PWND or Pawned?

My parents are in town and we got to talking about one of their favorite topics: television. It’s often an awkward discussion because I don’t have cable, which means I am unfamiliar with about 80% of the shows they watch. Likewise, they aren’t very familiar with much of the digital media that takes up my time. My parents are fairly web savvy though—as far as people not engaged in this industry go, and certainly more savvy than my mother-in-law who calls my wife to have her book flights online. Which led to a revelation, by way of a discussion of a TV show they love: Pawn Stars.

My dad was relaying a recent Pawn Stars episode in which someone came to the pawn shop in the hopes that he could hock a somewhat rare, early pressing of a Bob Dylan album. The guy thought he’d get about $1500 for the album and was reasonably dismayed when the pawn shop offered $50. The episode then follows an employee of the shop who was tasked with tracking down Bob Dylan and getting the singer’s autograph, thus greatly increasing the value of the record.

What struck me was the fact that the original owner didn’t simply post the record online, where he was sure to get a better price than in a pawn shop. Why would anyone in the day of Craiglist and eBay still go to a pawn shop? It comes down to three things: Access, Literacy and Interest.

The topics of digital access and literacy have been talked to death and we all (in this industry) understand the concept of the digital divide. There are too many folks out there who are denied opportunities because they don’t have access to computers and high-speed internet and/or are simply not versed in the digital ways—digital is not a native language.

But there’s also the matter of interest. Lots of people simply have no interest in this brave new digital world. My mom may have a Facebook account and use it to tend her Farmville flock, she has no interest in watching TV online when there are more shows than her TiVo can record at her fingertips via cable. Likewise, my dad is downright skeptical of the daily tracking of movement location-based social sites offer. And finally, my mother-in-law is simply too busy living her life on the beaches of Lake Huron to learn an entirely new language when her daughter can click through it in seconds and deliver the cheapest flights online.

So why is this important? Most customers out there are not in the tech or marketing industry. It’s important to understand their way of thinking, comfort-level, and interest in order for us to remain relevant to them.  If we’re not then neither is our work and then neither are our clients. That’s not good for anyone and those who don’t heed the warning might find themselves in a pawn shop.

Pawn Stars – “Like a Rolling Chum”

Originally posted on the Think Different blog.

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2 Responses to PWND or Pawned?

  1. Heather October 12, 2010 at 2:24 pm #

    I love this post for several reasons. First, my parents also watch this Pawned show, and until I saw it with them, I was blissfully unaware of both the show and the whole pawn-shop subculture. (They also watch Pickers, which combines the best of Pawned and Hoarders in one odd show. But I digress…)

    But second, and the ultimately where you were going with this, is the idea of thinking beyond the ‘digital have’s’ (Vs have-nots). I think that as the digital side gets smarter and smarter, we’re going to have to do a better job closing the loop in terms of measurement across channels/mediums in order to avoid a ‘Dewey Defeats Truman’ sort of gap in our understanding of consumer behavior. Integrated marketing has never been more important not only in reaching consumers wherever they are, but whoever they are.

    Even Pickers.

  2. Derek Phillips October 12, 2010 at 2:47 pm #

    Totally. It’s very easy to get caught up in the latest viral campaign but my dad–who, again, watches a LOT of TV–has no idea who the Old Spice Man is. And that’s an example of a really nicely integrated campaign!

    It’s important to not get too far ahead of ourselves…or our customers, while at the same time pushing clients to explore new channels and approaches. What a life we’ve chosen for ourselves.

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