I don’t know about you, but I can’t stop smiling at the South African Post Office’s current radio advertising campaign. If you haven’t heard any of them, then let me do my best to describe the gist of what they’re trying to say. (I’m sure Post Offices around the world have or are considering similar creative directions)
Basically they’re highlighting the ‘immediacy’ flaw of new communication technology, and then doing their best to convince you that writing and then posting a letter allows you to be far more deliberate about what you’re trying to say, and therefore minimising the chance of an error. So while you can’t delete a spur-of-the-moment voice mail or e-mail, you apparently can ‘say it better’ when pouring over a hand-written, hand-posted and hand-delivered letter.
What they fail to mention is that a traditional hand-written letter has tremendous downsides, hence the reason we’ve abandoned it – costs more; may arrive too late; may not arrive at all; might be mistaken for a bill or bank statement and never ever opened (who else uses traditional mail?); may cause the recipient to wonder if you’re one of those ‘green people’ who either despises or is afraid of the awesome technology advancements available to us, etc, etc.
Am I painting a picture as absurd as their campaign is?
Let me transfer their thinking process to another industry. Cars. (I think it’ll work in any industry, I just like cars) Imagine BMW running a campaign trying to convince you to ignore all the modern developments in motor-car technology so that you’ll buy one of the original BMW’s?
‚So they’re not as safe, but who needs all the modern safety features when you can’t go fast enough to hurt yourself? So they don’t have the comforts of modern cars, but surely being seen driving an original machine overrides the need for air-con, digital sound, DVD for your children in the back, heated seats, etc, etc. So we can’t match the kind of fuel efficiency of today’s modern cars, but truth be told we don’t recommend you drive the original further than 20km from an authorised BMW mechanic.‛
Maybe on the weekend, or even once a month, but I’ll have the latest 5-Series over one of the originals any day.
Post Offices around the world, listen up! Hand-written, hand-posted and hand-delivered mail is cute. It’s nice to do once in a while, if you’re trying to create a turn of the 19th century small English village effect, but for fast, immediate, efficient, hard core, cost effective communication, give me a cell phone, my e-mail and instant messaging.
Instead of finding a new path, the Post Office is spending money trying to slow down the inevitable. Guys, you’re shouting against thunder (due to the family oriented nature of this e-zine I am not permitted to write the phrase I would have liked to)
If I may I’d like to highlight another industry putting up an even bigger fuss than the Post Office. Their current behaviour show all the signs that they’re going to go kicking and screaming into the new century and they’ll do whatever they can to do so. Even arresting their customers as a show of their apparent strength. I’m referring to the multi-media / entertainment industry.
They’re in crisis. We know that, they know that. Their crisis is a simple one really. It is not, however, what they’d have us believe!
They’d have us believe that the world has gone crooked and that everyone is fast becoming a thief. They’re spending millions parading themselves as a moral authority who are going to save us from ourselves. They’re also working on behalf of those poor ‘artists’ who fear that their multi-million dollar salaries are in jeopardy. Stories are surfacing in the US and around the world of people being arrested and sued for their crimes against this poor defenseless industry.
Before I go on here let me say that I unequivocally and absolutely do not support criminal activity. I do think a distinction must be made between the crooks and the customers who find themselves in a business model transition. The interesting thing about this business model transition is that it’s not being driven by the industry, it’s being driven by the customer.
There are crooks in the game. They are maliciously making money off of companies by re-packaging and selling products that don’t belong to them. They’re organized, deliberate and deserve to be pursued by the long and short arm of the law.
Like the Post Office, here’s an industry that refuses to re-invent itself. Their business model is being shown up by a new and improved channel of delivery, the internet. Suddenly the customer has seen some of the obvious flaws of the old (our old, their current) model. Let me list just two of them (I have many):
“ They make their customers purchase 17 songs on a CD when they only want to listen to 2 of them.
They have to buy 17 because that’s how many can fill up a CD. Artists are forced to write more
songs than they should, and the customer has to listen and pay for the 15 that should never have
been. (by the way there’s a great story as to why a CD stores the amount of data it does. Another
time though)
“ When you pay for a DVD, CD (music or video) you’re actually buying a license to use the media
contained on the medium. The license has certain restrictions, but it does allow you to use that
specific media as much as you’d like to within the restrictions. However, and this is a biggie as far
as I’m concerned, when your medium breaks (the video, CD or DVD) they won’t replace the
medium at the medium cost (just a few shells). You have to purchase the entire license and
medium again, at full price. Software companies get this. Take a damaged CD back to Microsoft
and they charge you only for the cost of the CD (a few shells) and not the cost of the license to
use it.
Why are things the way they are? It’s a question we should ask about a lot of stuff we do every day. But my guess is because this is the business model that allows these multi media / entertainment companies to make the most money possible. Another truth is that we’re suckers. We’ve bought into this model as being the only model available and hence we’ve supported it for so long.
But then along came the Internet and things changed. The customer’s eyes were opened when they heard about a different model. Then the customer tested out this new model, and they liked it. Of course they liked it. It means they can listen to what they want, when they want and how they want to. All of a sudden they had freedoms that they were never offered before.
Back to the post office analogy quickly. They could send things now! Things they wanted to get where they sent them, in just a few seconds. No more long lines or bad attitude Post Office staff. They were guaranteed that what they sent would arrive, and what’s more they’d get an automated message to let them know it was so. It was cheap, oh so cheap. Why would they ever hand-write and hand-post a hand-delivered letter again? It’s a no-brainer. The Post Office missed what was going on. They never saw what was happening and so were never able to jump in on a good thing. Today the option they’re pursuing is to spend big money attempting to slow the Tsunami called the Internet. Now that’s the absurd picture I was shooting for.
Multi-media / entertainment people listen up! Your customer is not trying to destroy your business. They simply found a good thing. At first you never saw it, and while you’ve woken up now, you haven’t been able to jump in on this great thing yet. Your customer is a powerful force. They want to pay for what is fair to pay for (you’ve done the research and you know it), but because you can’t find a way to charge for it, should they continue to drive 50 year old BMW’s or write hand written letters? (apologies if mixing these analogies is proving difficult for you)

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