For awhile now – maybe since emagine’s founding, along with the Web’s – I’ve noticed a trend among some in this industry to be obsessed with The Latest (bright & shiny) New Thing.  In the past, you pretty much had to go to conferences or read journals to hear their pontifications;  but since the rise of blogging and social networks, there’s no escape… it’s everywhere you turn.

It’s almost like there is a small coterie of folks – sadly, mostly consultants, no doubt very bright indeed – who feel that their careers are best advanced by uncritically pointing out and hyping The Latest (bright & shiny) New Thing, regardless of whether or not it has demonstrated any redeeming social or business value.  I really don’t want to use the term “snake-oil peddlers”, but sometimes it seems like these “interactive marketers” simply memorize buzzwords and join every conversation about the next trends …making themselves look super-current, but most likely driving few real results for their clients.

An absurdly brief history of IT

Now, I’m not suggesting for a minute that we can live without The New;  far from it.  In fact, the IT industry has transformed our personal and business lives in barely 60 years mainly because of its willingness to allow the best of The New to overthrow the old, with scarcely a whimper of regret.  Consider…

  • mainframes  –>  minis  –>  PCs
  • batch  –>  multiprogramming  –>  timesharing  –>  personal windowed OS
  • bisynch datacomm  –>  LAN/WAN  –>  Ethernet/Internet
  • proprietary bus  –>  plug-&-play

But not everything was a winner;  in fact, the landscape is strewn with the carcasses of once-upon-a-time bright & shiny New Things that didn’t make it …or were surely not as lasting or revolutionary as initially predicted.  Anyone recall Novell and client/server PC LANs?? …how about Lotus Notes? …or the Forte Application Environment?

So clearly, not everything New will stand the test of time, let alone revolutionize anything;  so rather than simply tout every New Thing that comes along, we can sure use a reliably good way to discriminate.

A suggested yardstick

Here at emagine, we’ve endeavored to provide services that clearly improve our clients’ ROI, avoiding (among other things) the seductive trap of flashy design for its own sake.  So we tend to look at The Latest New Thing with a bit of a jaundiced eye, unless/until it shows us how it can help companies do business better.

Thus, we didn’t jump on the social-media express until well after the noise level became fairly deafening …not, in fact, until we began seeing real research results that started to show its business usefulness.  I realize we may have appeared to be stuck in the mud – perhaps even boring – during that period;  but I’d rather be boring than counsel our clients to rush into adopting a new technology before we can determine its positive business impact.

It’s really just a matter of where you put the emphasis in “IT”:  is it information technology? …or information technology?  I.e.:  technology for its own sake may or may not have any value whatsoever;  whereas technology that organizes or provides information that enriches peoples’ lives, or that enables businesses to better serve their customers – now that’s technology that’s worth raving about and jumping on.

A supporting view

When indulging oneself in a rather strong viewpoint like the foregoing, it’s always nice to find something by a respected kindred spirit …and so I did the other day, with Pete Blackshaw’s piece in Advertising Age, “Marketers, get back to boring.”  It even begins with “Warning: This column may put you to sleep,” and continues, “We’ve got too much sizzle in the system right now.”  Well worth a click over, Pete’s closely related point is that social media – and indeed all of digital marketing – succeeds to the extent that it reflects those boring but still-valid baseline marketing principles, like:

  • Trust:  “the currency for all advertising”
  • Customer relationship management:  not just the software …the mindset and process
  • Emotion:  it gets our attention, stirs the soul, induces action
  • Feedback:  don’t forget the feedback form, the 800# and call center behind it
  • Listening:  a cost of entry for all marketing; social media just takes it to a new, more accountable level
  • Patience:  none of this marketing stuff is easy …or quick
  • Leadership:  “Leaders inspire and drive change – irrespective of platform, cause or brand … and always follow the consumer.”

Hey, we really don’t mind being thought of as boring;  because boring is where ROI mostly lives.  Boring is beautiful.