No Reminder Necessary

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This is going to be the week of top ten lists, stunningly visual retrospectives and thoughtful analyses of the decade that is about to end. I don’t need to be reminded; I was there. 

So were the past ten years particularly different or unique when it comes to decades? No, not in the slightest, unless you haven’t lived through more than a few of them (or don’t have much interest in history). It certainly was new for us, just like every second, minute, day and month might be, and we made it special by being there.

But the decade measure is as arbitrary as the substance it purports to track is shockingly common.

War, invention, pestilence, love, hatred, kindness…you name it, and the last 10 years had it. So does any 10-year period. The world changed, perhaps many times over. It does that all the time. We’re different now than we were in 2000. You didn’t see that coming years ago?

You think things are worse today than, say, in 1940 or 1670? Hardly. Folks then faced frighteningly dumbfounding change that made them feel like they were living on the cusp of a new age; like 2010, 1671 was once somebody’s future before it became your past.

At risk of coming across as a curmudgeonly rant, I do think this fact suggests three things worthy of marketers’ consideration today…and as we swing into the brave, new second decade of the 21st Century:

First, have fun laughing when you consider this perspective:

  • With Y2K we witnessed 10 years ago one of the first and biggest marketing hoaxes in history; loads of products and services were sold to remedy a problem that didn’t exist.
  • Today, a lot of marketing doesn’t even purport to sell anything at all, whether invented or real.
  • We’ve gone from selling based on a lie, to lying to ourselves about the mechanisms of selling. And yah think any of the revelations this week are going to ‘splain that one to us? Take all of it with a grain of salt.

Second, your digital marketing is about to be outdated. I know, I know, I get a bit nostalgic for all of those Facebook campaigns and blogger payola schemes of, oh, earlier this year, but the days of marketing to or with it — like it’s a channel where your otherwise impossible-to-pin-down perfect customers aggregate — are over. The Internet is pretty much everywhere, last time I checked, so any pundit telling you how it’s going to change how, where, and why we communicate is pretty much playing you.

Its already happened, and you can’t buy a fancy campaign to catch up.

This is good news, as you can consider all the digital marketing pioneers of the past ten years as glorified CRM evangelists (see any marketing mag top ten list for the likely suspects): like those CRM implementations, few of them have done any good for their clients other than spend their money and get praise in, well, top ten lists from marketing publications. Oh, I forgot: if you distribute coupons via Twitter you can sell discounted PCs. Everything else is glorious noise.

So you can go about doing Social Media 2.0 (or web 3,x, or whatever). Think purpose, not channel. More on that in a subsequent post.

Third, probably the most important observation we can make about the last ten years is to skip blathering about what’s new and different, and try to identify what has stayed the same. It’s more likely that these truisms will withstand the test of time insomuch that they’ve already survived up till now. So consider:

  • Maybe consumers miss us telling them stuff that merits their attention, not just their entertainment?
  • Could commercial speech be more credible, authentic, reliable, and useful that paying money to presume that all brands want to do is chat with consumers?
  • It turns out we can’t hope that people will buy things unless we actually sell them stuff?
  • PS, up isn’t the new down, and free isn’t the new paid. All those funny semantic constructions that pass for business insights are just entertaining nonsense.

Anyway, interesting stuff to consider in these waning days of 2009. But there’s definitely something far more important for you to think about for the next week, and that is having fun and being safe.

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