Michael Tchong made an eloquent case that "ubertrends" are re-shaping our future at Brand Manage Camp 2013. Most of these mega-whopper-trends were, of course, linked to the digital revolution. The implication was that conventional marketing was for dinosaurs.
But is this really right?
Yes and no.
The digital lifestyle changes everything
There is no arguing with the idea that digital technology, especially mobile, has revolutionised the way we live. The images of the audience watching the Pope in 2005 and then in 2013 below shown by Michael make this point well. Michael peppered his talks with startling stats, such as the 219 billion photos on Facebook, and the fact that 44% of all email is opened on phones.
Some of this change is good. For example, I'm sitting here using software costing a few bucks a month to communicate with thousands of avid brandgym blog readers (that's you). Only 10 years ago it would have been impossible for a small company to have such a presence.
A lot of this change is really bad though, don't you think? People are so obsessed with their mobile devices that they are missing out life. Parents check their email during a family dinner whilst they complain that their kids are always on Facebook. Concert goers are so busy tweeting or Instagramming or facebooking that they are not really living the moment.
But hey, that's life, and the change is only going to accelerate.
So, surely this must mean the death of business and marketing as we know it?
Well actually, no it does not.
The digital lifestyle changes nothing
Michael showed the rapid growth in time spent online each day in the USA. But the data that I'm not sure many people noticed is that the minutes spent watching TV have actually also gone up. This is an example of the myth of substitution. The rise of one new media form doesn't necessarily mean the death of another. People thought DVDs would kill the cinema, but cinema attendance is quite healthy. People said the internet would kill TV viewing, but so far this is just not true.
And then look at newspaper reading. Surely the advent of the iPad means that people have stopped reading newspapers, right? Well, have a a guess what % of newspaper reading is done online, versus the old fashioned paper version.
What do you reckon.
Well, its actually only 10% according to a recent article in The Times. 90% of newspaper reading still uses the physical product. Paper newspapers are foldable, light to carry and people just like physical products. Of course newspapers are under threat, and need to embrace digital as part of their offering. But there is still a role for the physical product.
Finally, what about the future of brand communication in an era of Youtube, where 4 DAYS of video are uploaded each minute to be watched by 1 billion people a month? Well, Michael's choice of viral videos told a story. One video had a cat playing with a vacuum cleaner and another had a baby doing an evil stare.
Now, both of these videos are funny. And people spend/waste ages watching them, based on my teenage daughter's viewing habits. But the point is that people are watching cats and babies, not your brand's latest bit of brand communication. As I posted on recently, the viral video lottery means that only 0.33% of videos on YouTube get more than 1 million views. In other words, for every YouTube video of a cute cat that gets 1 million views, another 299 get less than this. And don't forget, unlike conventional media, these views are totally un-targetable. You have no control over who is watching them and where they are.
In conclusion, digital has changed the way we live for sure. But at the same time conventional marketing and physical products still have an important role to play, and will do for a long time to come.