By Brett Knobloch February 16, 2004 -- Does anyone remember any of those wacky Doctor Dolittle characters from their childhood books? As many as there were, the one I remember the most was the Push-Me-Pull-you. The Push-Me-Pull-You was the two-headed llama whose two halves were so connected that they had to work together to go anywhere. The reason I remember it is because it may be an appropriate metaphor for the power of the Web in our lifetimes. The Internet and other “connecting technologies” are literally permeating the very fabric of our existence. With all the hype that we've seen over the past eight years, it's hard to imagine that we are only seeing the very beginning of this evolution. On the technology horizon, you may have heard about RFID, or Radio Frequency Identification. It has recently been mandated by Wal-Mart for it's top 100 suppliers to help track shipments and warehouse inventories at a more granular level. Wal-Mart is using these tiny transmitters --affixed to everything from shirts to soda pop to--to automatically keep track of millions in inventory. In the future, it will be possible to track individual items in and out of stores, and also to track the ones you're wearing. Imagine being able to tailor a message on a store sign based upon a sensor in that sign that knows who is in front of it. Personalized offers indeed! The upshot is that with Wal-Mart creating and stimulating the market for this technology, the rest of retail and the supplier community can't be far behind. This is part of the next wave Closer to home we've already seen a move by marketers to use all commercially available technology now to reach out and connect to their customers. Many trees have been felled extolling the virtues of building relationships with your best customers….and for good reason. MVC's (Most Valuable Customers) typically account for the lions' share of your company's business. This driving need by marketers will continue and intensify. But wait! With all the advances in technology, haven't we also witnessed a backlash against those that use technology to bother us? Absolutely. When technology allowed mass mailing to become economical, there were cries about “junk mail”. When telephone technologies enabled more productive outbound calling, there was legislation on telemarketing. Ditto for FAX machine marketing, and the Internet. SPAM is feeling the backlash now and for good reason. Our firm provides Web services for thousand of independent dealers, and we block millions of SPAM emails a month from their accounts. It's a real problem, and one that won't be solved by the passing of a few laws in Congress. But those in the printing industry who are secretly hoping SPAM will spell the end of the Internet evolution are destined to be disappointed. In the big picture of marketing communications, SPAM is only a blip on the radar and in time will become a non-issue. Every other new communication channel has had its challenges and this is no different. To me, the fundamental issue with time-starved, attention-deficit consumers is control. Consumers want control over their exposure to marketing messages and they want to control the frequency and relevance of the information they seek when making purchases. This basic need for control and relevance will help ensure that websites and web-based delivery systems like email will be around for a long, long time. Websites provide consumers with the ultimate in control and relevance. If you choose to visit a site, you do. If not, you don't. You control where you go on the site and if you want to drill deeper into a topic. Want still more information or a live chat session on the spot? Request an email response or sign up for an email newsletter….again, you're in control. You're in charge. You choose to pull or not. Marketers can push, but you choose to pull. It's the ultimate Push-Me- Pull-You. Dr. Dolittle would be proud.