Don’t be a turn off

Ubiquitous computing, blended reality, the internet of things, web 5.0 – it is getting pretty obvious that thinking about digital as a separate channel is a silly idea. Over the past decade we have made giant technological leaps with today a billion people connecting to the web via a mobile phone (last year that figure was 500 million, next year it is estimated to be 2 billion!)

Digital technology has not changed us, it has just enabled us to be more social and with the ability to connect almost everywhere at any time we are leaving a digital shadow wherever we go. It is easy to forget how many posts we have uploaded, how many status’ we have made or how many photos we have uploaded. Technology is enabling us to create a public diary sometimes without thinking twice about the information we are sharing with each other. It can be scary how easy it is to access someone else’s identity.

At the same time digital technology is allowing advertisers to target people by taking advantage of this digital exhaust we are leaving behind. This is great news for advertisers who now think they have the right to talk to us and bombard us with as many messages as they can capitalising on our context, timing and browsing behaviour (we now receive anything up to 5,000 ad messages every day!)

Because brands have more access to consumers’ personal doorways than ever it is tempting to talk to an audience at any given chance. A good tip I read the other day was to think about what you are trying to do as if it were a conversation you were having with someone. This should be a good measure as to whether you are really coming up with something engaging for the audience. If you met someone in a bar you wouldn’t want the conversation from that person to consist of them standing in your way giving you a detailed analysis of exactly why you were right for each other and that you shouldn’t be persuaded otherwise that you are a match made in heaven because you share the same interests. This person would be rather off putting as you would have no room to discover for yourself what this person was about as they will have already told you.

This is what some brands are doing. Brands that try too hard, that get the targeting spot on, in the right context but just end up blurting out too much information. They might ask you to play a game with them, spread their viral or like them without thinking about the reward in doing so for the consumer. People are not stupid and they won’t be persuaded. In fact they will find it a bit weird and annoying.
If we are going to have all this wonderful data at our hands because of the digital exhaust which people are leaving in their trail this is great as it helps us to better understand customers. But the downside to this is that the data can be used in completely the wrong way which in turn means customers become weary of giving information to people who they think might end up abusing it.

Brands need to think about their activity like a decent conversation. If they can’t have a decent conversation then they shouldn’t try to make one. They could think about facilitating them instead. Or just listening and attaching themselves to other things which are relevant in people’s lives. The best brands often look like they are not trying.

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