Instead, many of the simple, totally outdated pleasures that I indulge in—film cameras, vinyl records—have managed to claw their way back to something approaching mainstream popularity. I’m not mad about it. As with art production and consumption, when it comes to content technology, it turns out that sometimes the old stuff really was better.
So, You’re Like, Don Draper, Right?
When I tell most people what I do as a content marketer, they immediately conjure up ideas of immaculately tailored suits and classy hats, whiskey at 11:00 a.m. board meetings, and creating the most iconic ad campaigns in the world. While my reality isn’t quite that glamorous, there’s a lot of wisdom in the resurgence of the Mad Men version of marketing. When it comes to ideating new ad campaigns, new tech is just a new tool. People still want the same things, and marketing is based on many principles that are still relevant.
I just wish I got to look as cool as Don Draper.
Analog is Just More Real
So is my taste for film cameras and vinyl records the byproduct of some hipster mind-manipulation machine, or is there something more to it? Why have records experienced a resurgence while VHS players have disappeared faster than the dodo?
The reality is that some things are perceived as more “real,” and whether they are or aren’t is irrelevant. Consumers crave authenticity and integrity, and because records have that reputation, they’re thriving in the digital age. It’s no secret that consumers are suffering from digital fatigue. Records aren’t popular because men in suspenders with curly mustaches like them (though that doesn’t hurt). They’re popular because they sell the promise of something tangible and high-fidelity that somehow promises a closer connection to the artist. And that sort of thing is priceless in the stream and download era.
I bought my first Lomo LC-A camera almost half a decade ago before I embarked on a cross-country bicycle trip. I wanted something durable and cheap that wouldn’t need batteries or computer access or any other electrical shenanigans. I got interested in film photography after my grandfather gifted me an enormous fixed-lens Canon, but I wanted something tougher and less sentimental to take on my trip. Enter Lomography—the stalwart of the analog photography movement, which has grown into a multimillion dollar company in the age of Instagram and digital cameras and 50-megapixel cell phones.
There’s no secret to how they did it. They stubbornly continued to meet a need without insisting that they fight the trend toward fleetingly digital everything. And it worked. Painting didn’t die when the camera was invented; there’s no reason why all analog processes would die just because digital became the most common media.
If you develop a story of complimentary authenticity rather than rogue resistance, your reach can be much larger than just the penny-farthing-riding, excessively long-bearded folk who claim they only write with typewriters and drive Model Ts. Whatever channel your marketing department targets, it’s important to stick to your roots. Gimmicks are just that—fun for a day but forgotten just as quickly—instead of chasing the latest and greatest, focus on your content first and your channel second. Lomography told the story of a bunch of art students who liked experiencing the process of a photo instead of chasing the speed and megapixel train. And millions of people really liked that story.
Looking Backward, Thinking Forward
Although much of Don Draper’s wisdom is timeless and some things sound better on vinyl, a lot of the best innovation is not about reinventing the wheel. Those clichés about learning from history? There’s a reason they persist. It’s not that we have to start building reissue tape decks for our Priuses, but paying homage to the perceived authenticity of our past is a great way to build consumer trust and free yourself from the rat race of trying to outpace technological innovation. Aiming for a timeless image and learning from time-tested content technology can be cost-effective and generate results. Great stories are great stories whether you read them in a magazine or on a Kindle, and the same goes for every marketing campaign. I apologize for wearing denim-on-denim, but I won’t ever apologize for enjoying the ritual of spinning a great album start-to-finish on my turntable.
You shouldn’t ever apologize for believing in the value of your story more than the 3D goggles through which your competitor wants to tell theirs.
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About the AuthorMore Content by John Montesi