A few years ago when I was clearing out my father’s business office, I came across a file folder marked “Save Forever.” Thinking that there were important family records, a list of what was in the safety deposit box, passwords to accounts, or other treasures, I eagerly opened the folder. Inside were print examples of fabulous creative campaigns (ads, brochures, etc.) for products. My father owned an advertising agency, thus the contents started to make sense in the sense that breakthrough creative was what he valued in his business life.
What didn’t make sense to me was what I was supposed to do with this. “Save Forever.” Was this my father’s forever or my forever or the lifespan of the brands–many of which were now defunct?
On my wall, I have a quote from a freind that roughly translated says: “Time goes on, you know, and everything changes.” I embrace change. I look forward to it. When there isn’t enough change in my life, I create some; much to the consternation of my husband, some friends and family. Therefore, the dilemma was how to balance my view of change with my father’s direction of saving something forever.
So I did what I had to do: I threw out the folder.
Why? Because my father was also a change-maker. The contents of the folder were innovative ideas. The idea of saving something for historical value was also extremely important to my father, but this wasn’t history he was saving. This folder was his way of remembering that products need radical ideas and novel approaches to make an impact on a customer. He never wanted to forget that innovation and creativity are the changes that make a difference in his business. By saving these visuals, he could remind himself how innovation had to remain central to his work.
While change is the only constant, the underpinnings of what we do remains firm. An example is the proliferation of new media that has turned marketing and communications on its head. The trouble for many marketing people is that they think that there are no underpinnings. Just “get this to the Mommy bloggers” or “make sure this goes viral” and success for a brand in ensured–as if the new media were a broadcast format as the old media has always been.
The underpinnings of the new media are the same as the old: strategy and marketing fundamentals come first; tactics and execution follow. If new media were the startegy itself, it wouldn’t be called “media,” it would be called “new marketing strategy.” The same holds true for radically innovative creative executions. If creative is being done to win award shows, then it isn’t marketing, it’s art.
If my father had lived to see the new media era ushered in, he would still have kept his “Save Forever” file of print creative pieces, as proof that paradigm shifts should and must take place in any business. Even a 73-year-old brand like “Old Spice” took command of new media last week to create an internet meme which went viral to what seemed like every person not sitting (or containing an oil spill) on a beach in a cone of media silence. My Dad would have been proud, and saved the Old Spice Guy link to YouTube in his (now) electronic file folder.
What will you put in your “Save Forever” file and what will you jettison as you keep up with the changes happening around you? And while you’re thinking about this, write a few sentences on your philosophy of saving what you do. Your kids will thank you–and maybe even start their own file of “save forever” items, as I’ve done.