In today’s hyper-fast paced world of public relations and marketing campaigns, so many practitioners working for tech brands are bent on what they’re competition is doing presently that they don’t consider going back 20, 30, maybe 40 years to see how their “brick and mortar” counterparts achieved successful launches. Case in point, when I helped launch Dwolla (the mobile cash payment startup), from a two-man operation into an overnight sensation I had little time to consider how the credit card industry launched their “plastic.” As some of you may know, Dwolla is an alternative payment option to using credit cards. Yes, credit cards were at one point a technology breakthrough, allowing average consumers for the first time to pay for products without cash. Just imagine the marketing, PR and advertising elements that went into helping publicize and educate the general public about what “plastic” was all about. Something apparently clicked with that messaging and positioning from 1972 since it seems like everyone who is an adult today also has a credit card.
This past weekend I was rummaging through a book my mom prepared about my parents’ wedding, not the wedding book per se, but a different type of book that included the events leading up to and after the wedding itself. At the end of the book, she included several stories about their wedding and one just happened to catch my immediate attention. On the flip side of their wedding announcement in the newspaper there was a story, dated January 26, 1972, with the headline, “Cashless Society Predicted by Credit Card Use.” Wow, it was the same language I used in Dwolla’s launch: ‘A cashless society.’ Who knew that my words were actually archaic; a reporter used the same messaging I did to explain credit cards 40 years ago. The story goes on to talk about how credit cards were now being extended to everyday people, (whereas before only the privileged had it) and how the industry hired lovely female brand ambassadors to explain to consumers how the “technology” worked.
Yes, credit cards today are a no brainer, everyone gets it, but just imagine the undertaking it required to help sell the idea to the general public 40 years ago when there was no Internet or mobile phone or other type of similar product to help make it more understandable! If anything, these stories from days gone by can be a great resource for PR practitioners who are responsible for launching a new product, service or brand. Agreed, researching these stories can be #oldschool (and very time consuming), but uncovering these bygone stories can still nonetheless be an invaluable asset when trying to differentiate your product and/or discover a new strategy to approach your target audience(s). In Dwolla’s case, after reading that article from 1972, we really did go back to the future since we used some of the same verbiage today as what was used 40 years ago.
By: David Splivalo