Exhausted consumer minds: re-blending comms, tech and targeting for more human results
Putting as much focus on every bit of human interaction that goes through a campaign, the same as we’re already doing with technology, provides an antidote to tech-triggered advertising fatigue, says This Is Flow Founder Jimmy Hyett.
The technology gap
Over the last 50 years, we’ve seen significant advances in innovation and technology, not in even increments, but exponential leaps. Ray Kurzweil, an American inventor and futurist, defines it succinctly: “Technology goes beyond mere tool making; it’s a process of creating ever more powerful tools from the previous round of innovation.”
This statement is completely accurate – because technology isn’t just getting smarter, it’s accelerating beyond a level we can’t even begin to grasp. And that’s the big issue... a lack of understanding.
However, it’s not a lack of understanding in our ability to generate new technologies, as new computers are now creating newer, smarter computers, faster than ever through automation and AI. The real struggle we face in the communications industry is in the level of connection that the human brain can comprehend, as the gap gets wider and further removed from the exponential growth of technology.
Overloading our brains
Our brains are designed to be linear, building our knowledge over time at a steady pace. For context, consider how your brain recognises distance in incremental steps. If you were to take thirty steps down a road, it would be easy for your brain to gauge the distance you crossed. Let’s say one step equals one meter. Well, thirty steps will take you thirty metres. Simple.
But what if each of those steps was exponential, if the distance you travelled with each step doubled every time? How far would you go? Five hundred metres? A kilometre? The human brain has a difficult time understanding the magnitude of the trip. And just to prove it, the distance of these 30 exponential steps... would equal more than 1 billion metres, or roughly twenty-six times around the Earth!
Our brains are overwhelmed by technology, yet we’re addicted to it. And brands can’t get enough of our insane technology consumption habits and the ease of access to consumers that it brings. But this begs the question – is access the real problem?
The industry problem
Within our world, we face a different dilemma that stretches beyond just understanding of technology and reaching our audience; we move into the realm of communicating. Hyper-targeting and data collection allow us to reach more and learn more about our consumers than we ever have before. However, many marketers claim that creating impact and generating a deep connection is getting harder as time goes on. And agencies are partly to blame.
The digital invasion across the media landscape started with cautious footsteps, but now it’s fully ingrained into every touchpoint. And for good reason. Progression of tools, data, systems and platforms have driven some of the biggest change and commercial advantage in the business world. But, with increased focus and push towards science, this has resulted in a reduced focus on art... the human element.
Agencies are shifting investment from people to tech, and this is where we are losing in the battle for connection with consumers as marketers try to navigate new competition. Not just against other brands, but against the increasing life distractions of an exhausted consumer brain just trying to keep up in this new digital age.
It’s not just the pace and volume of technology in our lives, multiple studies have shown consumers are not relating to brands either. HubSpot research in 2018 states that 81% of consumers place more trust in the advice of family and friends and 69% do not trust advertisements. IPG Mediabrands suggests in a US study that 65% of people skip online video advertising, and they do so as soon as they get the chance. Most people skip ads out of habit, with 76% saying they do so because it’s an ingrained behaviour in a digital world.
Agencies and marketers need to evolve, value and bring back the very essence of what we celebrate most within our industry: our creativity, the smartest strategies, ideas that shape the world and the people that inspire change.
The way forward
Technology’s a beautiful thing, but it’s also creating a false economy of success, with short-term customers celebrated only by their clicks and conversions. A justified validation of success initially, but to really make every dollar work harder towards driving long term growth, agencies need to rebalance their focus and better align both science and art.
This is further supported by Deloitte in a study that ran across 129 countries and 27 industries. The study found that strategy, NOT technology, was the key driver of success in a brand’s digital transformation. Now more than ever, connecting with our audiences to achieve long-term brand success is going to require much deeper thought and people power.
So, we look to the mix, technology and data is non-negotiable, and must be integrated in everything we do. It’s vital to utilise its power and unmatched ability to reach our audience at scale and with minimal wastage. But whilst we’re flying high on the exponential tech curve finding our audience, we need to bring our message down to a linear human level once we do find them. Our message needs to be grounded in relatable creative, fuelled by real human insights that make an emotional and lasting connection.
To close the loop, everything then needs to be wrapped in value. Not just rates, but an efficient and innovative process - the knowledge to keep navigating as the industry shifts and an understanding of real business challenges and opportunities.
It seems simple, but it’s worth reminding ourselves to stay human and not get so swept up in the swell of the technological tidal wave that we forget what’s really driving our industry.
By putting as much (re-)focus on every bit of human interaction that goes through a campaign, the same as we’re already doing with technology, we’ll soon see the competitive advantage that the (science + art) x value formula can deliver.