The Marketing Genius Archive #2 – Marshall McLuhan, The Medium Is The Message


Over 50 years ago, Marshall McLuhan wrote that the medium is the message, by which he meant that the way in which we consume information is more important than the information itself. So the introduction of the telephone was more important than any individual message that passed through it, likewise for radio, television and of course social media.

I have mixed feelings about this – on the one hand I believe that in the world of social media businesses are often guilty of putting the platform first without any sense of the content they want to create. They jump onto the latest channel out of fear of falling behind the competition And I believe that great content is great content and if you get that right, then to some extent the channel will take care of itself.

However, this is of course a slight oversimplification and I, like many marketers, would probably benefit from occasionally reminding myself of McLuhan’s mantra. The channel we use not only determines who see’s the content, but also the format in which it needs to be presented, the duration for which they will consume that content, the weight, the gravitas that they attach to that content, so for example an ad in a magazine is likely to make a far greater impact than an ad at the bottom of a YouTube video, but perhaps most importantly it determines the objective of the content and the Key Performance Indicator that will be used to monitor that objective, so if the goal is to maximise brand reach then radio or instagram may be the most appropriate channels, where as if the goal is to capture email and nurture the relationship over time then the blog or resources is likely to be more effective.

So, I probably have to concede that McLuhan that was onto something, but I still maintain that it is those brands that master their message and their content that will be around for the next platform to emerge, and the next 50 after that.

See you next time.

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