Shakespeare, in As You Like It, talked about the seven ages of life; from infant through whining schoolboy, lover, soldier, justice, the sixth age to the second childishness. I see a similar pattern developing for the Internet.
During its infancy, users were seen as academics and students with no better friend than their modem. Then it became the preserve of a few high-brow males who spent lonely hours surfing.
The third stage is now upon us, although, rather than being Shakespeare’s lover, it is more a case of being the darling of certain sections of the marketing community.
How can the Net become the soldier that will deliver successful marketing communications to the majority of the population? In one word, familiarity.
While a lot of people have heard of the Net, few people use it. Familiarity with what the Web can provide is the key to purchase.
CIA MediaLab’s Sensor survey has been tracking familiarity with the Internet. Results show that today, a Web user’s profile is a single ABC1 male, aged 15 to 24, working full time. They tend to be light television viewers.
But that profile is changing. Results from our latest tracking of UK users reveal that the fastest-growing groups are women, people aged 35 to 54 and C1s.
With the proliferation of home computers it is not surprising that the Net is becoming mainstream. This is good for marketers, and converting this familiarity into use will be the key task over the next few years.
Even with this growth, its use requires careful consideration.
Most marketers still think only of banners and flags on the Web. An integrated strategic relationship with other new media is crucial. Marketers need to use everything from Websites and kiosks to CD-Roms and point-of-sale applications.
Our research indicates that the majority of users are no longer nerdy, light TV viewers, and that the future includes housewives. New media will be as much a part of their lives as old media. The Internet will have reached Shakespeare’s fourth age and soon will move to his fifth – the justice – whom everybody trusts.