The More Things Change, The More Things...Change
In the nearly 30 years Villing & Company has been in business, we have frequently referenced my grandfather’s business as a blacksmith in Cincinnati at the turn of the last century. The analogy between forging metal over an open flame is an easy metaphor for forging brands in a competitive market. Sadly, my grandfather passed away before I was born so my memories of him consist solely of pictures of him shoeing horses and a few stories my father shared with me.
I believe it was around 1910, my grandfather gave up the blacksmith trade and became a farmer. Since I didn’t know him, I have no idea what prompted the career change. But I suspect, it may have had something to do with seeing all those automobiles kicking up dust on the streets of Cincinnati sending horse-drawn vehicles scurrying to safety from the tyranny of new technology.
At times, the way my chosen profession is changing can be a bit scary as well. I went to a seminar last year and the facilitator looked around the room of us agency types and said, "I am inclined to assume that not many of you got into this business to be software developers." To which I responded, "Amen, brother."
I'll admit. Sometimes technology makes me want to run for cover. Fortunately, we have many bright young people on our team who can take the old guard by the hand and walk us safely down this new highway. The news features in the wake of Steve Job's resignation as Apple CEO this past week really brought perspective to how much the world has changed in the last 30 years. Was it really just 1984 that the Macintosh started bringing down the old personal computing establishment? When was the first time you heard about this thing called the Internet? I believe it was in the early 90s when I first heard about something called mosaic home pages. I don't even remember exactly what those were anymore, but they seemed to be forerunners of our ubiquitous world wide web sites.
Today we have computers we hold in our hands that let us make phone calls, take photos, go on the Internet and even have real time video face time with comparably equipped friends. We have cars that can literally be unlocked and started from virtually anywhere in the world. Some cars even know when it is raining or parallel park for you.
So what does all this have to do with marketing? Well, in a way, everything. And if you've endured this walk down memory lane to this point, you may be seeing my point.
The marketing business is nothing like what it was when I put my foot in the waters of my career some 40 years ago. Some of the changes are scary. Some are wonderful. But virtually all are rooted in new technology. And as marketing professionals, we'd better be leading the charge – or prepared to get out of the way. And sorry, Grampa. While farm life sounds appealing at times, I suspect some people would say there's more than enough manure to be shoveled in the profession I’ve chosen.
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