I recently adopted a Hermes 3000 - the 1970s typewriter, not a futuristic Parisian silk scarf. I'm not sure why I brought it home, but I’m pretty sure my sneaky subconscience (let's call her Fifi) was behind it. See, Fifi is convinced that she needs to interact with something that doesn't need a battery charge. She's behind the book purchases I make even though I have a Kindle and an iPad and she's had a hand in the magazine subscriptions that pile up on my coffee table; she’s practically a Luddite.
Then, last week, I ran across a piece on the NYT about how typewriters are the new hipster trend—and let’s be honest: by the time a trend piece makes it into the Times Style section, it’s probably been a trend for years—and I realized Fifi is not alone. Now, the observation that we’re too plugged in and dumbing and numbing ourselves down as a society is not new (there’s a reason we still read Walden), but we are arguably living in the most hyperconnected era of history (so far).
Have you ever tried typing on a typewriter? You have to stop and actually think. You can’t navigate away from a blank page—not without physically walking away from it, admitting defeat. It’s a humbling experience. Ideas have to be a heck of a lot stronger.
There’s a lesson in all this for marketers. We’re deeply plugged in and, frankly, have to be in order to understand the media landscape in which we operate. But—get this little irony—because the whole world is just one never-ending information network these days, our ideas have to be a heck of a lot stronger if they’re to have any permanence. It’s easy to wax nostalgic about the days of Mad Men, but it’s more productive to spend that time finding the middle ground between classic idea development (ingredients: pen, paper pile, willingness to discover just how disturbing your train of thought can get) and hyperconnected idea development (ingredients: gadget with Internet access).
Let’s say you use Facebook to conduct an informal poll about a target group. Stop when you have what you need. Take it with you and look at it until it means something beyond one of 10 screens you have open on your computer. You’d be surprised at how much it changes while in your hands, getting your full attention.
Typewriters are nostalgic because they offer a sense of permanence that we’re losing at a pretty fast pace—Fifi and I can agree on that much. But if we slow down just a bit, we have a shot to have ideas with permanence—and that’s a skill that will never become obsolete.