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Everything New is Old Again

Over the holiday season I had the pleasure of reading an enlightening little book entitled “The Last Original Idea: A Cynic’s View of Internet Marketing.”  Authors Alan K’necht and Geri Rockstein provided much needed food for thought.

According to the book description, The Last Original Ideaactually is an original idea – highly unusual in a world where “recycle” is the order of the day. It takes a light hearted look at the state of Internet marketing today and traces back each of the elements to its historical roots, clearly demonstrating that companies who understood the mistakes of the past were able to be profitable in the present. Others are a mere memory, lost in cyber-space.
In an industry where we are constantly enamored with the hot new innovation, this book provides some badly needed perspective. The Last Original Idea takes the reader on a fascinating journey through human history to trace the roots of the new and shiny communication tools of today. It’s a must read for anyone seeking to demystify the fast paced world of Internet Marketing, as well as those who need to put their feet back on solid ground.
As a student of history, I really appreciated this historical approach to Internet Marketing.  The book echoed several ideas that had been rolling around in my own brain for quite some time.
What did marketing look like before mass market media like TV, radio, and national newspapers?  We get so caught up in explaining to people how Social Media has changed the face of marketing by taking what has been a one-way monologue of broadcasted advertising to a two-way conversation with customers as equals, as if it’s something completely new.
I guarantee you that the owner of a general store in the outposts of the Old West did not use mass market media to get the word out about his wares.  He valued good old fashioned word-of-mouth more than anything.
When a farmer came in from the outlying country-side, you can be sure that the proprietor of the general store spent time catching up on news of the farmer’s neighbors and sharing the juicy tidbits from town as he helped to load up his customer with supplies.  Once the wagon was loaded and the farmer was about to be on his way, don’t you think the guy running the store would very naturally remind the farmer to mention to the neighbors along the way where he got that great deal on feed and seed?
For as long as there has been trade and commerce, there has always been the value of recommendations from existing customers.
Isn’t that what Social Media Marketing is at its core, good ol’ fashioned word-of-mouth?  The big difference is that Social Media is not restricted by time or space.  Now that highly valued referral can go around the world in an instant.  And just like in the good old days, people are seeking out the advice of friends they trust.  Thanks to Social Media, those friends could be spread all over the country and still be as easily reached as the neighbor next door.
As pointed out in The Last Original Idea, there truly is nothing new under the sun, only better and faster ways of doing it.  It’s when we understand what fundamental lies at the heart of the latest and greatest that we can use those tools to the greatest effect.

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