The sad death of Frank Carson, one of the UK’s best-loved comedians has brought about a wealth of tributes today from many people in the entertainment world. By all accounts not only was he a funny man, but a genuinely nice man. Indeed, he was so well thought-of that Pope John Paul II awarded him a Papal Knighthood in 1987 for his significant charitable work. Throughout the day on radio and TV there have been tributes to Frank from many “old school” comedians. Clips from old shows, like “The Comedians” and “The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club” reminded us all of what comedy was like in the “old days”. It’s not like it is now.
Nostalgia is a funny thing itself. We look back to the past with doleful eyes, wishing it was just “like then”. But, of course it isn’t. The pictures and the sound on those old clips of Frank Carson are pretty ropey, even though they have the benefit of modern technology. Do we really want TV like it used to be? And Frank Carson himself did not stick to the past; indeed one of the reasons he had a lifelong success in comedy was because he kept up with the times, not trying to recreate the past all the time. After all, when he was in his late 70s he was cracking jokes about Viagra…! (A man goes into Boots and says: “Have you got Viagra?” “Do you have a prescription?” asks the chemist. “No,” he replies, “But I’ve got a photograph of the wife…” – It’s a cracker!).
Success is often associated with reinventing yourself or your business. After all, Sir Cliff Richard is nothing like he used to be, neither is Madonna nor is Marks and Spencer or Tesco. All have adapted, changed and taken on new ways of doing things to move with the times. Meanwhile, struggling firms are largely trying to recreate the good old days, failing to adapt and hoping that all this new-fangled stuff will disappear soon.
Sadly, such attitudes are prevalent in a new study of marketers from big brands. This research shows that many of the companies are wishing they were in the past, failing to take up the challenge the Internet poses and trying to force the “old world” order onto the web. For instance, the way the big brands spend money online is almost exactly the same way they spend it offline – mostly on “branding” and “direct response”. Even though the Internet provides a host of other ways in which to engage with customers and potential clients, the marketers are still allocating their cash along traditional lines.
Similarly, when it comes to measurement the most important factors for these marketers are how quickly people can get to see the brand. In other words, rather like getting your logo on TV or your poster up next to the motorway, the online marketers for big brands are still focused on getting the brand known and recognised. One of their least important measures, according to the study, is any kind of counting of actual new business.
What the study tells us is that the people who answered the questions in this study are not interested in using online marketing in ways which it can excel. Instead, they are doing the same old, same old. Is it any wonder that traditional companies are facing such threats from online competition? Shoe shops are going to the wall as online shoe sales from a former bookshop (Amazon) take hold, for instance. Google dominates the “find a company telephone number” business, when Yell should have sewn that up a decade or more ago. You get my drift.
Looking backwards, hoping that the future will be like the past is a nostalgic attitude which businesses cannot afford – particularly with the speed of change online. After all, towards the end of last year Google launched Google+ amid a fanfare of tributes that it was the fastest growing social network. Not any more – it has been pipped at the post already by young upstart, Pinterest, which not only is growing more rapidly than any other social network but is already making money, which is practically unheard of in such new ventures.
Clearly things are changing ever-more rapidly online and that means businesses simply cannot afford old thinking any more.
To some extent, I’m really rather hoping the research data is a joke – a cracker…!
- It was the way he told them: Frank Carson’s best crackers (mirror.co.uk)
- Frank Carson: Northern Irish comedian dies, aged 85 (telegraph.co.uk)
- How Twitter Is Changing the Craft of Comedy (mashable.com)