April 15, 2010

Gravity And The Internet

Driving through Berkeley, it's not unusual to see a beat-up old VW bus with a bumper sticker that says "Think Globally, Act Locally."

Unfortunately, if there's one thing we humans are not good at, it's thinking globally. We have a tendency to think very locally.  I see it every July in San Francisco -- people from New Jersey, dressed in t-shirts and shorts, freezing their asses off because they think it's summer, like at home.

A wonderful example occurred after Richard Nixon won a 49 state landslide victory in 1972. Pauline Kael, film critic for The New Yorker, famously said, "How can that be? I don't know a single person who voted for Nixon."

Alan Wolk calls it "NASCAR blindness." It's our inclination to think that things everywhere are like they are where we are.

Gravity is like that. It is everywhere. Consequently, we think of gravity as a powerful force that keeps us glued to the ground and brings down huge airplanes. Actually, science tells us that gravity is a very weak force. In fact, it is the weakest fundamental force we know of in the universe.

To prove this to yourself, go to a children's toy shop and buy one of those little 50-cent horseshoe magnets. Then put a paper clip on the ground. Place the magnet near the paper clip. You now have two competing forces -- the electro-magnetic force of the little magnet versus the gravitational force of the entire Earth. The magnet wins. The electro-magnetic force is actually 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 times stronger than gravity.

But because gravity is all around us, we think of it as a strong force.

The same is true of the internet. Most advertising and marketing people have come to believe that because the internet has become pervasive in our lives, it must be a strong advertising force. So far it has not been

As I asserted in The Failure Of The Web, last week, the internet has so far proven to be quite a weak advertising force. In its 12 years or so as a mainstream medium, I can think of no major non-native web brand that has been built primarily through internet advertising.

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