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Browse all ArticlesHow Companies Have Failed The Changing Consumer
Change and the Media
You don’t have to look far to see how much technology has changed us – and how easily we have adapted to it all. Just look around you right now. We’ve gone from fax machines to email to cell phones to Twitter in a matter of just a few years, while we also have gained our control of our choices by deciding when we listen to our music (iTunes), watch TV (DVR, TiVo) or watch a movie (Netflix, OnDemand).
But change is coming in many other areas, not the least of which is media. Currently, the newspaper industry is in great flux with newspapers slimming down staff to the bare minimum or threatening to close down. Or they’re closing altogether.
Ad revenue and circulation have dropped, costs are up and mainstream media is desperately trying to figure it all out.
Many are looking to charge for content on the Internet to save their bottom lines. The Tucson (Az.) Citizen is now completely onine, although it doesn’t charge for its content. Yet.
Charging for online content, however, is putting the cat back into the bag after it’s already escaped. Only the Wall Street Journal has made it work because it charged an online subscription fee right from the start.
For the rest, it’s going to be a long haul to nowhere.
In this research study, respondents were asked several questions about the media and only 11.2% said they would pay a subscription fee to read their local newspaper online.
If newspapers think online fees are the answer, they’re wrong. Many of those running our newspapers believe the situation is strictly economic.
But that’s not the case. There is an emotional reality at play mainstream media must face: They have become irrelevant.
The simple truth is that, while the fourth estate has been traditionally vitally important in our society, many Americans view it as one color in the rainbow, and a not a very important one at that.
Nearly half of American say their “life would be unaffected if my local newspaper were to fold,” a far cry from the bygone days of reading the paper each morning while having a cup of coffee.
Even the perception of what news is has changed. Two of every three Americans view news networks as entertainment. Gone are the days of Walter Cronkite. They’ve been replaced by Katie Couric and Wolf Blitzer’s The Situation Room.
Consider this: Yahoo posts its most viewed news stories of the day. Recently, the top 10 were:
- The secret life of penguins revealed
- Surprise! Daydreaming Really Works the Brain
- Rare blue diamond sells for record $9.5 million
- Texas museum acquires Michelangelo’s 1st painting
- Rotten office fridge cleanup sends 7 to hospital
- Dick Cheney: Why So Chatty All of a Sudden?
- Parasitic flies turn fire ants into zombies
- Craigslist to drop “erotic services” ads
- White House advises senators on health care bill
- Depeche Mode lead singer in hospital in Athens
The “Latest News” section on CNN.com on May 18 included stories on a mayor mowing city’s parks to save money, an eighth grader earning a degree, an eight-year-old boy living life as a girl and women finding friends at a roller derby.
What new media emerges as is still uncertain, but the research signifies that the audience for the mainstream media has changed and the industry has not changed along with it.
Which brings us to the automobile and banking industries.
Hoping they get it: Autos and Banks
Few industries have been as shaken by the economic situation than automobiles and banks, with the airlines coming in a close third.
The research certainly bears that out. Half of Americans (an even 50%) said all automobile manufacturers are out of touch, while even more than that (59.8%) said they were angry at the banking industry as a whole.
There are several reasons for this, many of which are well-known: Auto manufacturers, especially the Big Three in the U.S., were too slow to react to consumer preference for more economically and environmentally friendly vehicles and banks are blamed for causing the economic downturn in the first place.
There’s another factor, though. From the point of view of consumers, those industries have become old-fashioned and complacent.
An analysis of the marketing in both industries, for example, reveals the same conclusion: There is no difference between the brands and, therefore, few choices are truly made. Couple that with the rise of emotional intensity of “control” and you can conclude it’s no wonder consumers are less than empathic about the situations of automakers and bankers. Autos and banks look like the least innovative industries on the planet.
Consider the following two spots:
Is there really any difference between them? Have either Ford or Dodge given the consumer a reason to choose? These two spots are simply representative of the whole. We could have picked side-by-side hybrid car spots or even print ads of sports cars and you still see couldn’t slide a piece of paper between their differences.
It’s no wonder consumers see auto manufacturers and bankers as being behind the times. And yet they are the ones who have permission to try new things in the minds of consumers. Nearly 65% of Americans believe automakers, for example, will get it right.
What you see here is a general optimism coupled with the highest emotional intensities in the market – Being out of touch with realities of life in automobiles, anger in banking. In banking, safety and security are not the issues. Many banks talk about the kinds of things consumers already have or believe they have at their current bank – Safety, security, free checking, good rates, low fees, friendly service, etc. No wonder less than 3% of the market switches primary financial institutions each year.
In autos, the economic situation is worse, even though Americans are optimistic enough to give automakers permission to take a leadership role. By believing automakers will get it right, consumers are looking for innovation and believe the manufacturers can accomplish it.
In both of these industries, where status quo is king, the field is wide open for a brand to take a leadership role that can only be accomplished by being different and better.
The important thing to remember is that conclusion is true for any industry. Remember, nearly 70% of Americans say they remain open to new things but are waiting (staying at home, spending less) for it to happen.
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