By Roy H. Williams
Back in the days when every teenage boy dreamed of outrunning a police cruiser, the wisdom handed down from aging speedsters was, “Remember son, you can’t outrun them radios.” The fact that policemen were constantly connected by 2-way radios was mind-boggling to us. When we wanted to contact someone, we had to pull over and drop a dime into a pay phone. FedEx and fax machines did not exist. Long distance news required a Western Union telegram or an expensive, person-to-person telephone call. Carrying a phone in your pocket was pure science fiction. Sending an email from a home computer was too ridiculous to even be credible fantasy.
Just as yesterday’s speedsters were told that we shouldn’t run because “you can’t outrun them radios,” a new generation is saying to today’s advertisers, “A phony promise may fool one of us, but that one will tell the rest of us. You can’t outrun cell phones and email.”
Mass media is one voice speaking to many ears and it’s easy to purchase; you pays your money and you takes your chances. But interconnectivity is one to one to one to one to one to one to one; word-of-mouth gone exponential. And it can’t be purchased with money. The only way to trigger interconnectivity is to create a message worth repeating. And the easiest way to create a message worth repeating is to disappoint a customer. We tend to warn our friends not to make the same mistake we made.
Another trend to watch is the subtle shift from extraverted to introverted selling. Baby Boomers believed in an extraverted, in-your-face selling style; verbal engagement, “keep them talking.” But now everything you want to know is instantly available at your convenience on a full-color monitor in the privacy of your own home. This not only appeals to the 49.5 percent of our society that’s introverted, it appeals to busy extraverts as well.
Even when the purchase isn’t made online, the sale often is. Instead of driving to your store to talk with a salesperson, more and more customers are going online to gather their pre-purchase information. The result of all this in-home research is that salespeople are getting fewer chances to sell the customer. Comparison shopping has moved from the sales floor to the computer monitor. It’s more important than ever that your store be the first one the customer visits after they’ve walked from the computer monitor to the car. Second place is the first loser when the customer finds what they were looking for at the first place.
What? You don’t yet have a meaningful website? Maybe that’s why your business is flat; you’ve become effectively invisible.
Just as interstate highways and 18-wheel trucks and freight planes didn’t eliminate America’s railroads, neither will satellite radio and TiVo and the internet eliminate America’s traditional mass media. But they’re darn sure shrinking it.
That’s how media is changing in America. Next I’ll tell you how branding is changing. And suddenly it will all make sense.