Are you a major Twilight Zone geek? I’m in awe of Rod Serling. I look forward to the 4th of July each year but not for the reasons many others do. For me, it’s the Twilight Zone Marathon. What makes Serling such a visionary is that you can watch episodes over and over and still come away with new ideas.
The episode that sparked my interest this time was, “A Stop at Willoughby”. Rod Serling considered this episode his favorite of the first season. It’s set in modern day (1960). Today marks 52 years after this episode first aired, and the points Serling is making are just as applicable today as they were in 1960.
An overstressed New York ad executive is exasperated with his career and his overbearing boss, who’s angered by the loss of a major automotive account. The boss lectures him about this “push-push-push” business. “It’s push and drive, push-push-push, all the way down the line!” Unable to sleep properly at home, he drifts off for a short nap on the train during his daily commute through the November snow. He wakes to find the train stopped – in July 1888 – at a town called Willoughby.
Serling’s voice over at the beginning peaked my interest: “This is Gart Williams, ad agency exec. A man protected by a suit of armor all held together by one bolt. Just a moment ago, someone removed the bolt and his protection fell away from him and left him a naked target. He’s been cannonaded this afternoon by all the enemies of his life. He insecurity has shelled him, his sensitivity has straddled him with humiliation, his deep-rooted disquiet about his own worth has zeroed in on him, landed on target, and blown him apart.”
The ad agency boss refers to the push-push-push of advertising and Mr. Gart Williams is a metaphor for today’s consumer experience.
Traditional advertising was held together by one bolt and Social Media has removed it!
People are fed up with advertising messages being pushed on them. They’re sick of shoddy customer service and brands ignoring them. They long for a “peaceful, restful place, where a man can slow down to a walk and live his life full measure.”
This is the full-circle power shift happening right now. Thanks to Social networks, dialogues have grown (for free) between people living world’s away from one another, who might never actually meet in person. Dissatisfied, disappointed consumers have the power to make companies feel the pinch. What a shame that that’s what it’s going to take to make some dealers take Social Media seriously.
This colossal power shift back to the consumer means direct, daily contact with other consumers. We’ve come back to a place where buying decisions have a Social component. This means sharing, gossiping, engaging, informing and advising is all done out in the open. The push-push-push of ads doesn’t get the job done anymore. You must participate in those open conversations.
While it’s only in a dream, business owners can recognize the attraction to a place like Willoughby. Marketing has more impact when the environment is Social. The traditional barriers that kept businesses at arm’s length from consumers have disintegrated. If your customer already knows you through Social Media, there’s no need to push-push-push messages on them anymore.
Social Media requires a dealer to start thinking and acting like a small-town shop owner. Social Media is the place to start building that community. That’s no dream, that’s reality.
Here’s a clip from the episode: