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We are at an incredible point in human history. Technology is advancing faster now than it ever has, and the world is changing by the minute. In almost every situation, you must keep up with the times or be left behind.
Yet whenever advancement happens, we see nostalgia emerge. People begin to crave the old way of doing things and are captivated by reminders of memories and stories from “before.”
It’s easy to find examples of this nostalgia in a modern context, and it certainly begs the question of advancing for advancement’s sake or maintaining the traditions that have made your brand what it is.
In today’s episode, we’ll be talking about how to remain relevant with your target audience, whether you plan to go all out on the latest and greatest or if you decide to continue your brand in the way things have always been done.
Highlights, Takeaways, Quick Wins
- Just because staying old school might become hard to do doesn’t mean those things lose value.
- Know the best way to reach the people you’re trying to reach.
- Learning something new could help you be more efficient.
- Have an appreciation for things that are old school—it may help you innovate in the future.
- It doesn’t pay to reject new things or old things completely.
- Over the course of history, developments repeat themselves, there are just different versions of them.
- To stay objective towards innovation and the old school way of doing things, stay informed.
- Sometimes, being different and standing out as a brand means doing things the old school way.
- 03:09 Cory: What do you think of when you think of the words “old school”?
- 03:14 Kyle: When I think of “old school”… Maybe calling someone on a phone, using a smartphone to call people. That’s old school, right?
- 03:33 Cory: I FaceTime audio people.
- 03:37 Kyle: Speaking to someone in person…I’m kidding.
- 03:41 Cory: Rotary telephone. There you go.
- 03:46 Kyle: Lisa in the chat says, “Calling on a landline.” That’s definitely true.
- 03:50 Cory: We have some friends visiting us from the States right now. We were at Enterprise car rental the other day, and the agent said, “Can I get your mobile telephone number?” He gave it, and she was like, “Can I get a landline?” My buddy Austin was like, “We don’t have a landline.” She looked at me and said, “Do you have a landline?” I was like, “No, I haven’t had a landline in years.”
- 04:16 It took me a second to figure out what she was saying. Landline? Oh, like a home telephone. I thought, “What? People still use landlines? Unbelievable.”
- 04:28 Kyle: It’s pretty fascinating, I have to admit. But, in some cases, they’re actually needed, which is what we’re talking about today.
Staying Up to Date
- 04:36 Cory: There are so many other things like this. We have what we call a chipper, a fish and chips place, right around the corner from where we live, and they take cash only. They don’t have any credit card machines, so we have to go to the convenience store next door, to the ATM, and get out cash, if we ever want to get fish and chips. That feels kind of old school, cash only.
- 05:03 Kyle: For some things like that, the novelty is kind of cool. Maybe in this case it’s annoying. I don’t know. Some places that require you to do something that people used to do all the time is, in some ways, charming. Would you agree?
- 05:23 Cory: That’s an interesting aspect of it. Novelty, nostalgia, and the stuff of yesteryear is an interesting topic. It all comes from this idea—especially in marketing and the world we live in, the world of business, entrepreneurs, and staying up to date in technology—that you have to keep up with the times or you’ll be left behind. That’s very prevalent in business.
- 06:26 The question becomes, do we have to keep up with everything? Sarah Dayan in the Community said, “I’m a developer. Things go crazy fast in this industry. Millions of cool new things are created every day, and almost as many die every day. It’s really tough to know in what to invest. How do you assess where to put your efforts in an industry that goes faster than lightening?”
- 06:54 That’s a great question. That’s not even just for business, but just for life. How new do I have to have the newest thing? Do I have to have the newest smartphone? The latest computer? A tablet? The 2017 major snazzy quick speed five-wheel new car SUV machine? I don’t know. Yeah, that’s coming out.
Businesses want to remain relevant and keep people talking about them and interested in them.
When to Stay Old School
- 07:31 Kyle: Speaking of this topic, like Cory said, we move pretty fast. We’ll wait a little bit. I don’t think we’re super early adopters. We don’t necessarily get the latest operating system right when it comes out. My dad just upgraded to Windows 7. He was using Windows XP up until last year. It went fine for him. He runs some businesses on the side, and he did fine with Windows XP up until the end of last year, so it depends on your needs. Now he’s on Windows 7, and that’s great.
- 08:22 Cory: Would you say that he’s using that for his businesses, personal, or what?
- 08:29 Kyle: Mostly businesses. I think part of it is the old school thing. He would admit it. He would say, “I’m on Windows XP. I should probably update.” He was just used to the accounting software and stuff like that that he had used on Windows XP, that they had updated and was harder. Using an older system streamlined things for my dad because he was used to the system.
- 08:55 It wasn’t a resistance to change. He’s okay with that. He has iPhones and he updates pretty often. All of that is fine, but when he comes to his businesses, he wants things streamlined. He doesn’t want to have to learn new systems constantly. It makes sense. Most of us would be like, “What? You’re still on Windows XP? What’s happening?”
- 09:17 Cory: Windows XP was a great operating system. It was so stable. It was one of my favorites.
- 09:24 Kyle: It was mine, too.
- 09:28 Cory: There’s something to be said for that. Eugene said something really great in the chat. He said, “Even old school needs to keep up with the times.” I totally agree. There are certain things you can’t get away from, and this is different depending on what part of the world you’re in, for sure.
- 10:02 Certainly, I want to make sure that we acknowledge that the terms “old school” or “traditional” aren’t negative terms. They’re simply a different way of doing the things that help us accomplish our goals and reach the people we want to reach. What does your audience value? What sort of persona are you trying to create with your brand? What do you value? Are you being authentic to the things that you say and the things that you do?
In certain aspects of life, it’s next to impossible to keep doing things the way they’ve always been done, but that doesn’t mean that those things lose value.
Are You Reaching Your Target Audience?
- 10:33 Cory: There are certain things where you should ask, “It’s always been done this way, but does that mean that it needs to be done this way?” Maybe the answer is yes and maybe the answer is no. My wife and I work with an organization, and this is the primary reason why we moved to Ireland, working with teenagers and families in Member Care of that organization. Every once in a while, we have to fill out expense reports.
- 11:00 You put in all the numbers, switch it from Euro to dollars, put in your line items, and whether you drove someplace. We get reimbursed for certain things. It’s a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. I can’t tell you how mind-blowingly frustrating it is to use this thing. She’s way better at that than I am. Even with her, she says that it’s such a nightmare to use. I was talking with her parents, who are part of the same organization, and I was like, “I would love to redesign the whole expense report process. I want to create a web app that’s really easy to use. It pulls in information automatically, and all of these things make it a better experience. You don’t have to have Microsoft Excel.”
- 12:10 Her dad said something to me that was really interesting. He said, “Keep in mind that most of the people in this organization are not your age.” That’s not a negative thing, but he was saying that if I wanted to propose any changes, I needed to keep in mind that not everyone is as technologically savvy as I am. Not everyone wants to learn a whole new system. They’re very comfortable with how they’re getting this particular thing done.
- 12:38 This particular thing, in retaining the old, traditional way of doing things, is actually valuable to those people, because they don’t have to spend the time to learn a new thing. Of course, there are counterpoints. If you spend the time to learn a new thing, it could be more efficient. You could do things faster. It’s about what the people value. What does your audience value? When you’re looking at your customer and you’re trying to determine what they’re looking for and what they personally value and what they care about, does it matter that you have the brand new Apple Pay system?
- 13:22 You walk in, it knows who you are, scans your skin, and you can just pay. It connects to all your banks, and it’s fine. Does it matter that it’s cash only? Does that bug people in your audience? It doesn’t matter if these people are older or younger. None of that matters.
- 13:58 How can you craft a persona, the persona you want to craft of your brand and the personality and perception you want it to have—how do you build that in a way that doesn’t get left behind, but also doesn’t give up the things you don’t want to compromise on?
- 14:18 Kyle: The title of this episode is When to Stay old school and When to Evolve, right? Here’s the heart of this. You’re used to using Squirtle and you could evolve to Blastoise. Maybe you don’t want to do that. That’s the heart of what we’re getting to here, right? Cory and I were talking about this topic the other day, and I was laughing about how, when I was younger, I liked Pokemon. I remember the old Pokemon. Now, there are all these new ones. I was joking about the whole evolving thing, so I had to get that in there. I enjoy that.
What matters is that you know the best way to reach the people you’re trying to reach.
Appreciating the Old School
- 15:21 Cory: Is it possible to innovate while maintaining traditions and the old ways of doing things?
- 15:25 Kyle: It absolutely is, actually. In fact, in some ways, that helps innovation. Part of having old school processes or things that you do is that they either work, and that’s fine—you keep them in place—or they eventually create problems or aren’t relevant anymore. When those problems or irrelevancies come around, you’re then forced to innovate to find a new way of doing those things. I think it’s really important.
- 16:03 At the job I worked at before being at seanwes, I was in the innovation department. That’s what we were called. We were creating new things for the company. A lot of the projects we had were figuring out how to fix things that were old in the company that needed to be rejuvenated in a way that fit with our target audience. Maybe they weren’t brand new ideas to the world. Sometimes they were, but mostly, they were just things that helped the company or helped the people we served to do things better.
- 16:41 It’s so important to have things that are old school, to remember those, and not to be constantly surrounded by this concept that everything has to be the newest thing. If you live in that kind of bubble… I don’t think anyone really does, if you think about it. There are things we constantly want to move forward with. There is technology that I want to constantly be moving forward with. There’s design that I want to keep up with, to see how things are going and what’s happening in the industry.
- 17:19 Then there are certain things in my life, like coffee, for example, that I want to do the old school way. I don’t care about the latest, greatest, fancy, $300, mix-it-instantly-for-you-in-five-minutes-and-it-tastes-like-a-barista-made-it coffee maker. I’d rather do it the old fashioned, hand made way. There are some people that don’t want to do it that way. That’s fine.
- 17:57 Cory: Especially if the industry that you’re in is disrupted in some way. I think that’s a healthy thing, actually. It puts you into a place of thinking, “How do we evolve? Do we try and match the disruption, or do we try and build something out of what we currently have?” The best example for that is watches. The smart watch industry is coming along. Apple Watch, the Gear… heck, even digital watches, going back to when those came around.
- 18:38 You start to say, “Now there are all of these smart watches that do all of these things. I can walk up to my Macbook Pro, and my Apple Watch unlocks it immediately. That’s awesome. I guess all the other watches are going to go away.” Who wants to have a traditional mechanical watch? I’m looking down at my desk, and this is ironic, because this wasn’t planned in any way, but my Apple Watch is charging, and right next to it is another watch that I have.
- 19:10 It’s by Mvmt, and I love this thing. It’s totally minimal. It literally just has the date, hour, minute, and second. It’s a fantastic watch. I look at that, I look over at the smart watch, and I’m like, “Why, on certain days, am I more interested in wearing this other thing?” The truth is, sometimes I value disconnection. I don’t want to be connected to the whole world all the time. There are times when I go get a coffee, I drive someplace, or I’ll walk to the store, and I’ll leave my phone behind.
- 19:55 It’s weird, because I feel like I need to be constantly on it, but I value having times of disconnection. I think that’s really healthy, especially in our day and age. I look at this and I go, “What was this company thinking?” They’re not that old. They haven’t been around a long time, maybe a few years. I think, yes, absolutely, smart watches are making a huge impact, and you can look at the difference in Swiss manufactured watches, hand crafted watches, and the explosion of the sales of smart watches, for sure. I don’t think watches are going away.
- 21:00 I believe nostalgia is one of the greatest things we can have and tap into. How many businesses are there that are doing their thing, they don’t have all of the social media things, they’re not running a YouTube channel, they don’t have a massive audience built, and yet they’re raking in money in droves because people love the experience they get at that place, like if it’s a brick-and-mortar store. I’m thinking of a few right now.
- 21:34 There’s a burger place up in Idaho that I went to once. There were lines around the corner to go in, and they would say, “What do you want?” You would say, “What do you have?” And they would say, “You could get a burger.” You say, “Okay, I’ll have that.” You pay in cash, you eat your burger, and it’s really amazing. For them, it wouldn’t make sense to suddenly have all these new trinkets.
- 22:04 You can walk up, you put on the VR headset, and you can order your burger in augmented reality. You can make your own burger or whatever. That doesn’t matter to the people going to that place, because of the experience their customers want.
- 22:21 Kyle: It’s very important to understand that. It doesn’t matter your age. I would include myself in this. There are some people that don’t really want the newer things out that there could maybe, seemingly, improve an experience, but maybe they don’t to that person. I think the idea, the concept, of self-driving cars is really cool. I like that thought. I like to think, “I could have my car drive somewhere. That would be great.”
- 23:03 I know that if I actually got into a self-driving car, it would be very difficult for me to hand over the wheel to the car, to have it drive for me and not be at least a little freaked out by the fear of, “Are we going to hit something?” Things like that may not make me more comfortable or make me feel better. For some people, maybe it makes them feel safer, because they don’t trust themselves driving. It’s definitely an amazing improvement for those that can’t drive, whether that’s the elderly or handicapped.
- 23:46 It’s a great improvement for them. It’s an amazing life change for them. There are certain audiences that are really going to appreciate that technology, and there are others that are kind of like, “I like the idea and I want to support this as a thing, but I don’t know that I want to do that myself.”
Having an appreciation for things that are old school is important and significant, and it helps you innovate in the future.
I don’t think some “old school” things are going to completely go away, because people do things that bring about a sense of nostalgia that is wildly important in human development.
Old School Is Making a Comeback
- 24:08 Cory: It’s so funny. I was writing out the excerpt. I include an excerpt with every show, and I was thinking about it. Even some of the newer things, the newer technology, are built on nostalgia. Look at Instagram and filters. The whole concept of filters was to take your beautiful photo and make it look like garbage that was developed in a dark room, to make it look like a polaroid. So many things are happening where people love that nostalgia.
- 25:04 Talk about the boom of the reintroduction into the mainstream of vinyl records. Of course, people will be like, “I was buying vinyls all my life, and I’m still buying them.” Vinyl records weren’t the mainstream for quite some time. All of a sudden, over the last six or seven years, they’re coming back. People are saying, “I want a record player! I want to play the vinyl record.”
- 25:36 Heck, cassettes. There are still businesses making millions of dollars creating cassette tapes. You look at that and you go, “What? How?” There are aspects of our culture and the main way of doing things where we have to acknowledge the power of nostalgia, or acknowledging history. I watched this great documentary, and I think it’s called Sign Painters. It was a documentary celebrating the hand painted sign industry.
- 26:25 When you go up to an old barber shop and you see the really intricate hand lettering on the front of the window, you say, “I wonder if that’s printed out…” There was this rich history of hand painted signs, and in the 1970s and 1980s, die-cut vinyl started becoming a thing. For less than a fraction of the price, you could get the same design printed on vinyl and just stick it to the window. There was this disruption in the hand lettering and sign painting industry. Yet, even that is having a comeback.
- 27:21 There’s something about going up to a sign or looking at a drawing or a painting, and it’s more organic. There are people who really respond to that, treasure that, and like that.
- 27:38 Kyle: Also, what attracts a bigger audience? Someone going outside, pealing off stickers, and putting them on a window, or someone painting letters, where people can come by and watch? There are even more reasons to want something hand lettered on a window.
- 27:56 Cory: Absolutely. There is such value in looking forward to the future and going, “I want to connect with people around the world, so I’m going to need some kind of a technological device, a phone or a computer.” But maybe what you do is based in the old school, and that’s okay. Adina in the chat said, “As a letterpress stationer, I’m firmly routed in old school. I’m so vintage.”
- 28:25 She even said, “The stationary industry is exploding right now with millennials.” Culture always goes in waves. There are always going to be people saying, “There’s all this new stuff!” And other people saying, “Ah, but I like the old way of doing stuff.” There will always be some kind of advancement as we go.
- 28:51 You have to figure out, at the end of the day, what kind of brand you’re trying to cultivate, what you want people to think about you, and how your practices translate into the kind of brand that you want.
People love things that are created by hand—there’s something about things that don’t have exact edges.
It doesn’t pay to reject the new things or the old things completely.
History Repeats Itself
- 29:09 Kyle: Would you like to take a mind-blowing trip through history with me, Cory?
- 29:15 Cory: If I say no, that’s just kind of terrible.
- 29:19 Kyle: In the 16th century, pocket watches came to be. Many towns had a clock tower, but it wasn’t necessarily like a clock at home. Pocket watches came around, and it was the first hand held pocket watch device. It was the first time you could carry the time around. Then, in the late 1800s, the wrist watch came around. People were wearing wrist watches, and that was cool, because you didn’t have to pull the watch out of your pocket, look at it, and put the watch back in your pocket, close it, and all of those things.
- 30:06 You could just glance at your wrist. Then, sometime in the mid 2000s, smart phones came around. The iPhone was the first step in the touch screen, smart phone era we’re in now. Most people quit wearing watches, and they pull the thing out of their pocket to look at the time, and then they lock it and put it back in their pocket. Constantly, over and over. Then, sometime in recent history, we’ve come across smart watches.
- 30:43 Now, these let you glance at your wrist and see the time and notifications. You don’t have to pull your phone out of your pocket, unlock it, look at it, lock it, and put it back in your pocket. We have, essentially, gone in this complete repeat of history, over and over. The people who have smart phones or watches, yes, there are more functions, but we have essentially repeated history.
- 31:14 If someone prefers to carry a pocket watch around because they don’t want to constantly be consumed with the time and, like you said, they want to disconnect, it’s just a different use case.
- 31:29 Cory: That’s super interesting. Are you saying that we’re going to switch back to sun dials pretty quick? Just kidding.
Over the course of history, developments repeat themselves, there are just different versions of them.
- 31:52 Cory: Sarah asked, “As we grow up, it’s natural to be tempted by innovation. As we grow old, it’s easy to feel outdated and be tempted by going old school. What’s the best way to stay objective?” That’s a really good question. I don’t think you need one without the other. I don’t think you need to go totally brand new with everything and totally remove the old school stuff.
- 32:29 It’s the opposite of sticking your fingers in your ears and singing. That doesn’t benefit anybody, especially yourself. Staying informed and knowing what’s happening in the world allows you to better make decisions about whether you’re going to follow the progression of technology, or whether it suits your brand better to remain in the old school world.
- 33:03 Kyle: There’s also what’s relevant to what you’re doing. That’s the question we can’t answer in this show, because everyone’s doing something a little bit different. A good example, even right now for this show, is that Cory and I both use an audio interface with this preamp that plugs into it, these big microphones that attach via cables, and I have an arm mounted on my desk, and some people would say that’s really old school. You could use a $150 whatever with a microphone and all these things.
- 33:49 Cory: Maybe you could use AirPods!
- 33:51 Kyle: Yeah, but maybe you don’t get the sound quality you want. Technology has advanced and smaller microphones have gotten better over time, but maybe you need to focus on good audio quality. The fact that I have a giant bank of dials on my desk right now doesn’t bother me, because I know I’m getting a better quality product from that. It’s not about going super minimalist and saying, “All I’m going to use are my Apple headphones, because those have a microphone.”
- 34:24 There are some things you don’t need to go super new school with, and it’s important to understand that. Do you use a tube amp instead of some kind of processed sound? Are there things that people who listen to you care about? Even if they don’t know directly what the reasoning is, they’ll know that you’re doing something a little bit different.
- 35:06 Kind of like vinyl records. Vinyl records have come back, and it’s because people realize and appreciate that format now, especially now that most people use streaming music services or something. We don’t own physical music that much anymore, so records are kind of a novelty, this thing where we own music and we appreciate the sound quality that came from it. Before, it was a race to find the most compact version of owning music.
- 35:44 You didn’t want to take up an entire room with records anymore. You wanted to have a tiny little disk that you use. I may have gone off on a tangent there, but the point is to understand what things you can stay old school with, where your audience will appreciate those things, and what things you need to go new school with, or they’re probably not going to connect with you. That’s if your target audience appreciates things being new and updated.
To stay objective towards innovation and the old school way of doing things, stay informed.
Sometimes, being different and standing out as a brand means doing things the old school way, because it’s something that has been forgotten.