I was giving a speech at a PR association meeting in New Jersey in early 2001 about how the Internet was affecting PR tactics, when a group of older-looking grumpy attendees just sat there like lumps and left as soon as possible afterward. "What's up with them? Was my speech that awful?" I asked the organizer.
"You were fine!" she reassured me. "These are the guys who are pretty close to retirement, and they hoped the Internet thing would not get so huge, so quickly that they would have to learn it. They just want to coast for a few more years until they can retire."
I snorted, full of the superiority of a natural-born enthusiast. I felt sorry for them -- they were missing out on what could be the most exciting time of their careers.
Living in Serbia and Croatia these past few weeks, I have been reminded of that moment time and time again. Not because these people are mired in the past -- to the contrary, most are straining with every fiber toward a better, brighter future. Nope, that grumpy old person who does not really want to learn a whole new marketing tactic has turned out to be me.
I, who embraced the Internet so wholeheartedly, have grown old. Do I really, really have to do it all over with mobile phones?
Well, the answer is absolutely yes. I knew it for a few years now but buried my head in the sand until now living in this land. Depending on which source you research, the amount of Serbs who are online ranges from 16% to 27%, including students at school and white-collar workers. However, 90% of the population have cell phones.
If the Internet is going to take off here, and, boy, is it ever poised to take off in a big way, it is not going to be when everyone has a computer plus a high-speed connection because that is not going to happen in our lifetime. Instead, it will happen through mobile phones.
The new generation of Europeans, Asians and, increasingly, our own American kids, too, think of PC-based communications as old school. An Internet tied to a PC is such a 20th-century thing. Get with the program, Grandmother, mobile is everything!
The new generation worldwide update their Facebook accounts with their phones. They blog with their phones. They tell everyone where the coolest party is tonight with text messaging. They make YouTube movies with their phones. They trust their phones. They love their phones. They carry their phones everywhere. The "third screen" is the first screen of their hearts and everyday lives.
And it is our job in the marketing community to figure out what, for most of us, is an entirely new platform. Does your marketing department even "own" an official iPhone? Do you routinely play around with a mobile phone just to see what can be done with it now? If you do not watch TV, you cannot design great campaigns for it. Ditto for mobile.
So, I am inviting you to join me in my personal "homework" for the next year. I am going to buy a sample of each of the latest type of mobile phone, and I am going to use them! Please join me. First step, learn how to update my Facebook via mobile. OK, this may take a while ...
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