Published on: November 29, 2012
This commentary is available as both text and video; enjoy both or either. To see past FaceTime commentaries, go to the MNB Channel on YouTube.
Hi, I'm Kevin Coupe and this is FaceTime with The Content Guy.
Over the years, I've enjoyed focusing on the traditions and items that have gone, sometimes in a fairly short period of time, from being absolutely critical to how we live our lives, to being tangential, irrelevant or even obsolete.
Like the yellow pages. Or the Rolodex. Or the pink "while you were out" pad. Or the VHS tape.
It seems to me that the fax machine has entered this territory. I have one, and use it occasionally. But I'm pretty sure that when it breaks down, I'm not going to spend any money fixing or replacing it. And it doesn't seem like all that long ago that I saw my first fax machine and marveled at the technology.
I recently was talking to a top retail executive about a company retreat I'm going to be speaking at in a few months, and he reminded me that when I did the same event just a few years ago, I did this exercise with the group in which they perused non-food and non-business related magazines looking for interesting marketing ideas. That wasn't that long ago, but now, the idea of using print magazines for such an exercise seems so 20th century...
Well, the other day I encountered another example. We were driving our son to the airport, and he needed a tissue. There weren't any in the car, and neither my wife nor he had one. They turned to me, but all I had was my handkerchief - and they were amused and a little totally grossed out by the fact that I am some sort of dinosaur that uses a handkerchief.
Right there in the car, we did a little research online, and I have to admit that in the tissues-vs.-handkerchief debate, my side seems very old and sort of antiquated in its ideas. I've asked a lot of people about this question since then, and pretty much everyone I've talked to goes with the "Kevin, you're a relic of another time" position. Except for issues of sustainability - tissues get thrown out, while handkerchiefs get washed and reused - there seems to be very little support out there for a handkerchief resurgence. And while it is hard to find any numbers to support this, I have to believe that the companies that make old fashioned handkerchiefs have had to diversify to survive. You know, into things like socks and underwear and pocket squares.
I find this fascinating. When I get ready in the morning, the act of putting a clean handkerchief into my pocket is every bit as much a part of my routine as brushing my teeth. I'd feel naked if I didn't have one in my pocket, and I cannot even imagine switching to tissues. (Besides, I used to watch "Mannix." Forget blowing your nose - you never know when you are going to need a handkerchief to hold a piece of evidence or wipe the fingerprints off a doorknob or gun handle.)
Think about this for a minute. There was a time, not that many years ago, when everybody carried handkerchiefs ... it was simply part of their wardrobe.
I wonder how many people are like my other son, who says that he has a dozen handkerchiefs in his dresser drawer, given to him by his grandfather ... and never unwrapped, because he cannot imagine why he'd use one.
And I wonder how many people are like me, clinging to the habits of days gone by.
I'm betting that there are a lot more people like him.
Things change. Habits shift. Marketers have to be vigilant.
And that's nothing to sneeze at.
That's what is on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.
- KC's View: