BrainTrust Query: Why the Medium is Increasingly the Message
Marshall McLuhan, who was born 100 years ago last week (July 21, 1911), authored “the medium is the message” in 1964. He explained that the nature of media influences how messages are received without receivers realizing it. For example, motion pictures require less interpretation by viewers than radio.
Digital marketing validates the same point in a completely new way. Current day technologies spawned by the internet allow messages to be fleeting, even expendable, as media platforms test and refine them.
The 1960s, the era of Mr. McLuhan’s writing, was a pre-clutter age. Good copy could break through because channels were not yet saturated with noise and consumers were not encumbered with tuning out annoyances.
Traditional marketing anointed messages as king. Magazine ads are a perfect example. Text-rich pages catered to a patient readership. Copy was conversational, emotion won over promotion, and benefits won over features. Virginia Slims weren’t thinner cigarettes, they were womens’ liberation embodied.
The age that began in the 90s and continues today has been called the “unbundled era,” the “cyber era” and the “audience era.” The biggest change brought on by digital media has been time compression. Both the creative cycle and the feedback loop can now be instant.
Shiv Singh, head of digital for Pepsico Beverages, last year stated to Internet Week, “We have to go from strategy to execution, not in months, but in a matter of seconds.”
Marketers like Harry Gold of Overdrive challenge planners to abandon the campaign altogether and embrace the channel. Campaigns have points of no return; they either work or they don’t. Channels go on forever; they can be measured, evolved and improved.
Access to customer data makes instant personalization possible. Retailers have a special ability to identify customer needs and deliver relevant offers, both through digital channels and direct from store associates.
Digital marketing has anointed the medium as king. Marketers can diversify their investment in messages rather than being forced to make big bets. This has yielded a law-like pattern: routine messages channeled intelligently beat intelligent messages channeled routinely.
When advertisers adopt “medium” thinking, digital shopper media generate higher returns for less risk.
Mr. McLuhan coined the “global village” and envisioned the worldwide web almost 30 years before it existed. He wouldn’t recognize marketing today. But his predictions about the reign of medium over message have never been truer than today’s digital era.
- The Medium is Increasingly the Message – Smart Retail Media
- Interview with Shiv Singh, digital head of Pepsico beverages – Scribe Media
- Switch to Camels austininfo.com – austininfo.com
- The Golden Age of Advertising – Buy Sight
- Forrester Research: The Future of Agency Relationships – Accenture
- Real-Time Marketing: How Today’s Marketers Are Deploying New Tactics – MarketingProfs
- Abandon the Campaign and Embrace the Channel – ClickZ
- Advertising differences between the 1960s and the 2010s – Buy Insight
- Tribute to Marshall McLuhan
Discussion Questions: Is the statement “the medium is the message” more true today than in the era it was coined? What are the opportunities and challenges of digital media as a medium?