locations of each station offer strategic placement and services free to the consumer. The whole plan revolves around the concept of overcoming the challenges faced by the battery-powered automobile industry. Critics attempt to identify flaws in the system, such as low miles to each charge, lack of charging stations, unsustainable battery production, and the replacement of these batteries in as little as 10 years. Each of these issues raises a genuine concern and a valid frustration as the auto industry makes the effort to convert to more sustainable energy practices.
These changes, largely in-part to consumer demand, and the questions raised by those in search of a drastic revolution, initiated the originality behind Tesla’s disruptive technology. These questions raised have inspired Tesla to provide answers and in-turn, transform not only their batteries, but their charging stations. Additionally, Tesla made a bold, strategic business move by making the decision to release of all of their patents to competitors. Tesla again, provides answers to age-old questions and solutions to issues currently impacting the industry. The release of this information enables a level of standardization among the battery-powered auto industry. This standardization could be the catalyst for sustainable energy use in all vehicles. Instead of keeping this valuable information to themselves and attempting to monopolize the market, they asked questions focusing on the future of the industry. As opposed to simply creating the technology to solve the problems surrounding battery-powered vehicles, they chose to initiate a movement in their competitors in order to quicken the pace of the industry’s success. The asked questions with the bigger picture in mind.
With each set of questions and answers taking place, a new set arises. Tesla takes advantage of opportunities to overcome obstacles and utilize the inquiries to develop new inventions and new products. As Kevin Kelley would say, “Our inventions allow us to spy into our ignorance.” With each set of inventions, new uses become evident for the product. What started as car batteries for Tesla led into solar energy, home batteries, and even more sophisticated technological advancements.
Tesla is the definition of a company that utilizes answers to generate new questions in order to spearhead their product innovation and surpass the expectations of their shareholders and customers. Everything about the company screams creativity, all the way down to their hiring process. Tesla hires only those with an inclination for problem-solving of the highest caliber. The business strategy they exercise breaks the rules of general acceptance, their product reaches far beyond any of the competitor’s technologies and their purchasing model seems impossible, but in fact, functions optimally and ultimately benefits sales and company reputation. Despite all of these abnormalities in the business model, Tesla remains on the up rise and their products and technologies endure a consistent demand from the market. Tesla inspires the belief in impossible feats and untraditional methods for achieving success.
As technologies progress and the inevitable takes place, our minds inescapably change as well. The incessant stream of content and exposure to the improbable instills a sense of ceaseless activity within our minds. The perpetual intake of information and content streaming allows the mind little time to rest and recover. The ability to contemplate information proves almost an extinct practice and instead we choose to act immediately on the information provided to us. Our minds have been trained at a faster pace than ever before. Considering how often the mind is exposed to new images, words, technology, and general knowledge our ability to actively problem-solve starts to decline. With that being said, we must learn how to adapt and practice fluidity in terms of processing new content and information.
So how will marketing be affected by these inevitable changes in consumers’ perceptions and the technological developments taking place here and now? Marketers run into an intriguing dilemma when considering the fight for the market’s attention. Attention represents one trial on its own, engagement represents an additional isolated issue. Both attention and engagement remain difficult to achieve, so how do marketers learn to break through the chaos as Tesla did? And how do they ask questions as opposed to simply providing answers? To begin, Tesla listens to their consumers, just as any proficient marketer should. Through the feedback provided from their customers, they opted to make more affordable versions of their vehicles in order to increase their market share. The Model S retails in the $80,000 range, where as their new variations will run about a third of the price. The sales from the Model S actually pay for the production of new product lines in order to reach alternate demographics and generate more sales than even the CEO initially anticipated.
Based on Kevin Kelley’s questioning theory, it may not solely be questions marketers need to ask, but also the provision of content to the consumer that in turn, inspires them to inquire about the product. Tesla’s approach, or rather lack of approach when it comes to marketing, works for them. This tactic works due to the outstanding quality of the product they provide. When a product reaches such a high caliber, the reputation speaks for itself. Force the audience out of their comfort zone and most importantly, force them to take a risk. Ultimately, generating a captivating hook pushes the consumer one step closer to conversion. Tying this theory back to Tesla, the reason their customers are willing to take the risk of ordering online, placing a $1,000 ordering fee, accepting the potentially problematic situations with charging stations, and battery replacement again, goes back to the quality of the product. Risk is unavoidable when purchasing any product, but as marketers the provision of insightful questions and thorough answers encourages conversion among the marketplace. Initiating questions as a marketer possesses potential for confusion if done incorrectly. However, if done correctly, questions theoretically provide an advantage over the competition, given that the questions force the consumer to consider the relativity of the marketing efforts on a personal level and picture the product’s use in their day-to-day lives.
The product creates more of an impact than any promotion ever would. Tesla ensures that their products are hands-down the best on the market, automatically reducing consumer risk. Their safety features remain unmatched and their power infrastructure is unparalleled by any existing competitor. Additionally, they focus on the implementation of futuristic, big-picture plans on an ongoing basis in order to grow their product line, gain new customers, and ultimately dominate the automotive industry.
Kevin Kelley summed these ideas up best when he said, “Before we say impossible, let’s consider the possibilities.” And questioning, contemplation and the ability to process content enable us to consider a future of unknowns and expect the most out of every experience.