Michael Leis dropped into Minneapolis this week to speak to our agency about interactive trends in 2009. His presentation was fantastic. My head was spinning and it’s still reeling a little bit. He just operates on a different wavelength and thinks about things in a way that forces you to pause. Often when people give a presentation about trends, they focus on telling you about things that you NEED to be on top of. They point to tools, technologies, and places that you MUST check out, get involved in, invest in, or purchase. The message comes across in a way that makes it seem if you don’t invest you will fail.
I remember listening to a vendor, called Wink, in 1999 explaining that 2000 was going to be the year of interactive television. He explained how people would be able to interact in real time with the shows they were watching. Like the shirt Rachel is wearing on Friends? Awesome, with the flick of a finger you can learn more about it and even purchase it. Folks, it’s 2009 and we still can’t do that We’re getting closer to that experience, but it’s a long way off. I guess that trend was wrong. Can you imagine if we advised BMW, our client at the time, to invest in interactive television instead of funding BMW Films?
Michael really hit on the point that you need to stop chasing what’s next. It’s not about the next Facebook. Or the next YouTube. Or even, the next iPhone. Just stop. The answers aren’t there. If you are always chasing the next bright shiny object, you’ll never get any traction. There’s an old line that’s been used and reused thousands of times by thousands of people: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” On many levels this is true. Nike wasn’t chasing the next thing when they created Nike+. Nike simply created the next thing. Think about it. Nike could have partnered with Facebook or Google directly. They could have worked with cell phone companies to make the technology work on existing hardware and the cellular networks. Instead, the decided that the next big trend was something they were going to create. It was bold. It was beautiful. And it’s successful.
This isn’t to say we should ignore trends. Trends are very important. We should monitor trends. We should evaluate them. We should invest in the RIGHT ones, not everyone. Just because your competitor is on Twitter, doesn’t mean you need to be. You don’t necessarily need a widget, iPhone app, or a presence on Tivo. You might. But, you shouldn’t invest in those places just because they’re new, under leveraged, and somewhat fertile ground.
2009 is feeling a lot like 2000 to me. It feels like everyone is dumping their money online and hoping for a big bang. While I applaud the companies that are finally realizing the power of the interactive medium, I also need to caution them that they need to be focused on their business problems and not what AdAge says they need to do.
This year stop looking for the next big thing and start focusing on results.