Thursday, January 11, 2007

We're Not In Kansas Anymore And Three Heel Clicks Won't Get Us Back

The Tornado Of Change Has Plunked Us In A Whole New World

By David Miranda

Like Dorothy, we wake up one day and find a tornado of change has deposited us in a whole new world world. A world of Google, YouTube, the blogosphere, MySpace, Facebook, iPods, eBay, cell phones, Blackberries, chat rooms, text messaging, wi-fi, TiVo, broadband internet, Skype, VOIP, XBox, Wii, Playstation 3 and on and on and on. In the blink of any eye, these innovations have dramatically changed our lives.

A just released survey from Pew Research Center found that people increasingly view more items as necessities rather than luxuries. It also found that the need for gizmos and gadgets has accelerated, even compared with a 1996 survey conducted by The Washington Post, the Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University. A home computer, which 10 years ago was considered a necessity by 26%, is now considered a necessity by 51%. Cellphones, not even included in the 1996 survey, is now considered a necessity, "New technologies not only give us something new we can covet and feel like we can't live without it, they transform the way life is organized," says Robert Thompson, a professor of media and popular culture at Syracuse University. "What used to not be a necessity because nobody had it first becomes a luxury, and then it becomes a necessity. Things that you lived without before they were invented — they really do become necessities."

These changes, both individually and collectively, have important implications for marketing. Communicating with consumers has become complex and vexing. Consider what the U.S. Census Bureau is predicting in its "Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2007." including commentary from forecasters and research contributors.

Next year, Americans will spend 3,518 hours with their beloved media, including 1,555 in front of the TV. That means the average American will spend roughly 146 days, or five months, consuming media. However, the numbers don't mean we're just sitting in front of our machines; we're multitasking. "I know people who use television as wallpaper," said Paul Saffo, a technology forecaster based in Silicon Valley. But, he added, "The news means that America is making a smooth transition from a couch potato to a mouse potato. Put another way, I suspect the only exercise Americans are getting is walking between their TVs and their computers."

"The numbers mean that people want to have — and almost need to have — information and entertainment at their fingertips now, 24 hours a day. They also mean that technology tools are continuing to shift our "social, political and economic lives," said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, which also supplied data for the report. "In the past decade, the Internet and cellphones have changed the way people interact with each other, the way they work, the way they spend their leisure time," Rainie said. Also changed: "The way they maintain and grow their social networks, and the way they share their stories with others through blogs (and) social networking sites."

The new landscape demands that marketers take a more holistic view in order to intelligently invest their limited resources to achieve their objectives. This requires both horizontal and vertical perspectives. Horizontal meaning across marketing channels based on media consumption patterns of the desired audience. Vertical meaning having the expertise per channel to be successful in that channel.

Use your brains. Be courageous. Put your heart into it. There's no going home again.