John Forde writes:
"We stand on the threshold..."
- Arthur Summerfield
As I sit tapping away on a keyboard, here at 30,000 feet above the Atlantic, I can't help but think...
Thank God Arthur Summerfield got it all wrong.
See, Arthur was the U.S. Postmaster General for President 'Ike' Eisenhower.
And in 1959, he boldly predicted...
"Before man reaches the moon, your mail will be delivered within hours from New York to Australia by guided missiles. We stand on the threshold of rocket mail."
Imagine. I'd hate to think what spam would look like, under those circumstances.
But then, Dennis Grabor, the UK physicist who won the Nobel Prize for inventing holography, also said...
"Transmission of documents via telephone wires is possible in principle, but the apparatus required is so expensive that it will never become a practical proposition."
Those poor fellas.
Little did either know that just a few decades later, a guy like me would be sucking emails from the ether, via a global 3G cellular hookup... courtesy of my brand spankin' new iPad.
Yep, I bit the hook.
"How do you like it?" one of the air stewards asked. And I answered that I like it just fine.
It's quick and easy to use (our six year-old was quick to Shanghai it). And the more apps you add - many of them free - it gets that much better.
Bottom line: There's clearly a lot of potential here. Especially for marketers and copywriters. How so?
I'm still working that out, but over the last few weeks of preparing for this, I collected a pile of notes. Want to hear them?
Here we go...
** First off, let's remember - no matter how good this thing is - some of the best copywriters in advertising history worked only with #2 pencils and yellow legal pads.
** On the flip side, you can't deny that others will get these things. If not iPads, one of their many imitators. And what will that mean?
** Apple has already sold 1 million of these things so far - in half the time it took to sell as many iPhones (I trust you've heard of the iPhone). On top of that, users have already downloaded over 1.5 million iPad-only books and 12 million 'apps'.
** Other iPad-related products have also surged. So has interest in Windows, Android, and Linux driven imitators. And who's doing most of the buying? Says SRG polling research, these are older buyers than those who flocked to the iPhone.
** Yes, you say, but what does this have to do with the price of tacks in Timbuktu? Well, ask yourself: Remember when sending an email to grandma or your brother was a novelty? Now it's as accepted as breathing. Grandma is 'plugged in'.
** In fact, we're fast running out of generations that even remember what life before computers was like. To sell to those people, you have to be plugged in too.
** The iPad is the logical next step, after smart-phones, to the always-on society. If you're looking to build and sustain a marketing relationship with your customers, this is great news.
** What I'm most excited about isn't the nifty factor, or even the always-on connection. What I like is that I can start writing marketing that works like a page and not just a scrolling screen again.
** Magalogs that look like real magazines, bookalogs that look like real books, letters with inserts that pop out at you - they all took a hit when online direct response started to eclipse pricey print mailings. Now they can come back, digital but just as engaging as ever.
** And of course, for anybody selling information products, there are lots of new tech possibilities too. If you can get your hands on an iPad, take a look at the BBC and NPR apps to see how you could get your news in front of readers. Take a look at the Gilt app for ideas on how to create a tablet-friendly catalog.
** Already the emailed promotions I'm receiving via the iPad come in looking strong. But imagine if your letter had a little image of a customer service rep or company which, when double-tapped, underscored the headline benefit or pushed the reader ahead.
** Imagine animated charts in your proof section or embedded product demonstrations right there ahead of you sales close. And maps, coupons, offers, even headline tests, all driven by these tablets' abilities to lock in exact locations via GPS and WiFi triangulation.
** Sure, there are hurdles too. Like the size of watchable video files, incompatible file types, the iPad's closed operating system and more. But necessity really does lead to even more innovation.
Could all this be wrong?
Sure. The iPad and imitators could end up as just novelties. But I don't think so.
This looks like an open door to me... and to other seasoned marketers I know, too.
Nobody knows exactly where it will go. But I'm convinced it's time again to keep your eyes open.
Because this could get interesting...
John Forde has worked as an direct-response copywriter for 18 years. His website is http://copywritersroundtable.com; this article was first published in his Copywriters Roundtable newsletter.