Why do my best and brightest marketing ideas keep fizzling out?
That’s a question I’ve asked myself and I’m sure you’ve done the same.
I read once that it is easier to start digging a new hole than it is to keep digging the same one. There are a number of reasons for that, including rocks or bedrock that might get in the way, the soil gets more firmly packed as you dig deeper, etc.
The digger also runs out of energy the longer they work. They use that energy, and it disperses into the earth.
This is a form of entropy.
What is entropy?
Entropy has several definitions. It started as a law of thermodynamics and then other practices appropriated the idea to surprising efficacy.
In thermodynamics: Entropy is a measure of the amount of unavailable energy in a closed thermodynamic system. In this context, entropy is a measure of disorder in the system, a process where energy is wasted.
The degradation of matter and energy in the universe toward an ultimate state of becoming inert/disorderly.
Broadly, it is a measure of the degree of disorder and uncertainty in a system.
In communication theory, it is the efficacy of a system (code or language) in transmitting information.
Another description of entropy is that it is the dispersal of energy into an environment. An example of entropy is when one places a block of ice on a hot stove. It melts. Entropy is the quantitative measure for the direction of spontaneous change. The block of ice and the stove are a system in which entropy increases as the block of ice melts.
Some important characteristics of entropy include:
- Irreversible – because the system is not in equilibrium with the environment, it would take too much force to reverse, leading to the inevitable loss in energy.
- Measurable – the amount of lack of order or unpredictability
Marketers can recognize entropy in the systems they create. Let’s see what that looks like.
What are the ways entropy manifests?
Since entropy is the loss of energy in a system there are many ways that entropy can manifest in our marketing/marketer lives.
A marketing tactic you plan to do with the team. It lasts a few weeks before it fades in either effectiveness or the team starts to stop doing it.
Databases are prone to entropy. If you aren’t actively adding to your list, chances are the data is losing its potency and efficacy. Jobs, titles, and emails all change. This is why data hygiene is so important.
Content itself is prone to entropy, both in distribution and inside the content itself. You can only distribute a piece of content so many times before it will exhaust an audience.
Similarly, while some content is designed to age well, there is a natural amount of entropy that occurs in even the most evergreen content.
This might just be stylistic, for example, a headline style that was popular in 2017 may not be so popular now in 2021. Dates and years contribute to the entropy of content. Statistics are subject to the same decay. A statistic from 2016 on the market is too entropized to be of value.
Ideas are similar in that fresh, up-to-date ideas are important. But as soon as you put an idea out there, it is subject to loss of energy after an initial surge.
Some ideas last and the cycle of entropy takes a lot longer. But in most cases, an idea or its execution becomes obsolete.
Products and offerings are, in essence, the newest technology that is used to solve a problem. But if you don’t adapt to changing markets, there is a natural amount of entropy that occurs.
If you don’t provide a value exchange to increase demand for an offering or product, the demand will fall away.
What combats entropy in a marketing system?
There are ways we can combat marketing entropy and any loss of energy in a system.
In order to see entropy occurring, one must look at it.
Entropy in a kitchen is letting the dirty dishes pile up in the sink. If you don’t turn on the light in the kitchen you cant see the entropy, but it will still be there.
Start to see where you lose steam in a marketing process, where your audience or list stops engaging or opening emails.
See what isn’t working. Take out the trash or the clutter that is simply taking up space. Combatting entropy starts with seeing what is in the way or where you’re wasting your energy.
Where is the energy being lost in your system? Where are you spending energy and not getting anything back?
Be it new statistics in content, sweeping the floor, updating a field to reflect a new email address in a database.
Sometimes freshness comes with language updates or different content formats. Freshness fights entropy by adding energy to the system.
Experiments like A/B testing, the scientific method, and data collection are forms of establishing the truth about what works. Using testing and data to develop a sense of what truly works starts to combat the forces of entropy.
What do you think? Where can you start to notice, then slow the forces of entropy? Can we design systems that are entropy-free? Let us know what you think.