Pens, Pencils, Erasers … And Good Ideas.

About a week ago, I was looking for a hook to hang a trademark certificate on the wall in our office when I came across some antiques from the past. Ink cartridges for my Cross fountain pen, ink refills for Cross ballpoint pens, Pentil refill leads for mechanical pencils, and a couple packages of Pentel Clic Erasers. These used to be part of my office equipment, along with unlined sketch books that I took notes in. In their place, an iPad, Evernote, Penultimate, Smartsheet, Google apps and various other web-based tools that I now rely on.

I am old enough to remember the days before the cell phone…when as a salesman, getting off a plane meant making a made dash to the bank of pay phones to connect with the office. I still remember the first computer my company purchased — an IBM PC XT, to which we soon added several of the early Macs with those eyestrain-inducing 9″ screens. I’ve experienced the rise of the Internet from an arcane academic/military network, to the most dominant force society has ever experienced, if measured by its ability to make the globe smaller and build social connections across continents.

Through it all, as a marketing professional, there is a thread connecting all these evolutions/revolutions. That thread is that that no mattter what the current technology environment, no matter what the economy, no matter how the customer consumes media, it still takes good creative and/or good content to  spark the emotional connection needed to get a reader to act. With all the new technologies available to track and auto-respond to consumers, it is easy to get caught up the “how” of complex, multichannel marketing campaigns, and to lose sight of the “what”… as is what messages or content we are presenting the reader. Too often, I see creative executions that smack of “we speak” (we being the advertiser and their agency) instead of “you speak” (as is what do you the customer want). I engage routinely with people who express that “QR codes don’t work”. In fact, they work perfectly well when the financial or content-driven incentives are in place.

The digital revolution is an exciting time to be in marketing. But for all the cool tools we have at our disposal to support marketing objectives, the most powerful tool of all remains the one sitting our shoulders.

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