Once upon a time, a man who had been working at a shoe store went back and told his bosses that he had good news and bad news. The bad news was that he was leaving the shoe store. The good news was that he was starting an advertising agency, and he wanted the shoe store to be his first client.
The year was 1954. The man was my grandfather.
Fifty-six years later, my grandfather’s bet is still alive and well. However, we are functioning in ways that no one could have imagined in the 50s. All work done on computers, including illustrations, for the most part? Email? Getting emails on these amazing smart phones? Who could have predicted any of what has become our day-to-day reality?
The elephant in the room
Right now, society is in a mode of instant gratification, and this really shows through when you start networking with people in the Social Media realm. I’m not just talking about the fact that people want answers immediately (which they do). But what is everyone talking about? The latest thing. How can you beat the Twitter game? How can you market with Facebook? A few months ago Foursquare was the hot topic, but already, Foursquare is starting to be overshadowed by Gowalla.
How fast are things moving? In the first Iron Man movie, at the beginning, there’s a shout-out for Myspace, not for Facebook.
There are a lot of experts who are telling companies how they can succeed right here and now. Social Media is the revolution and you have to decide how you’re going to participate. There are Facebook experts, Blogging experts, Twitter experts, and I’m sure Foursquare experts will be surfacing soon.
But what is not being talked about? How can you make these things work for you for 10 years? 20? Not to mention 50. There has to be something more to the game.
Fifty years hence
How does a company survive through an era of great change? How did factories survive the transition to automation? How did agencies like us survive the transition from markers to Macs? The secret is not just staying up on the hottest trend. The secret isn’t even how to master the hottest trend. The secret is to understand the business well enough that no matter what comes your way, you’ll be able to stay true to your company’s mission. You’ll stay true to the kind of service you’ve always given your clients. I don’t see a lot of “buzz” about this issue, and it worries me.
Where will you or your company be 50 years from now, when your kids or grandkids are laughing at you about how you used to use that old fashioned Twitter? What will you have to offer when your expertise on the “latest thing” doesn’t matter anymore because that latest thing is now old?
It may sound dire, but it doesn’t have to be. But if we only focus on the here and now and mastering what is right in front of us, we’re going to be in big trouble. It takes a different kind of fuel to create a long, steady burn. Do you have that fuel right now?
Image by Markus Huth. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/huthmark