Consider this: What if all marketing performance was based upon two predictable 40 year cycles of societal change and growth? Would you be able to always craft marketing messages that work? Always be able to stay ahead of the change?

That’s what we’re going to talk about today.

About a month ago I was at Joe Polish’s Genius Network Mastermind and watched a presentation done by Michael Drew, who was mentored by a marketing expert named Roy H. Williams. The topic of the presentation was Pendulum. Michael has performed this presentation to many groups, including speaking at TedX, although the video for it appears to be down.

He is gearing up for the release of the book Pendulum, which I can personally say is quite good- I was able to get an advance copy.

The idea basically goes like this: From Michael and Roy’s research of history, they’ve been able to determine two primary modalities in which society operates and has observed there is a 40 year swing from one mode to the other, creating two 40 year cycles.

The modalities are a “ME” social lens and a “WE” social lens.

In the ME view, we’re aimed at big dreams. We applaud personal liberty; demand freedom of expression; desire to personally be number one and we worship heroes, gurus, and rockstars.

In the WE view we admire individual humility, we applaud personal responsibility, demand conformity for the common good. We want to create a better world and we hunt out the “witches” and charlatans to burn them at the stake.

Pendulum talks through what they call Alpha Voices which start to emerge during a swing of the pendulum and how those voices carry with them the precursors for how the next ME or WE society will look and feel. My interest was peaked by the large numerous examples of music as the axis of alpha voices. Music, while often overlooked by myself and I think many others, does drive many cultural views and perspectives.

When Michael talked through Eminem’s music in his presentation, explaining how Eminem represented an alpha voice of the next WE cycle demanding the truth regardless of how ugly, twisted or wrong it was, the power of this cyclic concept really clicked. In the vein of Tony Robbins, you have to really know where you are right now if you’re going to make progress. The current WE cycle is demanding authenticity and transparency as its currency- and we see it in things like the “occupy” movement. Regardless of one’s opinions on the movement- it’s an indicator of the social lens.

The pendulum hit the mid-point of the swing in 2003, so we’re almost halfway up to a peak WE cycle at current. So, what does that mean for us right now?

In terms of marketing, the message currency has changed. The notion of guru worship is replaced with the witch hunt. In situations where extreme enthusiasm and hype used to work, we’re seeing a backlash. We’re seeing a backlash that wants reality, even if it’s not as appealing as what all the car salesmen were shouting.

Take a close look at your marketing. Are you trying to market to a WE crowd using ME strategies? Using messages without a sense of social responsibility or purpose that the WE requires? Depending upon your target demographic that might still be fine for awhile and do consider that Pendulum speaks to a 6-year lag for the leading generation to catch-up with the swing. We should however, be carefully testing new ways of approaching the world.

Is traditional direct response marketing dead? No. But the traditional aggressiveness may be replaced with softer, more tactical approaches, including things like re-targeting to deliver a more hand-crafted message using the WE lens, ultimately producing better results than have been seen in years.

This thinking can be a big mindset shift for a lot of marketers; however I’m convinced the wave is here. The 1983 peak ME cycle glam of Michael Jackson and Madonna isn’t what lights the fire of our leading generation. Ask any hipster.

I highly recommend that you check out the book, which is on pre-order here, or watch one of Michael’s presentations online. Pendulum covers a wide array of details I can’t begin to try and regurgitate, that will give you a unique and powerful insight into the direction your marketing needs to take in order to continue being effective.

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