Welcome to what I’m now referring to as the “electronics communications revolution.” Just two years ago, this wasn’t a thought in my head on any given day. Last year, it began to creep in as something possible. Today, it’s happening in nanoseconds. Just as the industrial revolution was a tumultuous upheaval that our forefathers had to live through (with all the growing pains that were associated with all of those changes), so are we now all in the middle of what historians will later refer to as the “electronics marketing/PR revolution.” I can’t simply refer to it as the “electronics revolution,” because it’s not just about electronics and computers anymore. It’s also about the Internet and how people are delivering their messages, in so many forms that this grid makes sense of it. That said, it’s still a humongous mystery to all of those smack-dab in the middle of it all.

In the 1970s, traditional marketing tools and non-traditional ones were pretty simple to understand. Anything that had to do with advertising was the method for building a brand, with a lot of PR to go along with it. Direct marketing and sales promotions were the alternatives.

By the 1980s, direct mail and sales promotions became increasingly more accepted as an equivalent to advertising, if not its superior.  Things also began to slightly change with a bit more daring, as non-traditional methods of promotion were thrown at the younger, innovative think tank teams. And, the more outrageous and daring promotions were the ones most likely they were to get everyone’s attention. They weren’t viewed as the established-tried-and-true. They were, consequently, viewed as a bit off-the-wall, and succeeded.

I remember one radio promotion for a car wash where a wet-suited DJ was strapped to the hood of the company’s logoed Bronco, and the car was run through the car wash. That was pretty non-traditional, then and now.

The proven ability to deliver huge ROI from the think tank’s expertise in these approaches meant that these new tools became more traditional, in every sense of the experiences. Ambient messages began to pop up everywhere

“Ads in bathrooms for the movies?”, I thought to myself. I couldn’t help but wonder, “What’s next, for God’s sake?”

Well, that got answered quickly enough… Along came the internet in the 1990s. Then, in the blink of an eye, non-traditional meant “online.”

  • banner ads
  • search optimization
  • blogs

By the year 2000, most marketers understood that traditional offline media and the alternative tools associated with online communications were headed for a whole new make-over.

  • Internet spending is now part of many companies’ marketing budgets, and even this is  no longer about an alternative approach.
  • Internet ads don’t necessarily pay on large volume click-throughs, either. Some are only paying on a purchased product. How this works? The click through happens, then the person who clicked on that ad now has to buy something, and the site that hosted the ad will get a percentage of that sale. (Do you have a headache yet?)

The really bottom line for all of this right now, as of May 2009, is that no one knows where this is headed. Traditional writers for print magazines and newspapers are continuing to be replaced by someone willing to be paid pennies on the dollar for what they’re worth, while newspapers and magazines are trying to hang onto their print versions, as advertising dollars continue to evaporate before their very eyes. Some – those offering something very unique – will survive, the rest will fade away. As I was mentioning to a newspaper person recently, you can go to any town and ask “Where’s the cobbler?” and be told where that one remaining cobbler exists, where years ago, you’d have options in that town.

It’s impossible to see what’s outside of the tornado when you’re in the middle of it, but you’ll definitely know what needs restructuring once it passes; and this, too, shall pass.