It started with Guttenberg – Why communication channel divergence has screwed up your marketing


It all began with Guttenberg back in the 1440’s. Remember him? He invented the first printing press in the western world that worked. He put the monks out of business as the custodians of Intellectual property. Guttenberg’s invention worked so well that his technology remained virtually unchanged for 350 years. We’ve long since forgotten the efforts thousands of craftsmen who laboured long and hard over hundreds of years to perfect the craft of printing. What typefaces gave the best comprehension rates? How does the eye traverse a printed page? Where should we place the headline, images and the call to action to garner the best response?

By the 1900’s printers had perfected their craft

Sure, Alexander Graham Bell with his telephone and Marconi with his radio thingummy added a tiny bit of competition in the communication channel space. By the time Napoleon Hill published “Think and Grow Rich” in 1937, the world of print had nailed how to market to its readers. It knew that serif fonts (like Times) generated good comprehension rates in 67% of readers while sans-serif fonts (like Arial) only generated 12% good comprehension.

We’d also uncovered the concept of Reader Gravity, how the eye traversed the page from the Primary Optical Area to the Terminal Anchor as shown in the Guttenberg Diagram.


We really had nailed how to sell and market. We knew how to educate and inform prospects with high quality decision facilitating information.

It was not until 1945 that print met its first real visual competitor… Television was released commercially in the USA and found its way to Australia in 1956.

And that’s when it happened – TV screwed it up forever

Demand far outstripped supply, prices for TV ads went through the roof. Timeslots shrank from 2 minutes to 30 seconds. There was no longer enough time to inform prospects based on the unchanging laws of human nature which dictate that people want the best deal in terms of price and value. Major corporate advertisers switched tactics to accommodate this new medium. Before long, the old informational way of marketing was lost forever.

No one cared because so few companies could afford the billion dollars or so the brand builders splashed around promoting their products on TV. Competitors with the financial wherewithal to compete were wonderfully few. After about 8,000 repetitions you actually believed “things go better with Coke” and yet there were still enough prospects to share with Pepsi so both brands thrived.

We quickly forgot what worked

After a few short years, the old ways were forgotten, textbooks were rewritten, lectures reprogrammed to accommodate the new C&R (creativity and repetition) approach of the ASX200 type companies. Ad agencies started using C&R campaigns for all their customers including their smaller clients who did not have deep enough pockets to effectively use this technique. All of our marketing became filled with useless platitudes, jargon and self serving language. This was of no interest to prospects making their way along the buyers journey. All they wanted was genuine decision facilitating information and no one was giving it to them! Regardless how good a company was on the inside (what I call its inside reality), the prospects outside perception was that every supplier looked the same. To the prospect, the only differentiating factor visible was price so they bought the lowest priced item or service. Competitors spiralled into a dizzy spin towards financial ruin which few startups survived.

Everything we learnt about marketing and advertising was wrong and nobody realised it!

The Internet made it worse

It got worse! Australia first connected to the Internet in 1989 and the World Wide Web was released in 1991. This enabled the Internet to become a workable computer network instead of a haven for geeks and the academic community. Communications channels diverged further and we forgot even more about how to convey information with optimum educational effectiveness. The scientific boffins struggled with low resolution 100 dpi screens that could not display the niceties of type that could be displayed in print. So the boffins threw out the serifs that were there to help us comprehend. Microsoft and Apple spent a few million or so designing fonts that kind of worked on screen. Vince Connare who designed Trebuchet and Comic Sans fonts said of these that they “lack the subtle humanistic characteristics of the original when onscreen, and some lack soul”. Is it any wonder that we read 30% slower on screen and comprehend 50% less?

Manufacturers would have us believe that the latest technology improvements in monitor resolution has fixed the problem. In 2014, Apple proudly claim their Macbook Pro has a pixel resolution of 227 dpi. What nonsense! The descendents of Guttenberg were accustomed to 2500-3500 dpi 30 years earlier!

Social Media continued the Rot

If it wasn’t bad enough that we had to come to grips with this brand new medium of the Internet that screwed up our marketing, some idiots invented a few social media channels. Before long, the rot has continued though increasing dependence on social media for marketing. We’ve allowed ourselves to be bombarded with more and more messaging that has spiraled into shorter and shorter snippets. This has reduced our attention span even further. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, it just gets worse! The ever widening communication channel divergence keeps getting worse and each new channel continues to screw with our already lame marketing attempts.

What to do about it?

So how do small business owners survive in this crazy world? Well it’s pretty simple really. The first business to give their prospects what they want in any market place wins all of the profitable customers! Use a blended approach of new and old technology to provide your prospects with quality decision facilitating information. Provide them with awesome content for free.

This allows them to educate themselves about the “must knows” when considering purchasing your product. Let them uncover the secrets of your industry and your competitors (not just your business). Show them you offer the best deal in terms of price and VALUE. Teach them how to make sound decisions. Lead them through their buyers journey. Help them as they move from information-gathering, thinking-about-it mode until it becomes crystal clear to them that they would be an absolute fool to do business with anyone but you.

Some IT people have re-discovered the old secrets and started to use them on the web. They thought they had discovered something new and named it inbound marketing. We call it the conversion equation and have been using it for years.

In future posts, we will explain this equation in detail and show you how you can create an unfair advantage in the marketplace and win all of the profitable customers. Make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss a thing!

2 Responses to It started with Guttenberg – Why communication channel divergence has screwed up your marketing

  1. Raymond Huan March 16, 2015 at 2:54 am #

    Hmm, great article, thanks Rod!

    • Rod Webster March 16, 2015 at 11:01 am #

      Thanks Raymond, glad you liked it

Leave a Reply