In praise of survival

This month marks the last time a brand new VCR will roll off the conveyor belt of Funai Electric in Japan. It is 12 years since most major shops in the UK and Europe stopped selling VCRs, relegating their bulky tapes to ever-decreasing shelf space at the back of charity shops. Someone, somewhere was still buying them a decade after the technology’s death had been pronounced. In our headlong rush to embrace the new we’re too quick to write off the capacity of the predecessors to cling on.

Just because something should be eclipsed it doesn’t mean it will be. Videos are no vinyl and the days of rewinding after viewing, spooling tape and opening up the back to blow out the dust are not greatly missed. Yet they survived for 40 years where DVDs and Blurays managed merely a decade before their sales started to fall thanks to online streaming. There is something intrinsically admirable to survival, and this is something that is often underestimated by communicators. For brands in crisis or disrupted technology the future is always all or nothing. Either we weather this storm or perish, invent the new google or go back to selling double glazing. In reality doing nothing can be the best approach.

Take Jeremy Corbyn. Having lost the support of over three quarters of his parliamentary party by any conventional political reckoning he should be toast. Yet still he remains the resounding frontrunner in the seemingly endless Labour leadership tussle. Rather than changing to suit his critics he has stuck to the same lines and refused to budge. This has endeared him to the core – the party members longing for more clearly defined left wing credentials- and arguable the outright contempt shown by many in the Labour backbenches towards the Opposition leader has only bolstered Corbyn’s standing.

Survival of the old doesn’t always have to be at odds with innovation. With the case of Pokemon Go we have a platform that is opening up previously unimagined possibilities for augmented reality. It is based on characters and gameplay that have barely moved a millimetre from their Nintendo origins 20 years ago. In Pokemon’s case this throwback quality of the content puts a technology that raises a number questions on the ethics of data use and privacy in a package that is reassuringly familiar. As ever, everything is different and everything is the same.