Every so often, things happen. Big things.
As with everything in life, the impact of these events can be seen as adhering to the principle of the "bell-shaped curve," meaning that the majority of people will come to understand and embrace what has occurred and how they will be affected in an average amount of time. They fall under the bell by being neither particularly quick nor slow to sense opportunity.
Conversely, there will be two smaller groups, roughly equal in size, to the left and right of the bell's center. One group will "get it" more and sooner than most people, and the other will "get it" less and later than the majority under the bell.
When it comes to business, the effective marketers will be in the "more and sooner" group, prospering by sensing opportunity prior to the majority who fall under or to the right of the bell. These are the ones who seize the moment. Unfortunately, there are not many moments worth seizing, at least in terms of watershed events. But I think we are looking at one right now.
When my business partner's 16-year-old son Allan got his car, he decided he wanted to install the cool-looking white taillights that have become so popular. He and a half dozen of his buddies talked about what is available, how it would look and where to buy them during their nightly Instant Messaging (IM) chats. This, along with friends advising him to visit certain Web sites, is how he reached his decision, which culminated in a purchase through eBay.
What do you see in that buying process? At no time did Allan do any of the conventional things that someone shopping for auto accessories would do. No Sunday newspaper supplements, no visits to Pep Boys or AutoZone. In short, without Allan realizing it, he and his friends had bypassed all of the expensive traditional marketing that was designed to reach him.
He didn't know it, nor did he care. But if you make or sell those taillights or car stereos or home A/V equipment or cars or clothes or furniture or food — in short, anything that could be bought by Allan and millions like him — you do care or should. You now have both an opportunity to reach consumers in a new way and a requirement to do so, presuming you plan to be one of those who succeeds in the future.
I can imagine a marketer waking up the day after radio was invented saying, "Who cares? What does that have to do with me?" Or making a similar statement the day after TV was developed. But I can't imagine them both being the same person, because you generally don't get to make two mistakes of that magnitude in one career.
Anytime/anywhere communication, including IM and Internet-based data and A/V, is about to mainstream as a viable marketing communication channel. You will ultimately come to recognize it as the change agent that it is — but will that be because of what it did for you or to you?
Coyote Insight is about to launch the Coyote Insight College Age study, the first of what will become an annual tracking study assessing the attitudes and opinions of 16- to 24-year-old consumers. We realize that the nature of your target market will change in the years to come. Unlike most of our previous projects, this effort transcends the CE and tech industries, whose products are at the core of the revolution.
This is not about technology, but rather about the technology's impact on consumer buying behavior, and the results promise to be as important as anything we have ever done. If change matters to you, if you see how your prospects could be very different as a result, I urge you to contact me to share your views and questions. And then watch TWICE for the results later this year. That future that you hear so much about is already here.
William Matthies is a partner in Coyote Insight, a market research consultancy located in Fullerton Calif. He can be reached at (714) 626-0680 or firstname.lastname@example.org.