Twenty years ago, no one could ever have predicted the sight of people all over the UK queueing on Britain’s high streets in the early hours of Saturday morning. Some, like enthusiasts who sleep outside the Apple store on the eve of a big release, had camped outside since the day before. But it wasn’t the latest iPad they were lining up for, or even the release of a new edition of Call of Duty. These committed queuers were waiting for their local vinyl record shop to open and sell them exclusive and rare albums on vinyl in honour of Record Store Day.
Like I said, no one would have guessed this might happen twenty years ago. In fact the very idea that people in a digital age, would be this keen on such an old format might give us pause for thought when we consider our future business plans.
Arguably no one could have foreseen the ongoing popularity of vinyl. This year Forbes reported that digital downloads dropped by ten per cent. On the flip side, sales of albums on vinyl are in their 9th consecutive year of growth. Not that vinyl makes up a huge part of the music sales market. It still only accounts for just over six per cent of total album sales. Nevertheless, you don’t hear people talking about minidiscs or even cassette tapes with such affection.
A less niche example of technology that was expected to become obsolete and hasn’t is radio. Which is also remarkable when you think about how visually driven we have become as a society, and in the face of digital streaming.
What do these two things have in common and what can we learn from them?
First, new might be better from an efficiency point of view, but it doesn’t mean that it’s better in terms of emotional engagement. Both vinyl and radio hit that sweet spot of nostalgia while working well enough not to frustrate the user. Anyone who’s wound cassette tape that’s got mangled with a pen, will understand why that format hasn’t seen a revival. But vinyl, even with crackles, can be listened to with warmth.
Secondly, older ways of doing things can be modified to meet the demands of change. Radio today is not what it was in the 1980s. Listen again, podcasts, and a visual element, plus a whole host of digital stations as well as analogue, all mean that radio has held its own, creating a niche for itself in a future landscape.
So, when it comes to planning the futures for your business, perhaps it’s worth looking at the things which still work which are held with affection and modifying them, as well as bringing new thinking and strategies to play. Who knows, perhaps staying true to our emotional intelligence about business decisions as well as making the hard-headed logical choices, could be a key to future growth.