Sunday, February 18, 2007

Asymmetry

Reading in last week’s Fortune magazine (February 19th edition) about the increasing popularity of Zillow.com, I thought about a close similarity between Zillow’s mission and our core job as marketing geeks: Zillow’s tries to provide all participants in the real estate game (Buyer, Seller, Agent) with more and relevant information to create a balance of information between all participants. Let met quote the Fortune magazine: “The real estate industry is based what economists call information asymmetry, which simply means that one party (typically the seller) knows more about a product than the other (the buyer). It’s an opaque market that encourages obfuscation and leads to flawed pricing. Zillow is to make real estate more like a stock exchange, a transparent market where all the information about every property is readily available, and as a result pricing is perfect.”

That’s exactly the core mission of any data driven marketing analyst: Providing all discourse partners (e.g. clients, colleagues from other functions) with the same and most relevant information. Our obligation is to create a symmetrical information discourse. Let’s dissect this analogy into its three core areas:
  • Information transparency: The biggest challenge in our marketing field is twofold: Do we have all the relevant information necessary to solve a challenge, and secondly, are we able to reduce the huge amount of information into the relevant actionable one in a transparent manner. Zillow.com is focusing first on solving the second challenge, now it’s trying to get to more difficult to obtain information, too (e.g. what does a neighbor know about the Pro’s and Con’s of the house next door?).
  • Stock exchange: There is no equivalent of a public stock exchange in our marketing market, since most of the marketers play in closed circuits of their own company and their key marketing partners. There is no interest in sharing the necessary information beyond this inner which would be necessary for a public stock exchange. But the stock exchange parallel has some strong implications, if one imagines that we would apply the principle of a stock exchange to exactly this internal group. Here all players have all the relevant information and can “bet” on the right marketing strategies and ideas. It’s similar to certain companies’ R&D efforts where they use a company internal stock market to decipher the most promising R&D projects.
  • Perfect pricing: Our “perfect pricing” is the right marketing strategy and program with the biggest ROI. This could happen if the internal stock exchange principle is executed and enough players participate in it. The wisdom of the company internal marketers (and its key partners) would create the best marketing mix derived from all relevant and accessible information.

I have tried to show the analogies and discrepancies between Zillow’s mission in the real estate discourse and our analytical function in the marketing discipline. There is still more to understand and to learn. I will definitely watch curiously Zillow’s future moves, successes and failures.

7 Comments:

Anonymous Garret said...

hi there: a random aside: have you noticed that wheever you break anything down, you break it into three? ...as in three qualities for outstanding marketing analyists, three core areas of symmetrical information discourse, three things marketing does in Search, three things consumers do in offline searches, three key elements for a postmodern shopper society, to quote your most recent entries. why always 3? Not 2, or 4, or, heaven forfend, 5? I like what you're doing on the blog, just curious... maybe a topic for a future entry.

9:50 AM  
Blogger Michael Fassnacht said...

Garret,

Interesting comment. Yes, you are right. I am a big believer in the power of THREE. Why? Normally two points are not sufficient to explain a phenomena, four are too many, so no one reads it. And it definitely goes back to my affinity to dialectic thinking.
It would be interesting to analyze any kind of articles (e.g. blog postings) and see the distribution of number of points made.

Thanks,
MF

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