The book “The Revenge Of Analog”…
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…has been attracting a lot of attention and favourable reviews both in the general media and among folks in the direct response marketing community like Dan Kennedy.
Here’s my review of the book (originally published in my January 2017 newsletter to clients)….
With Virtual Reality headsets on widespread sale this last Christmas and the “Internet of Things” entering the mainstream language it might seem that we are firmly on course for a digital (and largely “virtual”) world. It’s not so long ago that the conventional wisdom was that books, newspapers, magazines and paper-based items would largely disappear. Indeed, the long-predicted “Paperless Office” would soon be here (again).
But…in recent years, something odd has happened…
“A funny thing happened on the way to the digital utopia. We’ve begun to fall back in love with the very analog goods and ideas the tech gurus insisted that we no longer needed. Businesses that once looked outdated, from film photography to brick-and-mortar retail, are now springing with new life. Notebooks, records, and stationery have become cool again. Behold the Revenge of Analog.”
David Sax takes a look at these developments and what they might mean in the book “The Revenge of Analog”. By “Analog” he means something “not digital”.
The book is divided into 2 main sections…
PART 1 takes a look at the new markets for vinyl records, paper products, film photography and board games to show how the businesses that make and sell legacy analog goods succeed today by tapping into the fundamental consumer desires driving the resurgence of these products.
PART 2 draws lessons from publishing, retailing, manufacturing, education and even Silicon Valley to demonstrate the innovative and disruptive potential of analog idea’s in today’s digitally focused economy, and the advantages they bring to those who embrace them.
What becomes clear is that the digital experience often isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and often the analog product delivers a more enjoyable experience. And this doesn’t just apply to cranky and curmudgeonly old people indulging in a nostalgia trip to relive the lost days of their youth. Perhaps surprisingly, the growth in vinyl record sales, as one example, is driven by people in the 18-34 age group.
Sax makes explicit something many of us feel implicitly. Real, tangible things matter. And they make a difference in ways that are not always obvious. In the second part of the book, Sax looks at how “analog ideas” (more simply, the traditional way of doing things) can produce superior results in areas like education.
This second part of the book should be of great interest to marketers and provides a great deal of validation to “Old School” types (like Dan Kennedy) who have resolutely insisted on the importance of things like physical newsletters, direct mail and physical products. In particular, if you are involved in Information Marketing there is a BIG DANGER in moving away from physical products to an all-digital model.
There’s a telling comment from the vice-president of marketing at Evernote…
“People get excited about physical products. They get emotionally attached to things. When have you done that with an app?”
Indeed and it’s the emotional connection that’s the important thing for marketers. In a world and a marketplace where the risk of being reduced to the status of a commodity supplier is all too real, the importance of being able to differentiate your business and establish a genuine connection with your customers has never been greater.
The book is in no way arguing that the digital revolution is going to be rolled back in any significant way. The internet and the “Information Economy” really is a lasting transformation in human affairs. However, the technological future is unlikely to be as clear cut as we may have thought. A very interesting book and well worth reading for marketers. I suspect that this is a book that will be talked about a lot in the next few months.
The key point to note from the section above is how non-digital media (what Sax calls “analog”) is more effective at engaging and connecting. For marketers, this means better results with both existing customers and prospects.
There’s a further issue here…the ongoing impact of the Internet on marketers and business in general. The Information Age certainly presents great opportunities for marketers, but it also contains some big threats. None more serious than the problem of commoditization. Simply, if you sell a product that can be offered by Amazon, then you’re at risk. If you are an Information Marketer of any kind, there’s the problem of the vast amount of “free” information that’s available on pretty much any topic you can think of.
The solution is easy to prescribe – differentiate – but harder to implement. In a recent “No BS INFO-Marketing Letter”, Dan Kennedy offers 3 ways to do this…1. Personality 2. Process 3. Source/Nature of Customer. The second method…Process…is largely about HOW you go about interacting with customers and prospects. One way to do that is the old-school approach of physical interaction. That could mean building your business around actual in-person meetings and events. It could well involve using physical products and things like hard-copy newsletters. It might even involve such “old” technology as direct mail.
Now, when digital and “virtual reality” are so good, so easy, so convenient, so cheap and widely thought of as more desirable, why would you want to place yourself firmly in the “physical world”? Two reasons (1) Differentiation and (2) Effectiveness.
Looking at the first point, when most marketers are rushing lemming-like into the digital world, standing apart is a clear way to stand out. On its own, that’s not necessarily a good reason of course. But what if the physical realm is actually a better and more profitable place to do business as well?
That’s pretty much the message in “The Revenge of Analog”. Real things and the “real world” continue to matter to people. Real things can create an emotional effect that digital doesn’t match. In marketing and, especially, sales, where it’s all about the emotional connection and impact, this is crucial to getting the results you want. Another recent book, “Uncopyable” by Steve Miller makes the case that the key to lasting business success is…
“You must create an Uncopyable Attachment with your customers. They must see you as not only delivering a superior product but also a high-value relationship they simply cannot get anywhere else.”
So, I’m not suggesting you go “Amish” and shun the digital world. However, the future for smart marketers may well involve many familiar features from the past and involve the “real world” in a significant way. You might even think of it as “The Return Of Analog Marketing”.