I’ve noticed that generally, the cycle of love for new forms of media often goes like this:
1. New media tool arrives.
2. A few reports suddenly trickle in about the potential of the media tool.
3. Everyone jumps on the bandwagon of those reports, proclaiming it as the best thing since sliced bread.
4. Everyone clamors to be seen as experts and evangelists to their clients about the new media tool (whether or not they actually understand it in reality is debatable).
5. A few reports suddenly trickle in about the negatives of the media tool.
6. Blogs and articles hop on the bandwagon of those reports, saying that maybe the new media tool isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
7. Everyone clamors to become one of the first “I told you so” gurus in order to save face.
8. Everyone is on to looking for the next big thing.
This isn’t a post about whether or not a certain channel does or doesn’t work. It’s that there’s an evaluation of media in general happening that doesn’t work. And in a race to be the coolest/hottest/hippest, some forget that maybe our clients want us to evaluate what’s right for them – new or not new.
The fact is, too many communicators and marketers often set this wild up-and-down “what’s hot, what’s not” roller coaster in motion…when we really don’t have to. How? Pure and simple, as an industry we’re way too overzealous in our attraction to new things without first exploring them, understanding them, seeing how they fit into our client’s overall brand strategy, etc.
When it comes to evaluating The Next Big Thing, as an industry we fall in love too fast, too much and, when things start to sour just a tad, we can’t get out of the relationship fast enough.
The more we rush to proclaim one form of media as a game-changer and then rush back in the other direction to denounce that media, the more we look like wishy-washy practitioners. And that’s not good.
Look, some media choices have good long-term prospects. Some ultimately don’t. Along the way, there are absolutely ZERO forms of media that work for everybody. As we explore these choices, we should never apologize for attempting to understand the new things and how they relate to a client’s brand, whether it was user-generated content yesterday, Twittering today, 3-D digital imagery that allows for hologram interaction (also known as “augmented reality”) tomorrow and whatever else is invented in the near future.
What we should apologize for is blaming the useful tools themselves when the reality is that perhaps – just perhaps – some of us didn’t understand those tools that well to begin with, yet recommended them anyway to clients when we shouldn’t have. Truth be told, having more media tools in the toolbox is a wonderful opportunity for people who understand them and an awful thing for people who don’t understand how they fit into the overall picture (i.e. firms that make the recommendation that social media tools should always be at the center of a media strategy and nothing else matters). Media choices don’t kill brands. People that don’t know how to plan and select the right media choices kill brands (and if their creative sucks, that doesn’t help either).
How can we get off the roller coaster? I can think of a few steps:
1. Stop acting like a ravenous dog when something new comes out.
It’s new. Remain calm. Study it. Get to know it. Does it fit into the behavioral mechanism of your client’s audience? It’s possible that – gasp – maybe it doesn’t fit after all. If so, the brand’s world will march on.
2. That new thing is not for everybody.
Again, your client’s audience may fall into this category. And if so….
3. Just because the new media tool doesn’t apply in certain cases, don’t rush to condemn it as a failure in an effort to make yourself look like a genius.
Please. Everything has its pros and cons. Maybe it’s not a failure but instead a case of where some misinformed people understand the tool better and realize it doesn’t fit into their overall media mix. And that’s really OK. A blanket statement about that medium can be dangerous, such as…
4. Stop saying “(INSERT MEDIUM HERE) is dead.”
Traditional media’s role is changing but it’s not dead. Knock it off. We’re creators, not killers. I myself was guilty of saying a medium was dead not long ago in a blog post. My mistake because really all that medium did was re-surface in another life form. What’s “dead” to some prospective target audiences may be very much alive for other ones.
5. With diversification of media, some choices will always work a little better than others.
What clients don’t like to hear is that the only way something works is to try it, considering that exploration is on their dime. But even so, there’s a smart way of exploring results, as in testing selectively and monitoring results. If results are positive, expand the effort. If results are negative, adjust accordingly.
What we’re all searching for, clients and agencies alike, is a better way of connecting with a certain group of human beings. And since they’re human, they’re sophisticated. And since they’re sophisticated and often have a range of changing tastes, we have to remember that exploring new ways to find these connections isn’t brave but a necessity to being relevant in their world. The key is if we can enjoy the new tools responsibly like we would, say, a fine craft beer, wine or liquor and not be so drunk in our love for that particular new media right from the get-go, maybe we won’t end up potentially hurting ourselves and our clients later on.
Still, that new hologram thing is pretty cool. Just kidding.