Rarely is there a shocking new paradigm in marketing. Twitter is an evolution of the town square. The ancestor of modern branding is a cowboy searing his cattle with a red-hot iron. And yelling back and forth to the neighbors in the yard the back fence started the gears moving on the mobile phone.
We’re fixated on the future, but sometimes it pays to look in the rearview mirror. That’s exactly what gazillionaire and Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffet did on his latest acquisition tear.
In a 15-month stretch, Buffet purchased 28 daily newspapers for $344 million. Wait, aren’t newspapers dead? Maybe it’s time to take a fresh look at the future through the eyes of a wise octogenarian.
Here’s how Buffet describes the value of hyper-local news.
“Wherever there is a pervasive sense of community, a paper that serves the informational needs of that community will be indispensable to a significant portion of the residents.”
Buffet saw an opportunity to take the localized “idea” of community newspapers and evolve them to the 21st century. It’s a journey that sounds oddly similar to the niche marketing and social media our generation invented, minus the big data.
For revenue models, though, Buffet is tethered to the future. He’s looking to the Internet and relatively new pay-for-use business models like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.
“Even a faulty product can suffer from a bad business model,” Buffet says. This should give us pause, and a reason to look backwards and find out what we may have missed. Social media, mobile websites and ad tracking sound sexier than Burma Shave signs on country roads, posters in supermarket windows, church bulletins, or – horrors – direct mail?
Most technological evolution is spurred by the need for more efficient and cheaper production, and modifying products to meet the new demands. Products and marketing tactics become outdated, but the ideas behind them rarely do. So think like Buffet. Look to the past and see if you can make something new.