When I first encountered the term, holistic, or rather when I first realized that I needed to know what holistic meant, I was at sea. It’s proponents tend to be strident, insistent. They chide us with ‘Holistic . . . ‘ and the pained looks on their faces suggest that there is something they intuit but don’t feel able to explain.
Today I found a news report on a marketing alliance between sister firms Ogilvy and WPP who have are now offering an end-to-end consulting service to marketers branded JWP Action.
“The joint venture is to be a new model in shopper marketing, designed to help brands and retailers reach and influence consumers at every touch point along the path to purchase, linking brand strategies, shopper insights and retail opportunities.”
The press release misuses the word holistic and gives me an opportunity to dummy up a tutorial for people trying to get their head around the term.
Misapprehension 1. Holistic is comprehensive or multi-faceted
Holistic doesn’t mean comprehensive or multi-faceted. Holisitic is a philosophical perspective based on not separating object and subject. For example, red is not red. Red is our experience of red.
Holistic begins with “I am experiencing red.”
What would holistic mean in terms of helping marketers? It might mean representing consumers.
Indeed someone was quoted along these lines
Bidwell said: “This move was based on client need. With all the changes in the retail space and consumer buying habits, clients told us their brands now require a wider range of resources and a truly holistic approach to shopper marketing, brand activation and integration.
“The joint venture is not focused on a marketing discipline, but instead on what a client needs. Then we build a media agnostic program from that base.”
Misapprehension 2. Holistic gets better results
Ah,but no. Holistic is not about getting results because getting results is about using this to get that. Separation. Holistic is not about separation. Holistic thinking suggests that consumers would like to enjoy products for what they are.
This is tough to understand when our belief system rests on ‘winning’ or ‘taking’ financial gain.
Quite possibly, though, people enjoy financial exchange as much as they enjoy consuming a good ice-cream?
From this perspective, we might declutter the consumer experience to allow us to savor more directly what we set out to savor. Elegance. Appreciation. That might be what consumers are looking for.
Misapprehension 3. Working backwards from the answer is holistic
How dull. So we know the answer already?
Holistic is all about possibilities. The unexpected discoveries of world with a mind of its own.
Holistic is about what emerges from time we spend together.
Holistic is about letting go and not insisting on perennial success. Maybe the occasional shriving would be a relief to you too?
Holistic in business
Valuing something important to us and helping it flourish
. . . gets crowded out by ‘wanting to win’ (that is, wanting the other guy to lose).
Holistic is about concentrating on what we value and helping if flourish.
Less is sometimes more
More and more clutter hides what is really enjoyable (and creates more work).
Cherishing the heart of an activity brings it alive.
Sharing leads to creativity
Deciding what must happen in advance feels focusing but is so limiting.
The magic comes from what was only possible when we join forces.
Holistic in advertising
Imagine an advertising agency that helps us
• Articulate and visualize what we really hold dear and to profile our hopes and dreams clearly over and above the distractions of threat?
• De-clutter and get to heart of what really brings us alive and makes us feel ‘ a welcome guest on this planet Earth’?
• Create shared experiences where we emerge with shining eyes invigorated, refreshed and astounded by what we created together.
Is a holistic approach to business possible?
I am imagining the difference between shopping at my supermarket that has everything I don’t want and very little that I do want with shopping at my deli.
• Where am I able to imagine a delightful meal?
• Where do I buy less but of higher quality and with more enjoyment?
• Where do I arrive with a simple idea and depart with a better idea?
This is what holistic means
• Whole (not divided into antagonistic parts)
• Valued for its essence (not its frills)
• In the space between us