A s a media company in this Brave New World of digital everywhereness, texas fish & game is engaged in a constant effort to help the manufacturers of products aimed at people who fish and hunt to reach as many of those Texas anglers and hunters as possible and convince them of the superiority of their particular brands.
In the “old days,” this job was a lot simpler. There weren’t many choices to reach these people. Outdoor TV shows, in thirty-second bursts, enabled brands to show a lightning-quick glimpse of a boat, a motor, a rod, reel, lure, line, rifle, scope, ammo, or knife and hope to leave a positive brand impression. Outdoor print media offered the ability to show those same products, but to do so in a way that enabled more information to be conveyed—using multiple pictures and illustrations, descriptive text, and other graphic devices that could be viewed at the discretion, and pace, dictated by the reader.
Both forms of media had strengths and weaknesses. TV could showcase motion and sound, but, at just a fraction of a minute, the message was quickly gone. Print allowed the reader to spend as much time as necessary with a message before leaving it, and they could easily return to it anytime they wanted. But, print is a static message, fixed in place and unable show anything in action or with sound (unless you’re esquire, and glue a sound chip into every copy). There was also radio, which had ONE of the strengths of TV (the sound part) but had ALL of the weaknesses. It was in this environment that Outdoor Media competed, and for the most part, thrived.
Of course, as we’ve carped about in previous columns, all that has changed. The Internet and all of the ways it has enabled direct contact between individuals and those making and selling products, has mothered a revolution in the way everything is marketed.
Because it is now possible to shop, select, purchase and receive everything from toothbrushes to luxury automobiles with only a few clicks on a keyboard or phone screen, a whole lot of “middle-man” infrastructure, including retail stores, sales people, wholesale distributors, bulk freight operators, and the rest of the old-school chain of commerce, gets cut out of the transaction. You buy direct from a manufacturer or from a major distributor like Amazon and the only middle man is the guy driving the delivery truck—representing UPS, FedEx, or the Post Office as the only connecting link between the original source and the final consumer.
The Internet is having a similar effect on the promotional side of marketing. Since so much commerce is happening electronically between source and consumer, there has been a major push to forego the trouble and expense of producing TV, radio, and print ads and then scheduling them in the traditional media that had been the cornerstone of the pre-Internet marketplace.
Algorithms have become the new marketing drivers. They have displaced the reliance on creativity to build loyalty to a particular brand by reinforcing its distinguishing features in innovative and memorable campaigns to reach broad groups of potential customers.
Some of this makes sense. Amazon knows that when you click to purchase an Ugly Stik rod, you are a sure bet as a prospect for a Shakespeare reel. Just because someone reads fish & game or watches “Big Water Adventures” does not mean their finger is hovering above the One Click Order Button for anything advertised within our pages or Big Water’s air time.
But missing in any full-on embrace of this new world of instant source/consumer gratification is the careful attention to brand-building—“branding”—that helped establish so many icons that are burned into the memories of consumers, especially of rods, reels, guns, boats and the countless other items that sportsmen use to enjoy their outdoor pursuits. Without consumer advertising, buyers are left to form buying decisions from the sparse catalog prose they find below the listings of products served up by Internet searches. Loyalty to a brand? Fat chance.
This may seem a bit too “Inside Fish & Game” for some, but everybody uses branded products to fish or hunt with. (Those of you throwing sharpened sticks at your prey may be excused).
Commercials that start out with “Ask your doctor…” are the best examples of what is wrong with advertising. But ads that inform or inspire you to consider a product that might improve your outdoors experience, those are worth your attention. And since they also keep us in print, and Mark Davis on the air, we feel right about standing up for them.
Email Roy and Ardia Neves at [email protected]