The Geeks have Taken Over the Asylum

I feel a lot of the time I need to defend my opinions because I can be so contrary. I work in new media, and then I’m fast to bust on it.

Understand this about new media, if you understand nothing else: There are the geeks who adore new media and not coincidentally work inside of it, and there are normal people who could care less.

When you read a blog like this, it is almost always written by someone on the inside of the industry – either as a marketer, a manufacturer, a publisher, or some other “er” I can’t think of that makes money from technology. We tend to have very insulated opinions, and sometimes they bear little resemblance to the “outside” world.

So when I post an opinion that’s contrary to dogma, it isn’t because I’m trying to pull a Glenn Beck and piss people off for it’s own sake. I’m just more interested in what I can prove than what I can feel.

For example, this week, I got a post published on about how mobile marketing isn’t necessarily worth worrying about. Why would I say something like that? Because, as I’ve said since before this blog started, we still aren’t there yet with mobile. Phone apps haven’t proved they make boatloads of money for the companies that sponsor them. My argument – just for right now – remains the same:

  • The number of people with a phone is expected to increase dramatically, but hasn’t yet.
  • People still complete more purchases on their home computer. A lot more.
  • With several phone operating systems to create apps for, it becomes prohibitively expensive to target them all.
  • If you only target the iPhone, you’re still only potentially reaching some 0.5% of the consumer market.

And on and on. Phones definitely have potential to be as important as everyone says they already are, but they aren’t yet. The people who say they are that important already have an iPhone themselves, and are exposed to all sorts of new information about what is on the horizon for mobile.

The average user, however, has a flip phone that barely does SMS messages. They’ve heard phones can go online, and while that sounds neat, it also doesn’t sound necessary. They text their friends often enough, but hate SMS ads. They might respond to a giveaway that requires them to send a text, though.

These are the kinds of things you need to look into before you get serious about mobile, or e-mail, or radio, or any marketing tactic. Coming at the problem emotionally, because you love your own phone so EVERYONE must love phones, isn’t rational. Your own company or clients don’t need to be steered around by your own phone fetish. If you’re in love with mobile technology, great – but do some research on your market and how they use them before you start investing in a campaign.


  1. SOME industries and SOME people will benefit from early uptake of mobile, because they’ll be really comfortable and really ahead of the game when the market finally opens up to include more people. In the meantime, it’s a way to win the hearts and minds of the people who have to live on the cutting or bleeding edge, who have word-of-mouth power to pass along love for a product or service, as long as that product or service does its job outside that mobile sphere.

    This advantage isn’t a reality for most businesses, but the rabid New Media people will ignore this, because in their world New Media will save us all. It’s maddening because they devalue everything by saturating the info channel about things like mobile and twitter and whatnot with their over-emotional (you hit the nail on the head, pulling the emotion card) and completely unverifiable claims that it’s all changing.

    There’s absolutely a myopia that comes with surrounding yourself with tech culture. It’s hard to imagine people living without some kind of ultra-connected mobile device if you and all the people you associate with rely on that tech all the time. It’s a scene of sorts and it’s absolutely ludicrous that anyone would try to turn a scene’s ethos into a marketing revolution, but it is happening nevertheless.

    There’s a blog I’ll plug here: Bob Hoffman aka The Ad Contrarian is a traditional marketing guy working for a firm out in CA. When he’s not doing that he’s giving Old Media and New Media advertising flaks both barrels for the kind of unfounded tomfoolery that’s all the rage in his industry. He really helped me clear my head when I started heading toward the Kool Aid pitcher in earnest.

    Sort of funny to deal with your still-very-excitable industry peers when you finally realize that you’re soaking in it.

  2. Thanks, Giania. And thanks for hipping me to Bob Hoffman’s blog. Damn – that’s a lot of retweets for a Blogspot site!

    And I agree with you on the value of getting to the neat tech stuff first for the bragging rights, if the price is right. If it doesn’t take off, though, companies just look silly. (Remember Second Life?)

    IMHO, the best companies to have iPhone apps are going to be the ones whose customers are primarily tech geeks already. (Apple, Xbox, various pornography sites, etc.)

    But why Geico needs a mobile app I have no idea. Still, as I say, if it works out for them I’ll be among the first to copy their work. But I’ll keep it a secret, so it’s not like they’ll benefit from that either.

    At best, the guy who deigns, implements and succeeds for a company with mobile is going to benefit the most, as he/she will get a huge salary to speak about their success and consult with other companies.

    So maybe that’s why so many people are saying they’re into mobile: They want to be the poster child for success with it, and use their client’s site as the guinea pig?

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