App marketing: same problem, different century

An Isreali software developer has scored a first in App marketing by launching ‘Yo’, a messaging App that just sends the word ‘Yo’ to people you know. If they want to reply, they can only do so using the same two letter word. Apparently, the ambiguity this must cause isn’t hindering its popularity among the techie crowd – a group well-known as early adopters. Yo pares down communication to the absolute minimum (kind of like Twitter on steriods), which must be part of its appeal to some who are time-pressed and information overloaded.

Reading about Yo, I was transported back to the 1980s, the golden marketing era before the internet, PCs or mobile phones. Back then I was a fledgling marketing manager at the newly minted telecoms giant BT and part of my weekly ritual was reading Marketing Week magazine. Aside from the usual industry gossip of who was doing what to whom and why, the magazine’s most popular page was the very funny ‘Last Word’ column by Iain Murray. Murray had a talent for finding and writing about the absurd in marketing – and he was never short of material. One column was a book review. The book was titled something like ‘101 Business Letters for Every Occasion’ and was designed to save busy executives having to draft letters from scratch (remember, this was the typewriter and typist era).

Murray made the point that the book’s author hadn’t thought his idea through far enough. All that a busy executive needed was to send his contacts a personal copy of the book. When they then needed to make written contact, all they had to do was say something like: Dear John, No.6. The respondent would then look up Letter number six and choose the appropriate response – perhaps “Dear Bill, No.15” might be all that was required by way of reply. It’s not the only absurdity from the 80s to reappear in the 21st century. I’ve seen some of the haircuts around Hoxton.

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