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Feeling Supersonic

By: Jeff Falk
Posted: January 27, 2014, from the January 2014 issue of GCI Magazine.

“A study published Tuesday by Rutgers University’s Center for Media Studies reported that a major shift in the media landscape occurs approximately once every six seconds...” reported The Onion.

First, I should probably provide a disclaimer for those not familiar: The Onion is a satirical news publication. However, that doesn’t mean there’s not a truth in that statement. Good, successful satire works because it is built on recognizable truth. The veracity produces the affirming nod; stretching that veracity to proportions just short of complete disbelief elicits the smile. In this report, “every four seconds, new social trends cause the rise of new spheres of global interaction, which we all—every single one of us—must adapt to within minutes.”

The veracity, I think, we all have come to know. In order to keep an edge for our businesses, we are challenged to keep up with, adapt to and embrace new means of global interaction and the speed at which that interaction moves. So in this case, the bit of truth stretching doesn’t seem like much of a stretch. The spread of trends isn’t fast, it is supersonic—and the spread of macro trends can send vibrations through businesses that, in some cases, fundamentally alter the way business is done. If a business is not willing to change the paradigms of how it communicates and serves its customers on its own accord, bigger realities will shift those paradigms right under the foundation of that business.

Take, for example, L’Oréal’s announcement that it is creating a group travel retail division, which will include brands across many of its divisions. The move is being made, according to the company, because of the democratization of travel, especially in emerging countries, which has led to “an increased number of travelers and thus consumers who today are searching in this channel for a full selection of products that correspond to their beauty aspirations, whatever their nationalities, beauty rituals or purchasing power.”

L’Oréal is creating a division not because preferences have changed or consumers are clamoring for the latest trendy product—the division is being launched because the fundamentals of a huge number of people’s lives are changing. The trends that impact those fundamentals are the ones to pay attention to—and are worth paying attention to. L’Oréal’s goal is to win a billion new consumers.

“Travel retail is a key channel for winning over one billion new consumers,” said Jean-Paul Agon, chairman and CEO of the L’Oréal Group. “This market, present around the world, could be considered as a ‘sixth continent.’”

I know not everyone reading this has the capacity or resources to undertake a strategy aimed at winning a billion new consumers, but understanding macro trends (whether on a local or global level) and playing in new spheres of interaction should be part of the strategy to win new consumers, whatever the number.

And by the way, The Onion further reported that a “follow-up study later confirmed that this article, the social media site used to access this article, and the person reading this article are all part of a vastly outdated mode of communication.” Another truth in the satire: we’re never done catching up.