If we had a keen vision of all that is ordinary in human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow or the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which is the other side of silence. — George Eliot
I came across this quote during college … presumably from Middlemarch … It’s always stayed with me. Filters. Gotta have ’em. Without filters it’s screeching chaos bombarding your senses. Telling you things you don’t need to know, taking your focus away from what you care about. Distracting you, obscuring the big picture with transitory external details.
In the old hierarchical business world, people were the main filters. But now that information has been unbound from a specific sect of individuals, now that everybody can participate in the great (and lame) debates of our time, personal categorization is less important. Knowledge and ideas can come from anywhere … an intern, a Tweet, a honcho, a whiney customer, and anonymous blog. Categorization and titles matter less and less. Being able to sort through the dreck and highlight the gems … to find and expand on value is what counts the most.
One of the biggest challenges for marketers is launching anything new at a time when people take new for granted. We don’t look for it … we assume anything and everything worthy will come to us. There isn’t as much of a sense of time. What’s old, what’s new. It’s all just now. We go through our lives like whales snacking on plankton. Mouths wide open, waiting for stuff we want or need to swim on in.
Such is modern life. Technology has changed which mental muscles get used. Math? Memorization? Spelling? Who needs them when you have a computer? Why waste the time and the bandwith? Why not use your juice making art? Or tackling meaningful problems like building fuel efficient modes of transport? Or making health care affordable? Or fixing public education?
The key for marketers is to help people create their own filters … and to work better with whatever filters they may already be employing. In exchange for their attention, give consumers a useful way to block out the noise and elevate the music. In the world of television marketing, this largely entails partnering with technology companies to create new user interfaces, new communication platforms and finding simple ways to integrate programming into all aspects of people’s lives (provided they want you there and invited you in).
It’s a daunting task, but a welcome challenge. More on this to come …