I recently reread Marshall McLuhan's The Medium is the Massage and it reminded me of how it seems we're doomed to repeat ourselves throughout time. Over and over and over again. Earlier this year an article in The Atlantic asked, "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" Others have reported that text messaging is having the same effect on kids. Seems Socrates had this concern about the alphabet:
"The discovery of the alphabet will create forgetfulness in the learners' souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves ... You give your disciples not truth but only semblance of the truth; they will be heroes of many things, and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing." Phaedrus (The Medium is the Massage p.113)
That's not all that is painfully similar today. Another piece, this time from McLuhan himself, speaks directly to the challenges facing most brand marketers and their advertising agencies:
"Societies have always been shaped more by the nature of the media by which men communicate than by the content of the communication ... Innumerable confusions and a profound feeling of despair invariably emerge in periods of great technological and cultural transitions. Our 'Age of Anxiety' is, in great part, the result of trying to do today's job with yesterday's tools–with yesterday's concepts." The Medium is the Massage p.4-5
There is no doubt that the internet has changed things. This is only going to amplify as the mobile web becomes much easier and better to use. Yet here we are working with marketing ideas, processes, approaches and staffing structures based on a model that is no longer the main media through which we communicate and discover information.
I think it's time we really start changing all of this, don't you?
I think it's time to stop approaching everything exactly as we have because that's what we know and are comfortable with. I think it's time we took a hard look at the way our marketing departments and agencies are structured and what skill sets we've been recruiting for and consider new ways to work based on the way people are communicating and discovering information. I think it's time we stop interrupting people's lives with annoying messages and start helping them make their lives just a little bit better and a little bit easier.
How can we start?
By working collaboratively to find the best solution to the problems facing our brands instead of prescribing the same old antidotes.
[image by nic0]
Paul Isakson is a Colorado farm boy who became an account planner, currently based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is passionate about helping companies find smart and innovative ways to be more relevant and meaningful to the people who use their products and services through creative ideas grounded in cultural, consumer and business insights. Paul writes a blog that aspires to inspire, prod and provoke a better future for the brand building business, Tweets to share both what he's doing and good things he comes across, and likes to discover and catalog bits of randomness.