Gary Vaynerchuk is famous for shouting into that camera that “it’s time to market in the year we actually live in”. He, and many other people like him, have been responsible for pulling marketing budgets out of the dusty old newspapers, and into the new digital spaces that people are actually paying attention to.

They’ve also pushed otherwise well-meaning Marketing teams to swing the pendulum so far in the other direction that they’re committing the same sin of poorly targeted communications, just on the opposite side of the adoption curve.

You’re probably familiar with the Rogers innovation adoption curve, so I’ll just point out a couple of things that apply specifically to the practice of earning people’s attention (AKA: Advertising).


The theory goes that when an innovation (a real one) is introduced to the market, people start to jump on board in a fairly consistent pattern. Whether we’re talking about horse-less carriages, iPhones, or Instagram Stories, all changes pretty much follow the same narrative:

  1. The super-nerds jump on board. I use the term “nerd” in the most loving way possible: You’re nerdy about something, so am I. There’s something that you can’t wait to be the first to try — for me, one of those things is new restaurants — and these people are going to sign up for the Alpha version with little-to-no proof that the thing is actually going to be any good.
  2. The people who are paying attention try it out. These were the Twitter users in 2012, the Instagram users in 2014 and the people who have voice assistants in their homes right now.
  3. The top of the curve is where the majority of the market is, and it’s also where the competition starts to heat up. Have you tried starting an Instagram account from scratch recently?
  4. Fewer people are adopting the new thing in the Late Majority phase, but that’s because everyone else is already there. The market opportunity continues to grow in this phase, and there are SAAS products built for it, agencies that specialize in it, and at least as much misinformation as there are quality resources.
  5. You know that friend who runs a small business and proudly declares that he’s never needed a website? He’s way down there in the red section. It doesn’t mean that websites are any less useful, it just means that it’s no longer remarkable that you have one. To gain attention you have to create something worth paying attention to.

Those well-meaning marketers I was talking about? GaryVee helped to shove them from the right side of the curve over to the left. Notice something about the curve, however: It’s symmetrical.

That means that there’s the same tiny majority of attention at the cutting edge as there is at the trailing back end. Yet we think that an Augmented Reality advertising campaign is somehow smarter than a print spot in TV Guide.

Truly smart marketers take the advice literally. “Market in the year we actually live in” cuts both ways. We’re not yet in 2020. Yes, the nerds at CES and on YouTube are raving over the opportunities for brands in Virtual Reality, but before you blow your 2018 budget, ask a few of your real customers how often they’re firing up their Oculus headsets and interacting with branded content. It’s coming, no doubt, but it’s not here yet.

Truly smart marketers are allocating their resources proportionally to the attention, and paying close attention to what’s coming so that they’re prepared when the next big thing does start to pick up steam.

So What?

Facebook Carousel Ads.

Twitter Customer Service.

Instagram Storytelling.

High purchase-intent Google AdWords.

Problem-Solving YouTube Videos Optimized for Search.

None of those practices are getting you on the innovation panel stage at the next industry conference, but what they will do is deliver results. They are the places where the vast majority of attention is right now: in the 2nd Quarter of 2018.

That’s what I’m obsessed with right now: The opportunity that the rush to be “innovative” has left behind for those of us who are more interested in results than we are with shiny new things.

Would they all be ahead of the game if they had started investing in those places 5 or 10 years ago? Absolutely. That’s why you’ve got 10-20% of your resources out there trying, testing, and adopting things at the front of the curve.

My call to action for you this week is to take a look at where you’re spending your time and resources: Are you showing up for your community in a way that is legitimately valuable, in the places where they are actually paying attention? Or are you spending all of your time trying to get in with the nerds?

Speaking of communication channels that aren’t going away anytime soon: Email! I love my weekly Social Brief, and apparently so do the people who read it because it just keeps growing.

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