‘Chronicles of a Head of Digital’ – 24

The end of another week, and another week of fads and news. From #PieGate to UKIP and Hillsborough. Opposite ends of the news scale, but both showing the here today, gone tomorrow fad culture we live in.

Showing the old adage of today’s news being tomorrow’s fish and chip paper still rings true.


Granted, most of that is PR-driven news. But that is all an aside to what I was going to harp on about today. Related but an aside.

Marcoms today is also becoming increasingly fad driven, much to do with the onward march of tech and channels, the evolution and revolution constantly rolling forward. It is exacerbated by people’s adoption of the modern lingo, the hashtag and the trend. #BigData anyone? Life imitates art. As the screen gets smaller, so does our attention span. As the next new thing comes along so we forget last week’s.

Now I love the onward march, the unstoppable tidal ingress of new things and new ways. I have built a career in digital so I should do. But we do need to be fully aware of what is worth adopting, suing and keeping, and what can make our things better, and what are just ‘flash in the pan’ fads.

Is it pulled pork? Is it salted caramel? Is it cookie dough?

I use those analogies as it’s not just tech, it’s society-wide. Those three are marketing-derived fads or trends, call them what you will. But who had heard of any of them five years ago? What exactly was wrong with the hog roast? The toffee or the vanilla ice cream? Nothing, there was just the desire of brands to go beyond the market ceiling of their particular product. Albeit for a six-month frenzied burst when it seemed everyone had a pulled pork offering, or pulled chicken if you were at a KFC.

The skill in all this, in my game, is three-fold I guess.

One – come up with your pulled pork. #JubilympicsMoment

Two – make it this season’s must have. #BlackIsTheNewBlack

Three – give it longevity. #HereToStay

One and two are, relatively speaking, easy enough. Standard fair to your ad-man, your manufacturing company, your PR guru. Three is the tricky one.

Some you think are doing it well, others not so well. Some surprise you.

Let’s talk digital and let’s focus on social.

Bebo, Friends Reunited and Myspace spring to mind. Massive, but of their time. One and Two nailed. Stumble at Three.

Twitter, again One and Two nailed, but judging by user and adoption decline (unsubstantiated fact #1) and the speculated recent downturn in net worth perhaps number Three is again not holding firm.

Facebook, so far so good on all three. And who would have thought that.

What about tech – a notoriously cyclical industry – and focus on phones.

Nokia – massive, everyone had one, not any more.

Blackberry – wow email, everyone had one, where are they now?

Apple – so far still there, gets a bit shaky occasionally, time will tell.

What about skillsets and people required at work?

TBH, I still worry about what I do. This job didn’t exist when I was a kid. I didn’t grow up wanting to do digital, as it wasn’t there. Will this career choice have longevity beyond the next five years?

I think it has got legs, I’m pinning my flag to that belief. One, Two and Three are in place (unsubstantiated fact #2).

Beyond me, we as businesses need to appreciate this with people too. Sort the wheat from the chaff. The worthy from the fad. The thought out from the knee jerk.

From tech, to products, to people, to business models, to politics and beyond.

Are you pulled pork? Or are you vanilla?

Both work hard to sell by the bucketful at the same time. One though generally outlives the other is what I’m trying to say. And it’s working out which is what in our evolving world. It’s silly to quit your vanilla production and put everything into pulled pork. Gotta think long term sometimes, which is tough in a sector (digital) that hasn’t really been around all that long.

Who you gonna trust?