A three-hour tour of Internet marketing

Hands up – who’s excited by the expansion of commercial television into new digital TV stations? Hmmm, as I suspected, not many hands….

I’m still struggling to understand the business model behind digital TV: It seems to be cannibalising your own audience and that of your direct competitors by broadcasting long-forgotten or obscure TV shows.

However, there is one good thing about digital TV; It’s introduced a whole new generation to the shows their parents wasted their time on when they were young.

One of my favourite shows growing up was Gilligan’s Island, the tale of a fateful group of castaways whose three-hour boat tour around Honolulu turned into a shipwrecked adventure that lasted for what seemed decades but was, in fact, three seasons.

Although the plotlines were as shallow as the island’s lagoon, when I watch the old episodes again after all these years, I can see some parallels, strangely enough, to modern-day business. For example, here are five lessons from Gilligan’s Island that can be applied to Internet marketing.

1. Be distinct, and be consistent.

Gilligan’s Island is full of archetypes – the gruff but lovable captain, his bumbling but well-meaning first mate, the unreconstructed capitalist couple, the geek, the glamourous woman and the girl next door.

You might love them or you might hate them, but you know what to expect from each of the archetypal characters in every episode. Gilligan is not going to behave like an intellectual, and Thurston Howell III is not going to become a tree-hugger; they all act in a way every week that matches their distinct character.

Online, as well as in traditional marketing, you need to differentiate yourself from your competitors, by presenting your own distinct proposition to customers. And you need to consistently deliver that proposition, whether it’s your focus on customer service, your playful humour, or even the style and colour of your logo.

2. Embrace technological change

Just as the Professor improved the lives of people on the island by developing coconut telephones, a bicycle-powered radio and a hot water system, you need to be prepared to continually seek out new ways of doing things. Today, that means making sure everything you do is mobile-optimised; think of how your customers want to interact with your business out of home and develop your online offering accordingly.

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John Fogerty and the power of revival

I managed to cross off an item on my bucket list over the Easter weekend by attending Bluesfest in Byron Bay. Great music, interesting crowds, and plenty of hemp shirts for sale.

One of the highlights was hearing John Fogerty performing Creedence Clearwater Revival classics in a tightly-packed two-hour set. It was like being transported back to Woodstock, or a Vietnam War protest rally.

You’d think that, playing songs that he first performed more than 40 years ago, Fogerty would be a bit jaded. But he looked incredibly fresh and vibrant as he hopped around the stage playing the riffs and belting out ‘Proud Mary,’ ‘Bad Moon Rising’ and scores of other classics. That fresh look was no doubt helped by the fact that at age 67, he still has a full head of hair (damn him!)

The main reason for that appearance is because, as he pointed out during his performance, he’s only recently begun playing those old songs again. Due to a combination of overexposure and anger over contracts and credits (Fogerty wrote nearly every hit CCR recorded and sang and played lead guitar as well) he refused to play old CCR songs in concert for more than 25 years, as he tried to make a career as a solo artist.

It was his wife who convinced him to pick up the old CCR tunes again a couple of years ago, and, as he told the Bluesfest crowd, he is now having the time of his life, re-embracing the songs he wrote and sang in his youth, and entertaining audiences who were too young to see him perform them when they were new.

There’s a lesson here that can be applied to nearly any business. Even if you’re truly passionate about something, it may be a good idea to lay it aside before it becomes a rut, and try something different for a while. You can then return to that earlier passion with fresh eyes and insights gained from years of experience.

Did you ever get fed up with a youthful pursuit you thought you really loved, or moved on because you thought it was time to grow out of it? I know plenty of people who started out as journalists, and after a few years moved into management because it was the sensible thing to =do. Many of them returned to writing 20 or 30 years later, bringing a varied life experience to the role and displaying a rich storytelling technique that they couldn’t have achieved 20 years earlier.

Read the full story on Smarter Business Ideas