The backbone of marketing and public relations hasn’t changed that much since the days of the Cavemen — telling stories with words and images. Although the Geico guys didn’t have Dolby engineered sound back in their cave theaters like we do.
So from time to time in this blog, I will spotlight a ridiculous word for the day, look at its context and then fit it into its bigger picture. Or at least my perception of all that. Take off that cardigan, put on some slippers and channel your best Mr. Rogers with me.
The WORD of the DAY is SYNERGY.
Do you remember where you were the first time you heard someone say “synergy?”
It was 1989, I was at CAA, sitting at the end of an opulent conference table, surrounded by about 40 guys and five women all wearing Armani suits. Yes, even the security guard wore Italian silk those days. The Co-head of the Literary Dept. was addressing everyone. He had molded the careers of John Hughes and Ron Howard, among many others, so this 21 year old film grad was listening very intently.
“Synergy” he said, was the breakthrough idea that more money could be made by partnering with companies and people rather than only competing against them.
When it was over, everyone in the room was bleating like Clarice Starling’s lambs. All I could think was, “that’s it? Synergy means playing nice with the other kids?” Talk about everyone being on a Kool-Aid bender? Duh.
Across the nation, CEO’s and marketing gurus, whether Harvard graduates or high school dropouts, seized the opportunity to look cool and latched on to this 21st Century buzzword – even if technically it was still the 20th Century. They took the notion of partnership, alleged that it didn’t exist anywhere in business and gave it a cool name, implying they had somehow contributed to a cultural and business phenomenon, if not the betterment of mankind in its entirety.
And so, for the next decade all you would hear was:
Let’s synergize that.
We need to find synergy to move forward
That deal had to be more synergistic
Meanwhile, nestled away in a few sleepy industrial towns like Sunnyvale, Mountain View and Cupertino there were some ridiculously smart guys not just talking about synergy but designing the blueprints and pouring the foundation for it. Like —
Bill Joy and Scott McNealy
Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak
Tim Berners-Lee, Robert Kahn and Vinton Cerf – They (not Al Gore) invented the Internet. Oh yeah, that.
All these guys knew that someday every artery of the world would beat its lifeblood through a World Wide Wed accessed everywhere by anyone through personal computers.
For the 99.9% of us not living in Silicon Valley, it was too early to see that Great White swimming toward our shores. Who among us can honestly say they forecast the Internet’s rapid penetration and convergence with traditional media? Who really knew back in 1989 it would achieve such a ubiquitous presence in our lives?