When Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase “The medium is the message”, he used the example of the railway, pointing out that it did not introduce movement or transport or the wheel into society, but it accelerated and enlarged the scale of previous human functions, creating totally new kinds of cities and new kinds of work and leisure.
I was reminded of this, when I saw the TV advertisement that is currently being run by AO.com, the online domestic appliance retailer.
The ad doesn’t talk about the products – it’s set in a warehouse that’s a hive of activity as washing machines, fridges etc are moved out, and staff high-five each other as another order is fulfilled.
For AO, clearly, the movement is the message.
This focus on logistics and service has paid dividends for the company. The business only exists because in 2000 CEO John Roberts bet a friend £1 that the internet could be used to sell appliances in a better way.
Setting out its strategy, the company says: “We have engineered our supply chain to provide the best service possible for our customers, in the most efficient, intelligent and effective economic way.”
In 2009 it acquired two-man delivery company, Expert Logistics, from Iceland giving it control over the distribution of its goods.
And the success of the strategy was highlighted last week when AO.com floated on the stock market giving it a market capitalisation of £1.5 billion.
McLuhan also came up with the notion of the global village, and he predicted the world wide web some thirty years before it was invented. I suspect that the way AO has focused on the medium of logistics would appeal to him.