Ideas Drive True Growth

Ever notice how financial brands are starting to view themselves as more important than the products or services they represent? I hate to get all "in-my-day" here, but some recent statistics I saw have highlighted for me what the true impact of this shifting focus really means.

Did you know that the single greatest input to the Gross National Product (GNP) for the US last year was the business of making money? 

At 21.4% of the GNP, financial services is far and away our biggest contribution, almost doubling the nearest measurable sector. And if we
look at the assets they own, financial institutions really account for about 60% of the GNP. While I have no complaints about banks making money (they have been clients and I am a strident proponent of open markets), this news showcases for me how the entrepreneurial spirit in this country has lost its way.

Why did you get into advertising or marketing? If you're like me, you did it to sell ideas — not just creative ideas, but the new ideas of your clients. I became a marketer to position the exciting new inventions and reformulations and service offerings of my clients. And I did it to get an audience thrilled about buying into these ideas. That's where marketing gets exciting and fun. It's the real foundation of the American business spirit.

Yet if the numbers can be believed, our biggest sellable focus in this country has shifted away from ideas to formulas. We don't make money and drive success by innovation anymore. We make money by having our existing money make more money.

Again, no complaint from me on the value of investing. However, this changing focus from ideas being the driving force of profit generation to ideas being the disposable fodder of investing I find troubling. 

I could wax poetic on the failings of this mindset — how it's destroying the pysche of America, much as turn-of-the-century factories and mills virtually enslaved workers to the system and crushed innovation in favor of profit. But more often than not the underlying problem all comes down to the company viewing its own well-being as more important than the customer's. 

No company is perfect and profits are always of primary concern for any corporation, but when a brand becomes more about it's own profit than about solving customer problems we start down a dangerous road. When products and services become the after-thought of the equation of profitability, we negate the substance of ideas. We are selling air. And as any hustler will tell you, there's only so long you can sell air before someone figures it out and comes after you with a shotgun.

There is a place for pure and simple money making through investment to be sure. The financial institutions out there play a vital part in the growth of the economic picture. But when the GNP of a country is weighted this far in favor of money-making, we are clearly stifling the risk-taking necessary to promote new and innovative ideas. 

What are your thoughts on this? Am I over-reacting here? Should the banks be holding on to their cash to weather the storm or freeing up loans for innovation? I admit freely that I am not a numbers guy, so I'd appreciate the insights.

And for the record, I have good credit with my banks, so thanks for investing in me.

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