I was fortunate to attend a lecture by Dr Alice Roberts in Keswick last week : An RGS lecture on “Survivors of the Ice Age”. The setting was intimate, the Theatre by the Lake in Keswick, a small newish venue that lends itself to this type of lecture. There was a full house and Dr Roberts was a really great speaker, wonderfully warm and relaxed and brilliantly able to translate a very technical presentation for a partly lay audience.
I thoroughly enjoyed the two hours. I learned some things, and as usual it led me to think of parallels in her descriptions of how mammals responded to the last ice age to my marketing challenges. Polar bears featured, which I guess you knew from the title to this blog. I was tempted to call it ‘The death of the Sabre Toothed Tiger’ … but only because we now know they are more closely related to Cats. Hence ‘Sabre Toothed Cat’ is the new descriptor I am afraid, but in fairness I find this quite sad, so Polar Bears it is !
I learned that Polar Bears and Brown Bears have the same genetic coding, and that the Polar Bear is a response to the last ice age, and is descended from the Brown Bear. The reason the Polar Bear evolved was a response to climatic change and shows a response by all mammals to seek “Refugia” (grown up scientific term you will note, you can tell I went to a lecture by someone massively cleverer than me !). In short, and apologies to Dr Roberts for the next bits, the mammals at the time were warm adapted … they lived happily in Northern Europe, there were even some early Humans around at the time.
Glaciers descended down through Northern Europe in due course and this mean that the warm adapted mammals sought out Refugia. In essence they went to ‘chill in the med’ which, I think you will agree, is a sensible enough idea in the circumstances. This enabled some mammals, like Brown Bears, to stay ‘warm adapted’.
But not every species of mammal was that sensible – sorry to any Brown Bears who may read this – and some bears existed, they think on the very southern tip of Eire.
All mammals in these different Refugia had broadly two choices: evolution or extinction. In the case of the Brown Bear colonies in Eire on the edge of the ice, they evolved over time into Polar Bears = Cold adapted, and generally very happy with the ongoing ice age – well done them!
Not every species was so lucky of course, and indeed, the current climatic changes mean that the Polar bears are seeking Refugia themselves and dwindling in number.
The two elements here that interest me are the 1) flight to Refugia and 2) the evolution required to survive the climatic change.
The parallel for me is the response of consumers to financial services and other advertising over the recent single, double and now treble dip recession – an economic climate change.
Consumers have demonstrated their desire for the familiar, the less risky, the solid and dependable. Co-operatives have been a winner in this, Mutuals too. The losers; the capitalist giants of banking who failed to evolve or communicate appropriately to the consumer need as it changed. Of course it’s not that simple there are many reasons for the success and failures of financial institutions, but there are lessons to be learned from the demise of those cold adapted Mastodons, Woolly Mammoths and Sabre Toothed Tigers (sorry CATS); Evolve, like the Brown Bears, or go extinct being the most obvious as I for one, have never seem a Woolly Mammoth on my travels in Europe.
- It’s interesting to see Yorkshire Building Society advertising their focus on people and trust ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wf4JCvl_RIs )
- It’s interesting to see the Co-operative using a new strap-line of ‘Here for you for Life’ across its family of businesses (http://www.marketingweek.co.uk/news/co-op-introduces-new-strapline-in-xmas-ad/4004569.article )
- and its even more interesting to me to see Nationwide separating banking from Banks.
I would even go so far to say that the success of some brands I really dislike, like Wonga.com, are a direct response to a change in the economic climate. I am balancing this with the fact that brands I really like e.g. Wilko and Poundland are prospering based on a more positive exploitation of their new status as Refugia and for the same reason Wonga are flourishing.
The good news is that these brands appear to be evolving already and adapting to the climatic change by exploiting the feeling that they are in fact the consumers “Refugia”.
I’m sure that just like Polar Bears these brands will persist and grow to be a stronger species better adapted to the new Refugia they find themselves in. The cautionary note is that one thing is certain … the economic climate, just like the climate in Northern Europe did at the end of the last Ice Age, will change again creating new opportunities for brands to evolve.
18 November 2012