So, @youngandjoven on Twitter was looking for an article on the topic in this headline and it got me thinking. Emerging technologies, particularly in combination, often have unexpected consequences. According to The Wall Street Journal, “Gen Zers are so used to texting on arrival that the sound of a ringing doorbell freaks them out…” (Paywall)
Take, for example, the humble alarm clock. Years ago, I had a huge round one made of metal that ticked fiercely all through the night and in the morning frightened the living daylights out of me when it rang. It had one single, clearly defined purpose and that was to wake me up – indeed it would wake anyone within a half mile radius. It wasn’t a thing of beauty and it kept appalling time so you had to keep constantly checking it against the pips on the Bee Bee Cee so that there was some chance that by the end of the week you would still get to work on time.
Nowadays though, I have my phone (or is it a camera?) which can wake me up with a gently accelerating chime, bringing me from sleep like the sweetest lover, about to offer me untold bounty. The screen can glow gently and then brighter to simulate the dawning day and my alarm (what a word for such a thing of refined elegance) can be encouraged to ring only on work days, or with different tones and pieces of music to suit different situations. Big old alarm clock makers are probably going out of business because their market has disappeared, other than for retro-obsessed steampunk addicts and the very elderly who a) would never have a fangled thing like a phone or b) wouldn’t hear it if they did.
Frankly, it was a ghastly piece of tinny rubbish, barely fit for purpose and my phone’s alarm also boasts a timer (including laps), a bedtime prompter (who knew?), a stopwatch and a world clock. What’s more, at the very moment I trip across the border between Spain and Portugal, the clock automatically resets itself to local time and matches the alarms to ensure that I’m not awoken an hour early or late.
I’m not a millennial and I don’t believe I’ve killed the alarm clock business, but let’s come to the tricky issue of texting your arrival and those wretched doorbell manufacturers. Frankly, if I was in the doorstep chiming racket, I’d not be too worried, but maybe I’m not as au fait with the latest trends in portal tintinnabulation. I live in a flat (sorry, apartment) and it’s a long way down to the front door so there’s one of those wall phones with a button that opens the remote door to give visitor access. Without it, nobody could get in, other than by waiting for a resident to arrive or leave. It’s great for keeping out undesirables but is also effective in deterring the parcel delivery man, my technophobic aunt and my disabled friend who can’t reach the buttons. It doesn’t however, deter aspiring politicians, seriously drunk revellers or the person delivering to any flat other than mine who cannot be bothered to dial the right flat.
For many of my visitors, texting “Here”, or better still, the emoji of a house (home) as my wife does, is an effective way of ensuring that I’ll race down in the lift and open the door or the garage. It’s not putting the doorbell company out of business because their product is still reasonably required and effective. It is however enhancing its usefulness, meaning that I can have more of a synergy with my visitors than others without a text facility might.
Now, to be fair, the security phone bell is enough to wake the dead. Each flat on my floor can hear the other’s going off which is fine if, like me, you are a kindly soul and think “Oh, Stan and Vera are out. I’ll nip down and collect their parcel.” If you’re not, however, you’ll be wishing for that text facility.
We should turn our attention to the millennials’ role in all of this. After all, most things that are wrong, evil, awry, crazy and unacceptable to anyone over 40 are down to them. Apparently. Apart from ruining long-standing industries in their rush to embrace the latest tech, they’ve pushed out the style leaders who set the agenda only ten or twenty years ago – how dreadful is that and how culpable are they? They come into our workplaces, with their snappy hair, cool yet well-fitting clothes and fads for coffee other than the standard Nescafé, bringing in new ideas that break the way we’ve done things for years. These upstarts claim to be making “workflows” more “facilitated” and our “throughput” should be “optimised”, leading to “leveraging” of “nascent ability”. I mean. C’mon, guys.
Things change. Be it the door-knocker replaced by the doorbell by the text. Or the old ways swept away by the new ways. Sometimes, innovations are great and change lives, change businesses. Sometimes they don’t and they fall flat on their highly presumptuous faces. But without trying those new things – pushing the envelope – (stick with me), nothing changes. And if nothing changes, if nothing is broken, if nothing is replaced, our innovation withers on the vine and our businesses will go nowhere. Whereas those millennials, they are going somewhere. Trust me.
I’m texting “here” from now on. Chuck out your doorbells.
Nick Evans is Chairman of ExtraMile Communications, which he set up in 2000 with Gabrielle Hadley (Managing Director). ExtraMile is an international digital marketing agency that provides multilingual services in web design and development, email marketing, Search Engine Marketing and PR to companies large and small. (www.extramilecommunications.com)
Previously, Nick was Head of Marketing for Apple Education and before that, had a career in sales and marketing after being a school teacher in the North East of England. He has a long history of working in and with technology, in education, in marketing and in business. He is a published author with titles in topics including business development, education software and, latterly, a venture into teen fiction.