Get Out Of Your Own Way

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Here are some of the more common things you probably hear about New Media, Digital Marketing and Social Media:

– I don’t watch TV anymore… let alone watch the commercials.

– I don’t read the newspaper anymore.

I only use things like Google Reader and other RSS-enabled tools to get my news.

– Everyone I know is texting.

– We must have an
iPhone app for our Digital Marketing program.

– I think Blogging is dead.

– Everyone I know is on

– We must have a presence on

How many successful businesses and brands are there in the marketplace right now, that have all but ignored most of the statements above?

The answer: a lot.

The reason we tend to think that these channels are the best (or worst) is because of personal opinion. "I have a PVR… I never watch TV commercials anymore." Therefore, nobody watches TV commercial anymore? Agreed, the penetration rate of PVRs and their growing popularity is definitely causing fewer and fewer people to watch television commercials, but the advertising opportunity – depending on your brand strategy and goals – is still there. For every person who doesn’t watch a commercial anymore there may well be ten (probably more) who do… maybe even a couple of them actually enjoy the commercials (don’t laugh, infomercials are hotter than ever).

Our own values are not the values of the world.

Deep down, we all wish that everyone was like us. Deep down, we all wish that people did the exact same things that we do. Deep down, we hope that we’re not alone in our quirky uses of media, technology and how we interact with one another. Deep down, we have to start accepting the fact that it has little to do with what we, personally, do and much more to do with what the target market for our brands are up to.

As popular as the iPhone is, most people still don’t have one (or any smart phone for that matter) and – even if they do – they have not downloaded applications or even customized their mobile experience yet.

This past January, Apple announced that their App Store had crossed the 500 million mark in terms of downloads. While this is an incredible number, it should be peppered with with the very real reality that the majority of the mass population can hardly wrap their heads around how to download a ringtone to their mobile phone, let alone embrace and understand the power of mobile applications.

People are not stupid, slow or lazy.

New media channels take time to be adopted. As sold-out as the Amazon Kindle 2 is, the majority of heavy readers in the United States do not have the e-book reader. These are the same people that probably still turn to the New York Times every Sunday to see what new literary adventures are available, and then head over to a retailer like Barnes & Noble or Borders to pick up their books.

And, for every person doing that, how many people subscribe to the RSS feed, check out their news in Google Reader and then hop over to to either order the book or download it immediately on to their Kindle 2?

It turns out that this is the new reality of media fragmentation.

Maybe it’s not the way I do it. Maybe it’s not the way you do it. Maybe it’s not the way everybody else, statistically, does it.

Maybe there are many new ways of consuming media. Assuming that the way I do it, is the way everybody does it, or the way everybody does it, must be the way it is, is slowly slipping away. Maybe the best way to figure this all out is to have your own specific brand strategy and just go with the directions that make the most sense to your consumers. Even if that means working some of the more traditional channels (that you don’t use) while dismissing the newer, shinier objects (that you, personally, swear by).

When we put our own usage and personal assumptions into the Marketing equation, we may well be hurting our overall efforts.


  1. This is really just such a strange article that I had to comment. It’s really hard to tell what you’re saying actually.
    Especially with the tv commercials intro. There is certainly something to be said for looking beyond your own personal preferences, but putting tv commercials in here as an example is just ignoring industry trends and research.
    People don’t watch commercials whether they have a DVR or not, and infomercials aren’t commercials. It seems overall the idea is don’t worry about figuring out where things are going in advertising. Which sounds very odd.
    DVR or not, commercials, as anything recognizable as a commercial, are going to be gone before too long.
    On the other hand, at the end you say, well, maybe you should just figure out what works for your brand and your consumers… which is to say nothing at all.

  2. Marc,
    Let me try to be clearer:
    “no one watches commercials anymore,” is something that many Digital Marketers say. It’s simply not true. If no one watched commercials, there would be no commercials.
    We tend to put our own, personal, values into many of our client’s work without looking at what the brand is trying to do in the marketplace.
    If I consulted my clients to treat all media in the way in which I consume it, I would be doing a severe dis-service to them.
    Yes, media and advertising usage and trends are changing, but – for some brands – some of the channels are still, viable, powerful and work.
    And yes, that could mean some of the channels that we see as dying or on their deathbed.
    The idea behind this post was to take what you do, personally, out of the equation. Sadly, I don’t see that happening all too often anymore.

  3. Great post! I so agree. Using Twitter as an example, I noticed too, that when I was heavy into Twitter, it seemed liked everyone did it….only after unexpectedly being more offline than usual for a month did I realize how Twitter can seem like it doesn’t even exist. I got un-hooked and surprisingly didn’t even miss it much. I realize now that to only rely on one type of media is a mistake. By doing that there is a much bigger audience out there that will never have exposure to your message. Great piece. (BTW, I think your piece can probably easily be re-written to apply to politics, too….I especially like the line: “Our own values are not the values of the world.”)

  4. We were out to dinner Friday at our favorite restaurant where we know the owner well, casually mentioned we’ll tweet what a great salmon they serve. The owner is 27, she said “what? tweet? …I’ve heard that before… what is that twitter thing about ?” We have a meeting set up to “help” her. Marc you’re so right, we just assume what we do others do. BTW, I just started following you on Twitter yesterday and absolutely think your blog is some of the best stuff I’m reading. I will pass this link on.

  5. Oh how much I hear people act exactly like you’re describing. The worst part is that it’s never through personal channels, but too often they blog or podcast or speak at unconferences (because anybody can) about their personal view of the world, how “You need to blog, because I blog” or “You need to build your brand, because I’m interested in personal branding”
    If my job was to tell clients what I like to do, everything would be easy peasy.

  6. To Mitch’s point, beware of the echo chamber. Try associating with people not in your industry, especially communications, and not in your age group. I know lots of people who twitter, but many, many more who don’t. Many highly tech-literate early 20’s kids don’t. For them, it’s text, chat, FB, YouTube, Myspace. They’re not looking for another media. Personally, I’ve had two Twitter accounts. They’re both dead.

  7. Marc,
    I still watch commercials. In fact, I pay attention to commercials. I have a few favorite commercials actually.
    So, I think you just illustrated the author’s point.

  8. I love this post because it reminds of me of a phrase I learned from a marketing prof which comes to mind whenever someone begins a sentence with ‘I never do x anymore, therefore we need to get away from x….’ That phrase is ‘sample size of one’.
    Anytime someone tells you things are changing because of their own habits, you should think ‘that’s great, now I have one data point. A thousand more in a well distributed sample and we might learn something here.’ It’s not that people have incorrect opinions about things that can be known, it’s just that we each believe our opinions are representative of the whole, when in fact they are simply the result of a sample size of one.

  9. Mitch – While I agree that the ‘leading edge’ of tech and new media adopters shouldn’t be used as the template for all media usage patterns – there are many variables beyond personal choice in-play here.
    TV Stations are reporting higher program viewership ratings during our current economic crisis – but so many are still teetering on the edge of bankruptcy due to debt servicing and the total evacuation of vital automotive advertising dollars at the local (non-network) level. So – they deliver the goods but may be driven out by changing marketplace: CBS, NBC, ABC and FOX may become Cable Networks. Local TV stations primarily become providers of ‘Local News’ and do you really need three or four choices – (especially without the shifting PrimeTime lead-in) – per market? Probably not.
    Newspaper is up against high production costs and vanishing advertisers. The Tribune Corporation has essentially mandated an equal balance of advertising and content in each of their markets – most of the papers are less than half their original size.
    Personal usage may be a bias in planning for the new media fragmentation – but there are forces well beyond personal choice at work here. My 55-year-old neighbor recently purchased an I-Phone. When I asked him why he replied “So I can read the newspaper on it on my train ride into work”. He’s not embracing change – he’s grudgingly preparing for the imminent loss of his daily paper.

  10. Too often, when i request feedback on a particular trend or idea, i find that all i get is the feedback of the last person we spoke to. I hear “the trend is to start using this technology�, but actually, it’s not… it’s just that we spoke to 5 people in our own bubble and they all said the same. But what about the rest of the world out there? We seem to forget what “gathering market feedback� really means.

  11. You hit the nail on the head, Mitch. While we need to be conscious of trends in emerging media, you’re absolutely right that those of us on the edge of those trends (which likely includes most people reading your site) need to remember that, by definition, most people aren’t early adopters.
    Well said.

  12. I think you’re spot on. It’s horses for courses. What works for one company might not for another and although new technology is changing the game it’s not changing the core objective. Interacting with your audience. Lots of different ways to achieve this, some old some new, and as a marketer in the current arena it’s our job to select the best mix. Game on….

  13. Spot on. Convenience sampling is one of the most common issues seen online, or in any emergent market place validating itself.
    I’m as addicted to playing with the newest toy as much as the next person in this space, but that does not mean we can all forget that we are usually not typical of the whole market.

  14. We view the world through the lens of our own experience. We get into trouble when we assume everyone has the same one as ours. If you live on the cutting edge, don’t expect a crowd.

  15. Thank goodness the world view is different for each of us. Otherwise “traditional” marketing would be long gone. People still like the familiar mixed with the unexpected when it comes to learning about or supporting products they have used for years. I wrote mylatest book “Quirky Marketing” based upon the “old and the new.” And it has gotten rave reviews.
    Thanks for reminding us that we are all different and each of us responds to different messages. Yes, new media is here to stay (at least for today) and I for one am a huge supporter. I also study tv commercials for their value, creativity and even sometimes for the products they represent.
    Have a great day,
    Heidi Richards Mooney, Author, Interent Entrepreneur, Business Coach

  16. This post reminds me of an idea in Dan and Chip Heath’s book Made to Stick where they talk about the “Curse of Knowledge”. The idea is that we forget what it’s like not to know what we know and assume that beliefs and knowledge we have everyone else is on that same wavelength. In the end this is problematic as many have already stated. Great post.

  17. Reading this article and the comments reminded me that as marketers we have to remember “you are not your target”. It is for this reason that some companies place pictures and cardboard cutouts of customers in their hallways to remind the team what a customer looks like.

  18. Spot on…now if we can all pull our heads out of where the sun doesn’t shine, we can actually LISTEN to what users/customers (or whatever you want to call them) want and build it to meet their needs! Sound easy, but never is.

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