Beam me up Scotty

In the early series of Star Trek there was always that moment when Captain Kirk said “Beam me up Scotty” via his hand held device. I wonder if the props man on the set thought to develop his bit of science fiction in to a working model? I bet he is kicking himself now. Walking around today most of us have our hand held devices and who would have thought it when watching Star Trek at the time?

We can do most of the magic stuff Captain Kirk had on his device – talk, look at movies, view maps, get a pin point accurate geographical position, work out the square root of 736 (27.129), plus many more – except the ‘beam me up’ function but guessing it won’t be too long. Perfect for escaping that over-served bigot who keeps saying ‘and another thing’ whilst sticking his/her finger in ones chest at a drinks party.

It got me thinking about the fragmentation of this modern communication tool in terms of early and late adopters. Also does the interest and appeal of the functions decline by age? I’ve met a lot of people who work in the IT/mobile/games worlds and they all have one obvious commonality – they are all younger, say 30 or lower. Do they have marketing teams focused on different age groups? Or don’t they bother worrying about the over 40’s?

One possible answer is global reach and the scale of market opportunity. The world population is c. 7 billion so if 5% bought a new handset, e.g. Apples latest iPhone in the first year of launch, then that’s 350 million sales. On those numbers why worry about the late adopters? Also based on limited visits to Apple stores in New York and London where the stores have been rammed with customers aged around 25 it perhaps pays to focus on early adopters. It’s no wonder Apple has a cash mountain of $bns it’s thinking of dispersing somehow.

Also Facebook has 850 million users so this site reaches around 12% of the world’s population, or put it another way, 1 in 8 people. Guessing it is more like 1 in 2 of people aged between 12 and 30. Staggering.

So maybe the deal is focus on younger early adopters. In marketing speak going from zero to 10% penetration of an expectant, enthusiastic market is relatively easy and very profitable. It’s far tougher in saturated markets trying to squeeze out a tiny increase in brand share. To keep this momentum going it means a steady stream of new products to market coinciding with current products beginning to slow down in sales terms.

So I get the scale point but I don’t get some of the creations. Twitter being my favourite one to ask people about. I’m left stony cold, it leaves me gagging for anything that is remotely smart. Do we have global thought leaders tweeting their thoughts all the time? All I get is drivel and more drivel. Why in a million years would someone believe I could be interested in knowing which airport/hotel/office/bar they are in at that moment. I just don’t get it on any level.

I don’t think the clever crew of the Starship Enterprise would have been too impressed if Captain Kirk sent them a message saying ‘I’m just having a pooh at the moment here on Planet Zog, Scotty can beam me up in 5 minutes’. Too much detail, the second part of the sentence would suffice. 

The technology advances and the ability to go global is truly amazing and has changed the world in many ways.  It feels, however, there is a growing age divide because the modern mega brands are clearly focused on a younger customer group and quite honestly why not? They are both earlier adopters and embrace new ideas plus they are the future. Although we are living longer and the silver surfer is a reality I would guess the decline in interest in all things new and shiny does gather speed as time ticks by.

It is all about personal band-width. A younger person has more available memory whereas someone older has used it up. No available space for more information. Maybe that’s why when people get really older they start going backwards in recall, the memory cells start deleting stuff. Young people have fresh wiring whereas older people have analogue wiring.

I would quite like one of those machines they had on the Starship Enterprise where you could plug in and get a download of data, it would save me those sinking feelings I get when I open the instruction manual of my latest technology purchase. I rarely get past the ‘fast set-up’ section.

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