New Year’s resolution: Update the blog more often (gee, that’s original). To start the year off on that note, here are some videos that I produced for Macquarie University back in 2012 which I have been meaning to post:
Like the plumber whose house is full of leaky taps, my blog has been sorely neglected over the past few months. In an attempt to bring things up to date, here’s a project I finished last year for Macquarie University.
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.
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.
So you think you’ve finished your studies? You may have graduated years ago, but let me tell you, in today’s economy, school is never out.
If you don’t have it already, you need to develop a philosophy of life-long learning. Things are changing much too fast to rely simply on what you learned at uni or TAFE.
For example, whether you’re a small or a large business, you can’t stick your head in the sand and ignore trends like social media. That means not only mastering existing tools, but staying abreast of emerging tools, as well.
It’s pretty clear that most businesses should have a Facebook page and a Twitter account. But when it comes to using some of the newer social media tools for your business, how do you pick a winner? You need to look at factors such as the take-up rate, how it integrates with other tools, and whether it offers something that is not only different, but hopefully useful, as well.
Google+ is one on the cusp (though, supported by and integrated with the raft of Google tools, it’s a pretty safe bet that it will be there for the long haul).
The location-based tool Foursquare, used by more than 15 million people who check in at locations and share their visits with friends, has had a lot of publicity and has attracted venture capital investment. But how important is it to people to become the ‘mayor’ of frequently visited spots? Are people using it mainly to make their friends jealous about where they can afford to go on a holiday?
A tool that I think ticks more of the boxes is Pinterest, an online pinboard service that, in the words of CBS Moneywatch, “attracts people who need to organize the chaos of Internet-age information overload.”
Pinterest describes itself as a social network meant to connect everyone in the world through the things that they find interesting.
The site lets you create and curate multiple pinboards in any category you can create, as well as following others’ pinboards. It falls somewhere between window shopping and actual collecting. You can log on through Twitter or Facebook, so you can tell your friends and customers about your boards.
At the same time, In contrast to Facebook, Pinterest pinners may end up choosing to follow people they don’t know purely based on the photos they curate, creating seemingly random new networks.
By Ray Welling
In the competition between digital natives – Gen Y, which has grown up with online technology and digital immigrants – those of us who can remember typewriters and phones with cords attached – for primacy online, it seems that the digital natives have gained the upper hand.
Think Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook, and a billion dollar online empire by the time he reached his mid-20s) vs. Rupert Murdoch (MySpace, phone hacking scandals, declining dead tree media empire). Or Natalie Tran (24-year old Australian vlogger with 156,000 Twitter followers, more than 400 million YouTube views and a cozy career in the making) against say, Tony Abbott (50-something Australian politician with 56,000 Twitter followers but no YouTube channel).
If you read the media reports on what’s hot on the web, there appears to be a strong relationship between a lack of history and Internet success.
But it’s not that simple.
It can be useful to have a long-term view of the online world, which only a seasoned digital immigrant can have. If you can combine that with knowledge of traditional, pre-Internet business principles, you can look past current fads and build a business model that’s sustainable.
For example, the current obsession with whatever is the latest online application exploding in the public consciousness ignores the fragile nature of web success.
With all the current talk of community-building and developing personal relationships, you’d think the concept was invented by Facebook. Digital natives may be too young to remember, but digital immigrants will recall that when MySpace burst on the scene, it was seen as the long-term future of social media. That is, until Facebook came along.
Early digital immigrants can go back even further and remember GeoCities, an online community where people could create personal pages and create a following of fans, which was all the buzz way back in the 20th century.
And consider the power and ubiquity of the Google empire. It may be hard for digital natives to fathom a time pre-Google, but digital immigrants can remember when Yahoo! was seen as the impregnable leader in search (As an aside, it used its cash reserves to buy GeoCities back in 1999), a crown it took from the equally-invulnerable Alta Vista.
I’ve started a new gig, writing a column/blog for Smarter Business Ideas, a magazine and website for small businesses who use Telstra services. Here’s an excerpt from my first post:
When I was at high school, the adults in my life told me I could be anything I wanted when I grew up. By “anything”, they meant a doctor, a lawyer, a professor or a business tycoon.
Instead, I chose to go down a creative path and studied journalism. For this I blame Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman and their representations of crusading journos Woodward and Bernstein bringing down President Nixon.
After graduating from uni I spent months looking for a job, and ended up taking one as a technical writer for a management consulting firm – not at all what I had imagined to start my career, but at least I was using my writing skills.
Since then, I’ve had a series of creative and not-so-creative jobs, in a variety of industries, always related in some way to writing, and now I run my own consultancy. I’ve never regretted my career choice, but I sometimes reflect that life would have been easier if I’d just become a more traditional desk jockey in a more lucrative field.
Fast forward to 2012, and the sins of the father have been revisited upon the children. Both of my kids have just finished uni, with creative-type degrees, and they’re now trying to find a role that fits with their passion and what they’ve studied.
So from the perspective of someone who has worked in the creative space for a generation, what advice do I have for my Gen Y kids as they start their careers? In the spirit of “Sh*t My Dad Says” (but with less profanity), here are my words of wisdom:
• Regardless of what you read about successful people, a creative, stimulating job that starts at 9 a.m. and finishes at 5 p.m. is probably non-existent – at least I haven’t discovered it yet.
• Chances are you will feel caged in by a ‘normal’ job and will want do your own thing. But though you may hate working for The Man, it pays the bills….