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Neophile: A neophile can be defined as a personality type characterized by a strong affinity for novelty.

Neophiles have the following characteristics:

  • The ability to adapt rapidly to extreme change
  • A distaste or downright loathing of tradition, repetition, and routine
  • A tendency to become bored quickly with old things
  • A desire, bordering on obsession in some cases, to experience novelty

Psychologists have tracked neophiles over time. This is what Psychology Today had to say about them:

“Looking under the hood of the person high in novelty-seeking, it seems that dopamine, the pleasure neurotransmitter, seems to be involved.  According to research conducted by Zalid et al (2009), high dopamine activity in a specific part of the midbrain is higher in individuals high in novelty-seeking, even after controlling for age and gender. An orientation toward reward could help account for the relationship between the desire to seek out new experiences and a tendency to develop addictive behaviors.

Some forms of novelty-seeking may, on the plus side, may be related to creativity. According to Marvin Zuckerman, people who seek pleasure from new experiences are also likely to be more creative. The ability to have big ideas seems to require a certain degree of enjoyment of expanding your mental horizons into new territory.

Novelty-seeking, then, is a mixed bag in terms of its ability to get you through life. To get the most benefit from novelty-seeking, it’s important to keep the balance in mind between sameness and change. New may be better than old, but not at the cost to your mental health.”

Advertising was always a meeting point for neophiles. We had to find new ideas, new insights, new ways of connecting with people.

The emergence of new platforms, new channels and new bright shiny objects has moved the industry to pathological extremes of neophilia. I’ve met with a client recently that planned on delivering their messages through 28 channels. They had enough budget to disseminate their message to the point where it is spread so thin, they are ensured to make no impact.

Brands should not create confusion. Their communication planning should deliver a cogent vision and definition of their values. Only then customers will contribute to the brand, rather than spreading confusion. When Social Media gives the customer the possibility to mass-publish any thought or personal opinion, a comprehensive and well-defined definition of a brand is more important than ever.

Agencies should be in the business of building brands.

The agency neophiles are diluting  brands.

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Ever listened to a radio commercial lately? I bet if I played you one from 1983 and one from 2010, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. Newspaper ads look the same they looked 20 years ago. Most commercials are still 30 seconds long and follow very specific rules. The majority of display ads haven’t changed much over the last decade.

Just look at conferences. I could attend a Social Media or Mobile conference each and every day without even leaving California. We discuss the smallest innovations, the tiniest upgrades, cheer a Social Media initiative that will be seen by a few thousand people while the TV continues to blare with millions of people watching glancing at commercials. Are there even any conferences talking about innovation for radio commercials? How to improve print ads?

Fact is, any TV campaigns with equal creative firepower is more effective than any display ad campaign. Fact is, most Social Media initiatives don’t have any impact outside of the Social Media echo chamber.

There are two things going here:

  1. We are living through a paradigm change. You’ve heard it before: from consumer to producer, from mass media to media by the masses, etc. Since we’re in the middle of the baseball playoffs: We’re in the top of the first inning. Social Media as we know it in 2010 won’t be valuable in 2012. We have a long way to go, many things to learn, let brands and enterprises evolve in conjunction with the changing behavior and needs of people.
  2. Just because the old forms of marketing have lost their value over the years and become less effective, doesn’t mean they lost all of their value. We treat traditional media like a retired senior staring out the window of his house filled with memories of the good old times.

There’s a lot of life left in traditional media. But we need the vitamins of innovation to make traditional media more lively: Why not negotiate 1:37 commercials? Why not work with radio station to revamp their whole advertising model? Why not work with newspapers to come up with new ways to communicate with people? It’s a shame most brands and agencies focus all their energy on shiny objects and let traditional media collect dust in the backroom.

John C. Calhoun said: “The interval between the decay of the old and the formation and the establishment of the new, constitutes a period of transition which must always necessarily be one of uncertainty, confusion, error, and wild and fierce fanaticism.”

Let the fanaticism for these new tools/platforms not diminish the remaining value of traditional media.