What It Is

Nearly 20 years ago, author/publisher Kevin Kelly wrote New rules for the new economy: 10 Radical Strategies For A Connected World – a book in which he introduced a concept that marketing guru Seth Godin later made famous:

“The new economy is about communication, deep and wide. All the
transformations suggested in this book stem from the fundamental way
we are revolutionizing communications. Communication is the foundation
of society, of our culture, of our humanity, of our own individual
identity, and of all economic systems. This is why networks are such a
big deal. Communication is so close to culture and society itself that
the effects of technologizing it are beyond the scale of a mere industrial-
sector cycle. Communication, and its ally computers is a special
case in economic history. Not because it happens to be the fashionable
leading business sector of our day, but because its cultural, technological,
and conceptual impacts reverberate at the root of our lives.”
— New rules for the new economy: 10 Radical Strategies For A Connected World, pg 15.

Kelly and two other early 21st-century influencers, Robert Hargrove and Seth Godin, predicted that the internet would change how we all do business. From their respective perches, they opened our eyes to fundamental changes in industry driven by emerging technologies:

1. The marketplace has globalized at a personal level.
2. The new economy has replaced the industrial economy.
3. The new economy is driven by communication.
4. Intangible “soft” digital products are the new commodity.

Transition from the Industrial Economy

To understand the worldwide transition to a connection economy, let’s review where we all came from: the industrial economy.

Since the early 19th century industrial revolution, the marketplace was built on a combination of manufacturing and labor to produce goods intended for sale in the market. After World War II and the early development of computers, a new commodity emerged: services. Technical services — from programming to secretarial skills — were necessary to maintain and program innovations hitting the market. So, the last 30 years of the 20th century is considered the post-industrial economy.

As a late baby-boomer, my childhood brain was assaulted by industrial marketing practices built on several principles:

● Manufacture products in mass quantities to beat the numbers game
● Advertise to the masses but make it sound personal
● Message saturation ensures sales
● Cast a VERY wide net

In short, the industrial economy was all about the masses. But, it was also regionalized. Under the old structure, each industrial country had its own economy, so their products, services, and marketing were culturally-specific.

The world wide web changed all that. For the first time in the history of mankind, small businesses can sell to customers across the globe instantaneously.

The evolution has begun

Once cellular, satellite, and computer chip technology was adapted for personal use and became a modern staple, social media had the infrastructure to build its platforms. Individuals all over the planet have a soapbox now. For the first time, marketers can engage with people without putting a receiver to their ears. Messaging is no longer designed for the ubiquitous masses. It’s crafted to speak directly to an individual. A new culture is born.

Rather than summarize Seth Godin’s four pillars of the Connection Economy, I’m going to let you hear him for yourself. He lays it out during his keynote at the 2013 SAP ERP Systems Conference:

How to survive in the Connection paradigm

The new economy has ushered in a marketing precedent: engagement. Customers want more than just products; they want meaningful connection. That means the connection economy has developed certain criteria that brands must adapt to meet the new demand:

Be tribal
Niche marketing is where it’s at. Brands must carve out their niche and market to a community of people who are most likely to buy their product. This also means the lines between culture, tribe, and niche are a little blurry.
Speak to the heart
Under the industrial economy, getting too personal was a no-no. It crossed boundaries set by a corporate culture. But, the B2C experience is more relaxed. Customers won’t tolerate being treated like a number. They want to know that your brand cares about them.
Be transparent
These days, people want to know what’s going behind the curtain. They don’t trust slick corporate institutions who tend to, in their minds, forfeit morality for fat profits. Rather, talking about the inner workings of your brand fosters customer trust and loyalty. So, give your tribe a tour behind the scenes. Build Community
Community-building is a new skill formerly lacking in the industrial economy. Businesses just didn’t inject themselves into the community-building process. But, the new paradigm requires that brands get good at community building through engagement. But once you start engaging, you can’t quit. If you snooze, you’ll surely lose.

Final thoughts

Dictatorial industrial-age mass marketing just doesn’t cut it anymore. People are now empowered to demand attention to their individualism. If you want your brand to survive, start by understanding the connection economy concept. If you want to thrive, you’ll have to embrace it.



Kelly, Kevin. New rules for the new economy: 10 Radical Strategies For A Connected World. Fourth Estate, 1999, pg, 15.

“Getting Ahead in the Connection Economy,” We Are All Connected, http://www.weareallconnected.co.uk/its-the-connection-economy/

“Seth Godin and the Connection Revolution,” Sapphire Now, June 12, 2013, https://youtu.be/sKXZgTzEyWY