Different times call for different measures. You have heard it before. But, are the times really that different? Or, are they actually the same—meaning that an old school marketing method like ‘pay, spray, pray’ still does the trick? Let’s make a quick journey through society to see if we can find anything that suggests that different measures in marketing are needed.
Once upon a time… we were hunters and gatherers. We collected wild plants and pursued wild animals. Note that there are still a few contemporary societies classified as hunter and gatherers. Roughly 10.000 years ago we settled down, domesticated our animals, and started to grow our crops locally. The agrarian society was born. It was fine until the industrial revolution came along. The industrial society introduced mass production methods, urbanisation, and another way of using energy. In the 1970’s a new transformation started with the development of digital information and communication technologies. This has been labelled the information society and it has turned all of us into digital citizens.
All these different types of societies exist today in parallel and in different parts of the world. History has shown that transformation from one society to another has not always been peaceful and smooth. Interestingly enough, information has played an important role at least in the two latest transitions. Mass-production in print shops and distribution of information probably made the transition from the agrarian to the industrial society faster. Today’s transition to the information society is clearly driven by the way we handle information digitally.
Now, let us assume that most of us can be described as digital immigrants as defined by Marc Prensky back in 2001. Then we were born in the industrial society and are now in transition to the information society. More important, most of our existing companies and organisations also started out in the industrial society. They were designed to meet the requirements of their time and most of them still work accordingly in terms of processes, management systems, organisational structures, and …ways of communicating with their customers and markets.
The question we need to ask ourselves is whether the way of working in the industrial society actually suits the information society. In a recent blog post by Anders Björklund, he argued that irrelevant content is a major contributor to information overload (Content overload and ROI failure). Is it, in fact, the last remains of a ‘past its time society’ we experience?
Another example of the collision between the two societies is when the digital natives want to use their own MacBook Pro in a company that usually provides PCs and phones to their employees. ‘Yes, we are investigating the concept of bring-your-own-device, but it is complicated, you know’ is still a very common answer in these situations.
A third example of resistance to change in the information society could be the reluctance to accept bitcoins where currency is digital assets only and combined with a specific system to handle this. How many companies have converted to bitcoin as of today? Do the banks welcome this idea?
Of course, we are all sure we cannot win a Formula One race today by entering a car from the sixties. So, why do we think we can win in our business today by using methods developed in the fifties and clearly for the industrial society? Probably because there is a high degree of uncertainty due to the early phase of the information society we are in. Methods are yet to be adapted and accepted by many people and organisations. At the end of the day, the ones that dare to test new ideas will eventually strike gold. Are you one?