It is not easy to stay abreast of all that is possible using interactive marketing. Indeed there is a delicate balance between using a 'state-of-the-art' or 'cutting-edge' technology and actually having the customer embrace it. Even if they do adopt the idea, there are no guarantees that a futuristic initiative will be profitable.
Consider some of the pioneers of mobile phone marketing. They were creating wonderful solutions as much as five years ago, but the timing was not right. They were ahead of their time, ahead of the trend wave. Whilst they may have had the industry rags talking and quoting, the customers themselves were not ready to adopt the concept and the ideas became (at that time) economically unviable.
However in 2006 the same mobile phone applications and capabilities are all the rage. Some analysts are actually predicting that customers are now waning in their interest in using multimedia mobile applications and the game is over [This is probably not true, as when Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM in 1943 said "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."]
Surfing a wave is a tricky business. It is all about timing. If you are ahead of the wave it may end up crashing down on top of you or wiping you out. If you are behind the wave you will have to paddle twice as hard as everyone else to get to the same place, and even then there is a chance you will lose momentum and not be able to capitalise on the opportunity. Of course, if you can look at all the signs and make an educated decision about when to join in on the foray, you can enjoy the ride all the way to the shore with relatively little effort.
This rather simplistic anecdote illustrates the principal of the market's threshold for adoption, or willingness to uptake on a concept that was previously unfamiliar to them.
In the last century the 'technological advancement waves' have become bigger, faster, and with fewer intervals in between each. Especially when we consider that around 100 years ago people used horses and carts to travel.
Future-shock' is a concept devised by Alvin Toffler and propagated by the great Richard Feynman. They described prophetically in the 1970's that a time would come when people would no longer have their broken products repaired, they would simply replace them (think toaster, hairdryer etc). Feynman also predicted that one day the rise in technological advancement would so far surpass the ability of the ordinary consumer to adopt and accept these technologies that they would become paralysed with anxiety. They would not want to buy anything, because they knew that it was already out-of-date the moment they took it out of the shop (think computers).
One day, he predicted, there will be a kind of 'future-shock' where the possibilities of the future overwhelm the people in the present.
Many executives have a great number of years experience, business acumen and a wealth of knowledge and yet are now also feeling this 'future shock'. Perhaps we have all felt the 'future-shock' to some extent. It could be that the only notable exceptions are the youngest generation that are seemingly born with a 'gaming console' in their hands, or the innovation-hungry futurists who make a living by spouting about future possibilities.
The implication of this 'Future Shock' in the real business world is that the executive boardroom is increasingly unable to make appropriate strategic decisions that may steer the organisation through such uncharted waters as IPTV, viral marketing, social networking, PPC, RSS, Blogs, Vlogs and Podcasts to name but a few.
On the one hand these leaders are desperate to maintain calm and gain a competitive edge, whilst on the other they are petrified as to how they can possibly assimilate all the new jargon and user skills that 'tech-savvy' consumers are now all too familiar with. The most astute executives are finding specialist advisors to head up their 'emerging media' or 'integrated marketing' campaigns. Even Rupert Murdoch, the grand newspaperman of NewsCorp, can thank his son who has led him and educated him in the possibilities of businesses such as MySpace.
Indeed, it is often ironically retired individuals or stay-at-home parents, no longer busy captaining a company or punching in their timecards, who are finding the time to actually use the newest breed of "web 2.0" applications.
Consider "Geriatric1927", a retired gentleman who shot to fame by creating a YouTube video channel of his own rambling monologues. His notoriety was splashed all over the press, and many web users simply 'had to get their fix' of the latest episode.
It is this sort of unpredictable grass-roots activity that has caught so many strategic or traditional thinkers off guard. There is no immediate training available, no aged experts, no guaranteed results...just many a 'quick-fix' book or online article full of all too pompous 'post-success' hindsight.
In spite of all this, some of the more adventurous company directors are calling in everyone and anyone that can help them to raise the awareness of the company's executive team, to workshop through and develop a carefully considered brand interactive strategy that might exploit these new forms of customer interaction. Rather than looking to imitate someone else's success, they are planning how they themselves might be the pioneers of the next movement or trend.
This takes risk, planning, and sometimes compromise of the long-standing corporate directives and values that would in the past offer some semblance of security and stability.
Now it is truly anyone's game. It is no longer about who has the biggest media spend in television or film. Indeed many customers are now less influenced by advertising than ever before. No, it is the really innovative companies that are gaining market share...and quickly. They are developing their own brand interactive strategy, and seeing their organisational culture change through its implementation.
Unquestionably, those who do take the chance are reaping the rewards. Rewards in the form of publicity, brand awareness, additional sales, brand loyalty, respect...but most importantly of all return on investment and increased profitability.
Therefore any initiative that a company undertakes needs to be sensitive to both the customer's and the organisation's threshold for technology adoption.
In this way 'future shock' can be avoided, but let that not stop a brand from catching the 'waves' of innovation.