It’s Wednesday. Time for my midweek reflection/rant about sales & marketing trends and whizbang ideas to grow more business. This week I’m thinking about a phrase that’s been used a lot over the past few years and deserves some criticism. I hate to pick on my colleagues in the industry – I know they are just trying to generate buzz and keep those pipelines full, but sometimes you can’t help but notice that something is just getting really old.. or is being misused or misreported somehow. Here’s one that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately:
Everything is Dead! …but check this out:
Inevitably the author will then save the day by going on to enlighten us about the new thing that has taken it’s place, which of course, it teaming with life and promise and hurry up and order three before they’re all gone. Meanwhile reports of it’s death turn out to be largely exaggerated. It reminds me of how any generation of teens has a tendency to take a word that has a negative meaning and use it to indicate how great something is, like: “wicked” or “insane.” In the case of marketers of course, they are simply trying to create a straw man to throw rocks at, in order to convince us that something has lost it’s value to consumers, and sometimes they are right.
The Emperor Has New Clothes.. or Does He?
Just because a company has a new product, and they have pinned their hopes on it as the latest greatest thing since sliced bread, doesn’t mean that it has to replace anything, or that anything has died. There have been lots of failed attempts by marketing teams to force their ideas on the public, usually with some rhetoric like pronouncing something else dead. Sometimes they are onto something. Other times, they are just speculating and hoping that if they can convince enough people, you will make their dream come true.
“He’s really not dead… as long as we remember him”
I couldn’t resist quoting Star Trek – Roddenberry inspired so many great romantic ideas about the afterlife and all. The truth is though, that if enough people don’t remember something, it’s not going to make a difference in the world of global commerce. There is a tipping point, and a reasonable rate of return to think about. (unless your a zombie, then it’s cool to be dead…) I always have to remind my customers, when it comes to marketing, you can’t think like you think, you need to think like your customer thinks. A few people who still remember the good ole’ whatever, does not a viable market make. It’s ok to remember something dead and try to “keep it alive,” with nostalgia just don’t expect large numbers of people to invest in it.
How to Know When Something is Really Dead
I don’t disagree that things die. Ideas become stale and lose their impact. Cool moves on. (although the mullet seems to be still in vogue in some parts of the deep south.) In industry it’s usually because a product or service stops being useful. For example: the yellow pages. Any companies left in this space are desperately working to find alternative lines of business. A few are actually expecting this wacky internet “fad” to end soon, and the big yellow book will once again be the way to find a product or service. I kid you not. The real way to tell if something is dead in marketing? : If consumers no longer find it helpful or interesting enough to support those who produce it, then it’s dead.
Death is Only The Beginning
A very wise friend once told me that he always likes it when people begin to say that something is dead. It’s generally a good time to invest in it because it means whatever it is has moved beyond the “shiny object” phase into actual relevance because all the people with short attention spans have moved on. Of course, there are other factors to consider, but his idea should make us stop and think: whenever someone says “x is dead!” It should pop a red flag in our heads to think exactly how consumers perceive whatever died. Where’s the evidence? What does it mean to your audience? As for you, my audience, be cautious of death proclamations in marketing and sales. Discriminating customers may just demand to see the body, (of evidence that is.)
photo credit: Karen Roy