Technology must earn public faith

The 21st century is fact. A loud minority of the marketing world, nay the civilised world, are Internet-enabled – able to differentiate between a portal and a Website – and have grown up to be fully-fledged search engine drivers.

Many others would still rather search the office for an A-Z than tap in www.ukmapco.co.uk.

So far, the Net heads have been characterised by a blind faith in the digital future that puts lemmings to shame, while the Luddites simply wait to ride out the storm.

Alan Mitchell’s article “Balance of brand power tips to ‘wired’ consumers” (MW January 6), which attempted to knock over poor old brand marketing practice with the brave new world of e-commerce, may have had readers thinking Iain Murray’s column had moved, but quill pen-enabled chairman and chief executives will be summoning their marketing directors on the strength of it.

There is a growing breed of cynical Net aficionados who recognise the potential of a valuable new channel but are still awaiting the revolution that will surely come when the Net heads no longer drive the Net.

E-tailing represents about two per cent of UK retailing, according to recent media reports, and Net take-up is slowing down. No one knows when saturation will be reached.

The history of technical developments illustrates that just because a technology creates a new way of doing things doesn’t mean human beings will want to adopt it. It’s amazing how many people still persist with those funny old-fangled newspaper things.

Underpinned by a top draw management consultant, Mitchell tells us that by presenting the consumer with a suite of perfectly tailored products, no doubt all in plain white packaging, and relieving the poor, hassled consumer of any choice we will no longer have to trouble ourselves with the quaint notions of brand value and brand communication. Oh, and the good news is that the software will allow us to do it.

This is all very well, but before I log on to the virtual mall that promises to know exactly what’s good for me they’re going to have to find a pretty powerful way of building my trust and faith.

When management consultants, renowned for their ability to express business processes as mathematical formulae, start to encroach on the more nebulous, but proven, abilities of the marketing industry to create brands that capture people’s hearts, we may as well all retire.

Whatever next? The actuaries department organising the Christmas party?

Rupert Lipton

Business development manager

Creative Leap

London EC1

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