Villing & Company

What Walter Cronkite's Predictions Can Teach Us

In a 1967 episode of CBS' "the 21st Century," Walter Cronkite shows us what the home of the future might look like.

Constructing a picture of the future is something we're used to seeing from Hollywood, whose representations are typically more outlandish simply for the entertainment value. We certainly don't look out our windows and see John Connor's world as James Cameron depicted it in 1984's Terminator, nor would we have expected to. But a news style program from Walter Cronkite featuring interviews with architectural and scientific experts most likely would have been taken quite seriously by the families of 1967, regardless of how fantastical some of the predictions may have seemed at the time.

In a similar fashion, we are constantly hearing predictions about the future of marketing, especially in areas such as mobile, social media, or even performance measurement. The current state of these areas would caution us against dismissing almost any prediction as impossible. Mobile, in particular, seems to be getting a lot of press right now. Ten or even five years ago, would we have believed that 91% of cell phone owners would keep their phone within three feet of them 24/7 – and even be able to buy a cup of coffee with that phone? Or that 2014 will be the year that mobile internet usage matches or overtakes desktop internet usage? According to a recent statement by Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, in the last 12 months, worldwide orders from mobile devices topped one billion dollars. I would guess that Amazon believes that anything is possible with mobile.

So, how accurate was Mr. Cronkite? In some things, very accurate, and in others almost comically off base. His description of a "computerized communications counsel" that collects info on news, weather and stocks via satellite and even allows you to see a video image of someone you're talking to was eerily on target.

Not so much with the home robot for cleaning and chores or the automated kitchen that takes orders, serves, and cleans up by recycling food and plates after each meal.

I guess the lesson is to keep an open mind about what the future may hold – in both everyday life as well as marketing opportunities. You may not be on target all the time, but being ahead of the curve by capitalizing on a few good predictions certainly positions you to outpace those that only follow the crowd.

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