It surprised me to find marketing advice while reading Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden.”
Although I know a little about Thoreau, an early 19th essayist, poet and philosopher, I’ve never read “Walden.” The book is his most prominent work, which describes his life in a small, self-built cabin on Walden Pond in Concord, Mass.
The Basket Maker
Early in the book — I’ve not yet finished it — he tells a story about a local Native American who unsuccessfully tried to sell woven baskets to his wealthy, white neighbors. The man was upset and exclaimed “What! Do you mean to starve us?”
It turns out, according to Thoreau, that the man had decided to make baskets because it was something he was able to do. “Thinking that when he had made the baskets he would have done his part, and then it would be the white man’s to buy them,” Thoreau writes.
Build It and They Will Come?
The man’s logic was similar to that of modern entrepreneurs who often create products because they can, without considering whether anyone will buy them.
Thoreau quickly gets to the root of the problem. The basket-maker “had not discovered that it was necessary for him to make it worth the other’s while to buy them, or at least make him think that it was so, or to make something else which it would be worth his while to buy.”
Can you think of a better definition of business marketing?