When I was about 8 years old, my mom would drive us to a nearby shopping mall where I would immediately bolt to the toy store and wait there while she went shopping. I’d stare at the newest action figures for two to three hours until she came around to pick me up. At the time, I had plenty of action figures, but I would always long for the ones hanging on the wall in pristine packaging. The shopkeep would stare inquisitively at me as I tried desperately to will the packaging off the action figures and into my hand.
Fast forward to present day, and I find myself longing for new TVs, clothing, and furniture even though what I already have is enough. It’s an unhealthy state of mind that transfers into my work as well – I’m always looking into the hottest new apps, cutting-edge software, and latest marketing trends. Luckily for me, the entire marketing industry is obsessed with “new”, so it’s worked out fine thus far.
However, a recent tweet during a Twitter Q&A session from entrepreneur and best-selling author James Altucher struck a cord with me.
This specific tweet wasn’t even a response to a question of mine, nor was it a tweet about marketing, but it still rings true with the state of marketing today. Marketing writers churn out content – daily – on how this new “XX” technology is amazing and marketers should take advantage right now before it becomes yesterday’s news, so marketers all over the world pitch this new “XX” technology to their clients and convince them that incorporating “XX” technology into their campaign will make them look progressive, cutting-edge, and “part of the revolution”. This cycle happens again and again, but who stops to think just how long it took for something like the “sexy QR code” to wear off and become old news? The truth is, nobody in marketing really cares – nor does it matter – because it’s not relevant right now. And we’re all too busy moving on to the next amazing technological advancement.
Whether it be industry pressure or pressure from clients who want to stay relevant, this keeps happening – even though we know it’s wrong. We’re all just trying to keep up, but the truth is, we don’t have to. How did advertising legends like Leo Burnett and William Bernbach become legends in the first place? They weren’t focused on talking about “current affairs” – they had ideas. Ideas that withstood the test of time – and they often had nothing to do with technology. It’s a level deeper than “new”; it focuses on informing and inspiring, rather than exciting.
We’re living in a technological revolution, and technology will undoubtedly and inevitably affect marketing decisions. It creates new avenues and opportunities for brands to have a unique voice, but should it really affect it as much as it is right now? Should the medium actually be the message? I think, on some level, marketers know the answer to this. It’s just whether or not we can find the right balance between truth and survival.
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