Over the years I’ve learned that if you’re too far ahead of the curve, you’re just flatlining. Sometimes, one just needs to wait for everyone else to catch up.
Case 1: Back in the dim dark days of 1990, I thought it would be great if the small advertising agency for which I worked at the time could recycle our paper.
At the time, I subscribed to a magazine called Simply Living and the predictions for the ozone hole and general climate change were alarming even back then.
With the co-operation of the agency CFO (thanks, Peter Cameron), I organised a waste paper collection and then tried my best to educate my colleagues about separating their waste paper from other rubbish.
Big FAIL. Not only was I the only one in the office of 30 to keep my paper separate, but also, the ‘bin’ was just a big hessian sack in the general car park. At the end of each month, just before pick-up day, I’d be scrabbling around removing polystyrene cups and lunch wrappers to decontaminate the load. After three months of this, I abandoned the project.
I’m sure all those former colleagues now sort their garbage diligently and have strong opinions on climate change and sustainability. The point is that they were just not ready in 1990. Not enough other people were making an effort so it was easy for my agency colleagues to ignore the message and dismiss me as a crank.
Case 2: In 2009, I saw a great invention showcased on New Inventors: Drainwave. Water from your sink went into a holding tank and, when it was full at 9.5 litres, it emptied into the sewerage pipe automatically. It wasn’t the most glamorous product but had good reasoning behind the idea. The problem was that it wasn’t a very sexy product. It won People’s Choice that episode but then – oblivion. Then we had hikes in bills and more community awareness about water. Now you can buy a ‘5-star toilet’ from Caroma. I’m sure this type of product will be mainstream within a few years (once the cost comes down a bit) but the New Inventors product went nowhere fast – too far ahead of the curve.
If you ever wonder why we don’t see innovative advertising, websites or products, it’s because marketers and advertisers won’t alienate an audience that isn’t quite ready for change.
Those products are out there but, for the moment, they’re too far ahead of the curve.