Villing & Company

Timelessness in Marketing: Does It Matter?

Timelessness is a term we see a lot in almost any field that deals with content creation. It's the idea that we should be creating things that last - messages with permanent value that apply themselves anew, over and over to future generations until, I'm guessing, the heat death of the universe? It's hard for me to imagine that a message I find relevant now will also be relevant to the intergalactic cyborg warriors of the year 2750, but my imagination may just be a bit limited. I often see references to timelessness as marketing advice, especially when referring to video. "Make sure you choose music and images that are timeless...", etc. What marketer wouldn't want to create messages that have lasting meaning and application? But I'm wondering two things about it. One, is timelessness in this sense an achievable goal? Two, does it really even matter?

Those who emphasize the importance of timelessness in marketing seem to be implying that this goal is achievable. But if marketers are expected to simply go out and create timeless content, what do we have in our arsenal to make this a practical reality? Honestly, I don't know that we have very much. One trouble seems to stem from the ambiguity of the term. What makes something timeless anyway? If you were to ask ten people to give examples of timeless messages, you'd likely get ten different answers and a lot of disagreement. What one guy calls timeless another might think is dated or retro. Another challenge lies in the numerous unknown variables relevant to making something timeless.

Maybe this is easier to see if we start examining what advice we might give ourselves in attempting to make something timeless. In making a video for example, we might warn ourselves against using current music, because it will feel dated in five or ten years. On the other hand another person might point to a piece from the eighties that used then-current music and point out that for some reason it doesn't feel dated today and is indeed "timeless". It's easy to generate a mental checklist of dos and don'ts to achieve timelessness, but I think it distracts from the more important issue at hand. For marketers, the "nowness" of a message often is just plain more relevant.

While we all hate the idea that years down the road we'll look back on the stuff we're making now and think, "Wow, that is so embarrassingly dated!" But, really is that something that can be avoided even if we followed every rule we can possibly imagine? For example, right now the motion graphics implementation of kinetic typography is a useful tool and sometimes is just what a client needs for a particular message. Sure, five or ten years from now that may feel very 2010s, but so what? If it did it's job well for the window of time that it was a powerful communication tool, maybe that's all that counts.

Over time, humor, aesthetic ideals, perceptions of timelessness itself, you name it, change in ways we'll never be able to perfectly anticipate. I'm not saying that timelessness isn't something to do our best to shoot for or that it can't happen. I'm just admitting that it's difficult if not impossible to force into our creative products.

I guess the main point I'm trying to make in all of this is that when it comes to marketing, more times than not the "nowness" of a message trumps the hopeful permanence of it. Sure true timelessness does probably exist in marketing, but when it happens it's likely a bit of an accident, something that can't be quantified or reproduced easily. Who knows, maybe I'm wrong about all this. Only time will tell.

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