The Lowdown on "Social Media" pt. 1

Take a look at the following video, and then read the rest of this blog post.

OK…now read the rest of the post. Don’t cheat. If you didn’t watch the video, you’re cheating!

So the video is a pretty good one, and provides a good history of the last 60 or 70 years of advertising and marketing. It starts with a world around 1940 that offered limited choices to buyers. Decisions were easy and so was marketing and advertising.

The age of mass everything— mass production, mass media, mass marketing and mass consumption — was an age of push down marketing to buyers. There was clearly an asymmetric relationship between the producers and the consumers. And the asymmetry was heavily weighted in favour of the producers. Producers of goods could use mass media to force their message to the masses. Mass media allowed for fast communication. But, while it scaled well, it wasn’t personal. It was basically unidirectional.

This was the status quo for several decades all around the world: limited media channels dominated by advertising from large corporations with few options for consumers to be heard.

Now we live in an age of immense choice, both for products and brands, but also for media. Social Media is all the rage right now. But people are treating it as if it is something completely new and  different. But in many ways, it’s the oldest form of “media” and certainly was around way before the age of “mass everything”. We just have to look a lot further back than the 1940s.


0 thoughts on “The Lowdown on "Social Media" pt. 1

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  3. saeed Reply


    While there is always brand dominance, there is far more choice today than there was a few decades ago. In some categories, such as US televsion, the old “big 3 or 4” networks are completely under assault by all the specialty channels. I remember when the Fox network started way back with with shows like 21 Jump Street, it was a big event. Now, Springsteen’s “57 channels and there’s nothing on” misses the mark by almost an order of magnitude.

    In any market segment like Coffee Shops, you’ll get 2 or 3 dominant players, but there are still lots of alternate choices. e.g. Peets Coffee in the US or in Canada, Tim Horton’s and Second Cup.

    And then even within brands there is fragmentation. How many different types of Nike running shoes can you buy today. How many different types of Levi’s jeans? How many different types of Coke are there?

    You make a distinction between the Web and the physical world, but in reality that distinction is artificial. There will be less variety in the “physical” world because there will be fewer companies that want to layout the cash for that physical presence when a Web presence will do.

    Amazon has not opened Amazon retail stores (as far as I know) but there is no denying they are a market leader, but there are many other choices, as any shopping engine will point out. And the reality is that on the Web, a store in Maine can compete with a store in California for the same customer.

    That’s pretty amazing in my mind.


  4. Ken Pomper Reply

    Hmmmm…. aren’t we in age of more brand dominance in most parts of life by fewer brands than ever before? Maybe there are lots of choices on the web, but, in the physical world, we have Starbucks, iPhone, KFC, Jay-Z, Best Buy etc squeezing out other choices. One only has to travel around the US (and the world to a lesser extent) to see serious mass homogenization. How does this lack of choice in so many aspects of life reconcile with your point of the present being an era of immense choice? Hasn’t the efficiency and seductivenessof of new forms of media actually increased the homogenization?

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  9. Dr. Jim Anderson Reply

    Social media isn’t really all that new. It’s just folks starting to talk with each other once again. We used to talk to our neighbors about what they thought of their new car after they bought it. Now we log on and ask the world what car would be right for us. Same question, just a different audience…

    – Dr. Jim Anderson
    The Accidental PM Blog
    “Home Of The Billion Dollar Product Manager”

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