Marking the date, looking at security

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This issue of BtoB carries a heavy dateline: 9/11. Much will be said and written this week about the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. There will be public ceremonies, private remembrances and, in that distinctly American tradition, policy debates, enlivened by good, old-fashioned partisan politics. In the immediate shocking wake of Sept. 11, BtoB's coverage chronicled changes in the tone and language of marketing messages: an unease about using humor in advertising and an honest sensitivity to using military terms such as "target." Managing Editor John Obrecht, in a column in the Oct. 1, 2001, issue of BtoB, wrote: "Too often, we business journalists rely on images of warfare and disaster. In an era when businesspeople glean management lessons from Attila the Hun, corporate `raiders' are characterized as `barbarians at the gate' and marketing gurus tout 'guerrilla' tactics, how could it be otherwise?" To me, what is notable and admirable is how, five years later and still under the shadow of ongoing security threats, things continue pretty much as they did before 9/11. Maybe that shouldn't be a surprise. I wrote in this space on Sept. 17, 2001: "But the truism remains: Life goes on. Against the backdrop of a grim national trauma, the vast majority of businesses are open; people are at work, trying as best they know how to plan for the future." Put another way, we've adapted. Accepting of new security protocols-take off your shoes, leave your scissors (and now toothpaste and perfume) at home or in checked baggage-millions of us still fly for business and pleasure. Today, in fact, I'll be on a plane headed to Scottsdale, Ariz., to attend the DMA's B-to-B Interactive Marketing Conference. Surprising some prognosticators, video conferencing never emerged as a real competitor to business travel. At the same time, business adoption of instant messaging, Web conferencing, blogs and wikis shows no sign of slowing down. It's an interesting mixed bag. There is, however, one marketing category that has seen a dramatic shift since 9/11: Products and services for homeland security. Our Page 1 story in this issue, by Media Editor Sean Callahan, explores this segment, starting with this statistic: "In 2000, U.S. spending on homeland security stood at $5 billion, according to Homeland Security Research Corp. Last year, total U.S. spending reached $23 billion. By 2015, Homeland Security Research projects that spending will total $73 billion." The story also looks at trade magazines devoted to homeland security topics. This specialized sector saw a phenomenal 24.2% increase in ad pages between 2003 and 2005, according to IMS. But the story includes one somewhat ominous surprise: Spending on private sector security products "hasn't met the initial expectations for growth that were held after 9/11, according to security industry observers." In the Oct. 1, 2001, issue of BtoB , I concluded a column by writing: "[W]ith security heightened everywhere-from airports to the building in Chicago where I work-and with an enemy that strikes without warning, everyone is appropriately sensitized to the importance of security. Will marketers take advantage of this increased awareness, where appropriate? Will they communicate the security aspects of their products and services? I think they will. I think they should." One useful exercise on this fifth-year anniversary would be to revisit your company's security readiness from both an operational and a marketing standpoint. Ellis Booker is editor of BtoB and BtoB's Media Business, and can be reached at [email protected].
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