Change is the New Normal

September 29, 2009

Editor’s note: This is John Reinan’s weekly marketing column for To see the original, go to

To appreciate the changes in the marketing business, you need only look at the activities of one mid-sized Minneapolis marketing agency: ours.

In the past couple of months, my Fast Horse colleagues and I have built websites, produced videos, launched e-marketing campaigns, coordinated stories in traditional print and broadcast media, run community events from coast to coast, designed print ads, developed iPhone applications and created a hugely successful viral marketing campaign.

There’s more, but you get the idea. 

Although this has been a busy period, these activities have become routine for us over the past couple of years. For me, that’s a dramatic indication of the new directions the marketing business has taken– and how agencies must respond.

Clients today are adventurous. They see how rapidly the ground is shifting, and they know they can’t stick to the way they’ve done things in the past.

They have to find new ways of connecting with customers who have more power than ever to ignore their message. And they want to go after their customers in every possible arena.

Our existing clients, as well as those we pitch for new business, are receptive to ideas they may not have entertained five or 10 years ago. A promotional website? Sure. Viral videos? Make ’em. Event sponsorships? Show me where to sign.

It’s an amazing time we’re living in. In just the last decade, we’ve seen the rise of the Internet coupled with the erosion of traditional marketing message channels in print and broadcast.

Laptops and mobile devices give consumers more power to receive messages on their own terms. If you’re selling a product or a service, and you’re not expanding your marketing efforts beyond traditional channels, you risk irrelevance.

And many companies, through no fault of their own, aren’t equipped to navigate this new world on their own. They’re busy making and selling their products. The speed of change in the marketing world has caught them by surprise.

It’s not easy to quickly create an in-house Web-development team, or get up to speed on social media, or start an e-mail program.

That leaves an opening for a smart agency– and, fortunately, the Twin Cities is blessed with dozens of them.

I left behind an industry– newspapers– that hadn’t seen significant change in at least 30 years, since papers made the switch from hot lead to cold type. I jumped into an arena where I’m challenged every day to think new, think smart, think different.

It’s at times exhausting, but always exhilarating. And I think it’s the way things will be in every American business for the foreseeable future.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a video to distribute.