What’s New?

Nothing and Everything

Nothing is new and yet, everything is new. Is this more blah, blah nonsense? Absolutely not. Whatever is new now, in a nanosecond will be old. So, in that nanosecond what you think is new, is, but, a new new comes so fast that everything seems new and old at the same time.

If you think this is gobbledygook, guess again. And, put your serious thinking cap on for what follows.

The Robin ReportIn our digitized, socially communitized, e-world, an overwhelming stream of “new” is instantaneously trumped by another overwhelming stream of “new.” We live in a world that is in a constant state of disruption.

The severe downside of such disruption, which naturally triggers expectations of change, is that in the split second before we see or hear what such change is, there is another disruption. The result of this rather dark Pavlovian lesson is that one cannot plan for change, indeed, a changed “whatever it is” never happens. It’s simply a disruption-on-disruption world.

Therefore, the 24/7 connectedness of human ears and eyes to all devices in “e-world” is an addiction that yields a steadily diminishing “high,” (another “new”), only to find more disruption.

This addiction has the long term potential of creating a world in which nothing is long term, including the attention span of the human mind. In fact, we’re already there. Sound bites and pictures lasting no more than ten seconds are all we tolerate when receiving communications.

Reading? Writing? What is that? If disruption and change are constant, why would one bother to plan for the long term, and what would one plan for, anyway?

One possible result of this syndrome is that if one anticipates they are about to receive the next new thing in a nanosecond, why choose, accept or buy the new thing one is currently connected to? This scenario is similar to the deflationary spiral that economists dread. If consumers believe prices will be lower tomorrow, they won’t buy today.

And, when tomorrow comes with lower prices, they expect lower prices the next day, and so forth, as the economy deflates downward, as it has in Japan for twenty years. At the absurd extreme in our shortterm world, then, no one would ever buy anything, because the next new thing is always around the corner, newer, and more appealing.

Another possible outcome, and one carrying a similar potential to “lower all ships,” is not only likely, but actually happening. Because the disruption and changes are occurring at such a fast and furious pace, people are likely to snap up whatever is being said or shown to them, and to do so even more quickly if they’re tweeted an “okay, cool” or a Facebook “Like It” by one of their pals.

So, what’s wrong with that? Well, nothing, except that the scenario actually disrupts and changes the entire world, and not just for a nanosecond, but, forever.

Get it? It leads to “short-termism.” It leads to communications, including information, that must be faster, louder and more provocative, to get immediate attention and buy-in. Think about the credibility of news vs. a blog that might be more exciting in the moment.

It means products and brands and services of the “moment,” as long as they are hyped and tweeted and facebooked, and the newest, hottest, and “now” – in other words, promising to be gone in a nanosecond. Think about “fast fashion” getting faster, the Gilt Groupe and Rue La La flash sales getting shorter (and flashier), new beauty introductions more often, thirty nine sub-brands of Tide and other names spewing forth, and on and on. More new, more often, more now.

The implications for product and brand life cycles, loyalty – even the duration of things like relationships – are pretty sobering.

And, one more nightmare to think about: with virtually no barriers to entry, (including financial), how many new e-commerce sites do you think are being built, even as I write, for some new product or other, on top of the fifty billion websites already out there?

Big question for our readers: how do you compete and grow your business in such a short-term environment that is constantly being disrupted by the next “new,” to say nothing of the e-devices that give your customers five competitors’ places that have the exact same item, cheaper? Yes, that’s right – you keep pursuing private and exclusive brands, over which you have total control, but how do you keep those brands fresh and relevant in this overbranded, over-stuffed, short-term world?

Lastly, and talk about disrupting and changing the world forever, need I even mention Egypt, and the first tweeted revolution in history?

Is the constant disruption, change and short-termism in our daily lives a good thing? And, is the constant disruption and change and short-termism for our world, and forever, a good thing? Is it good for our families, our world? How do we deal with it?

And, good luck!

Robin Lewis About Robin Lewis

Robin Lewis has over forty years of strategic operating and consulting experience in the retail and related consumer products industries. He has held executive positions at DuPont, VF Corporation, Women’s Wear Daily (WWD), and Goldman Sachs, among others, and has consulted for dozens of retail, consumer products and other companies. In addition to his role as CEO and Editorial Director of The Robin Report, he is a professor at the Graduate School of Professional Studies at The Fashion Institute of Technology.