3 Stories

March 16, 2012
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Sometime as we go through the routines of our jobs and our lives, it is easy to get caught up in the tasks at hand.  We have deadlines, rating books, sales goals, and other obligations.  Often it’s just difficult to spend time thinking about the future because the present is so damn busy.

That’s why as much as I hate it, I love flying.  Even with Wi-Fi enabled planes, taking a trip – especially cross-country – gives you plenty time to air out mentally, catch up on reading, and the all-important contemplation time.

So earlier this week, I did just that, and in my stack of newspapers was The Wall Street Journal.  And in their “Marketplace” section, I ran across three stories that screamed the same message to me:

EVERYTHING’S CHANGING… AND FASTER THAN WE THINK

Let me give you the proof:

Story #1: “End of Era For Britannica

Yes, that’s right – Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. will cease printing its books and shift their entire focus to digital.  As someone who actually sold encyclopedias door-to-door one summer, this bit of news isn’t shocking, but nonetheless, speaks to the rampant change that permeates our lives.  Here’s this quote from Jorge Cauz, its president:

“This is not a sad day at Britannica.  We are a fully digital company.”

In 1990, Britannica printed 120,000 sets of books; in 2010, it was down to 12,000 (and 3,500 are still unsold).  You can see why they’re ready for the digital transition.

Story #2: “P&G’s Marketing Chief Looks To Go Digital”

Procter & Gamble’s head of marketing, Marc Pritchard, announced a major shift in ad spending.  With a goal of saving $10 billion by 2016, P&G is cutting $1 billion from this year’s budget, saving on paying marketing executive salaries as well as less traditional advertising.

Here’s his quote:

“I took a small group of people when I first got here to learn everything we can about digital and get that through the company…Some of the brands that I think are farthest along on this journey: Pampers, Old Spice, Secret, [skincare products] SK-II business in Asia. We’re really brand agnostic. It’s who’s interested, who wants to push it. We love to see people try different things and watch it explode.”

For P&G, this change in emphasis impacts a number of their brands where experimentation is at the heart of their digital thinking.  This is one of the world’s most traditional brands and they’re doing some untraditional things.

Story #3: “Start-Ups Resist Facebook’s Pull”

You read it right – at SXSW, more new companies are leaning away from aligning with Facebook because of changes within the social media giant’s brand policies.  This represents a major change because so many companies saw the success of brands like Zynga (maker of “Farmville”) that were tied directly to Facebook and jumped on the “brandwagon.”

But today, there’s a pull in the opposite direction because of the fear of becoming too dependent on Facebook.  Here’s a quote from Chi-Hua Chien, a venture capitalist with Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers:

“Twelve months ago, every entrepreneur would have said ‘I’m going to build my company around Facebook’s platform.’ Now every entrepreneur says ‘I’m going to build my product, and Facebook will be a key component.’”

But Facebook isn’t going to be their “mother ship.”  We’ve talked about brands tying too much of their marketing and relationship-building in channels they don’t own, and this may be some new evidence that suggests a new trend could be forming.

So, three amazing stories in the same section of the Journal, all on the same trajectory – things are happening quickly, and much of today’s conventional wisdom will no doubt be refuted by the winds of change.  Encyclopaedia Britannica, Procter & Gamble, and a pull away from Facebook by up and coming companies are strong indicators.

Wait until I get on my flight home from the West Coast with five hours and lots of reading to do.

The one thing we know that’s certain about the future is just how uncertain it will be.

Safe travels this weekend.

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