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6184the more things change, the more they change things (with thanks for the inspiration to David Adrian)

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  • Ned Barnett
    Dec 8, 2013
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      A brief history.

      First, there was direct mail. Research showed how the more personal you
      made it (hand-written envelope, stamp instead of meter) the more impact it
      had. Obviously business mail didn't work as well, and junk mail was
      anathema from a marketing or business perspective.

      Then came technology.

      Back in the day (80s) it became impossible to get regular mail through to
      doctors, and I marketed for, to and through doctors, so this was a problem.
      Then I discovered that only two things got past the Gargoyle (the office
      gate keeper) - cash and x-ray films. So I started sending business notes
      paperclippeed to x-ray films, and voila, I was back in business.

      But for non-doctors, there was another new technology. When universal
      access to faxes was new, faxed messages had real impact - an immediacy that
      direct mail didn't have. It got so bad that some states violated the First
      Amendment (IMO) by banning commercial faxes (called junk-fax or spam-fax);
      but that was OK, because when those hit, faxing no longer worked.

      Then came email - just a little while after faxing - and once "everybody"
      had email accounts - and especially when we moved away from per-minute
      dial-up (the supposed real reason why people objected so violently to spam)
      - email became the standard of business. Until people like me started
      getting 500 emails or more a day, and then the quest came to find ways of
      thinning the herd - but auto-junk programs always seemed to grab important
      business messages and "junk" them, which meant people had to scan their junk
      files anyway, defeating the purpose.

      Then came texting for business. Texting was originally more personal than
      email (you had to know the person's cell number, not just an email account
      that could be skimmed from lots of online sources). But then came
      "junk-text" messages. Some, like me, who were outraged (there was a sense
      that a text was both personal and immediate, and junk/marketing messages
      were neither), found that their carriers could block commercial texts
      (except, of course, for their own messages to their customers).

      So how do you get someone's attention. Well, as David Adrian mentioned
      tonight on PR Mindshare, people are buying fancy letterhead and sending
      hand-written notes again (even in business). And others have discovered
      that the regular methods of postal/physical distribution, if jazzed up,
      worked. I now send all important messages (and have my clients do the same)
      via FedEx (even FedEx ground works), because the assumption is, "hey, they
      paid to get this to me, it must be important).

      And oh my gosh my golly, faxes are starting to work again. So few folks send
      faxes except to send signed documents (those without scanners) that a
      message-fax is distinctive.

      And that's the bottom line. Evil marketers like us use whatever is new and
      distinctive - and it works until it gets worn out (and technology gets worn
      out at an ever-faster rate). So what's next? Couriers? Stripper-grams?
      Pony Express (I think that might actually work). Whatever is old will
      become new again, for another 15 minutes, until something even more direct,
      personal and eye-catching comes along. Then we'll wear it out . until the
      next thing comes along.


      Ned Barnett, APR
      Marketing & PR Fellow, American Hospital Association
      Barnett Marketing Communications
      420 N. Nellis Blvd., A3-276 - Las Vegas NV 89110
      702-561-1167 - cell/text
      <http://www.barnettmarcom.com> www.barnettmarcom.com - twitter @nedbarnett

      05-6-16 BMC Logo

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