Technology phases

There’s a show I’ve been watching on PBS called *How We Got to Now*. Each week, the series tells stories of small inventions by often unheard of and seemingly crazy pioneers that lead to the major innovations that forever changed our lives and society.

In examining early technological revolutions like keeping time, manufacturing cold and recording sound, the show makes it abundantly clear that every one of these advances — which in history books appeared to happen all at once by a few well-know inventors — in fact occurred in painfully small and slow increments by a long list of forgotten heroes.

What I found most intriguing however, was not how long it took to create these breakthroughs, but how long it took for culture, business and even the inventors themselves to figure out their true value and potential. Its almost laughable today how the long list of inventors who toiled for decades to figure out how to record sound never even considered that there might be a use for playing it back.

We live in a world where major new advances are happening every day. We are evolving so fast that we never stop to realize that most of the major advancements of our time are still in their infancy. The internet as we know it today is barely 20 years old, social media is less than 10 years old.

How we will use these tools in another ten, twenty or thirty years will be dramatically different from how we use them today. And at some point in the not too distant future, we will look back and laugh at how rudimentary our use and understanding of these tools really was.

I bring this up because as marketers, we see the way technology is opening new doors for more efficient and effective communication with consumers. But just like our predecessors, our enthusiasm to leverage them any and every way we can blind us to the their true potential.

No doubt, these channels are creating amazing opportunities to bring brands and consumers closer together. But the unfortunate reality is that most people in our industry are looking right past the human component of all this connectivity. They are still more enthralled with the novelty of the connection and the opportunity to push products than they are with the way these connections can improve relationships and actually create meaning in people’s lives.

Over time, as current technologies finally mature, the more enlightened of us will come to realize — as they did following the invention of the phone line — that it wasn’t the technology that connected us, but the emotional connections people made across it.

Marketers need to realize that our responsibility as creators and thinkers and participants in this connected universe is to help elevate human connections, to find commonalities, inspire conversation and create meaning.

That’s what great brands do. And like it or not, it takes a whole lot more than technology to make that happen.

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