Wait- Lets Talk about Me!
It’s a bold new age for marketers – with social and digital vehicles slicing into target groups with razor sharp precision, it would seem that the golden age of real one on one conversion conversations is almost here. And hasn’t that been the Holy Grail of advertising? The ability to create individual messages that speak to – well – individuals? Picture the incredibly personalized conversations we will soon be creating; engaging each person with language and vernacular that will spike their unique sense of delight and engagement. Hyper tailored marketing in a radically segmented world, the impossible dream we talked about decades ago is now really and truly possible. But should it be?
This has always been the brass ring on the marketing merry go round – to be able to parse out that intrinsically personal connection between one brand and one consumer. We have been pushing the envelope for years to arrive at that moment in time when every message every consumer gets is tailor-made just for them. But now I’m not so sure that that is what people truly want. In this age of the digital diaspora.. where screens serve to shield us from any and all spontaneous connection, I don’t know that the magical goal is this highly customized 360-degree individual experience. The more I observe human interactions, and delve into want and desire, I believe even more firmly that people don’t want to be isolated into a personal selling moment – a sort of marketing isolation booth, with a product and a story made just for them. In fact, this idea of splendid personal relationships is possibly the last thing today’s consumers are seeking.
It’s a unique conundrum. Certainly today, most consumers wield the power of the internet with seriously mad skills, bushwhacking their way through the myriad of spam swamps and click bait to find companies and products that work specifically for their wants and needs. But here is the critical difference –while I believe the end PRODUCTS need to be specific and unique – customizable and even bespoke, I believe the path that takes us there needs to be broad, inclusive and dare I say it – a communal experience. That’s where we are getting it wrong.
Maslow Got it Right
There is a reason why the sense of belonging comes third on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. After the physiological needs of food, water and shelter, and the basic human need of safety and security, comes the need for community and belonging. As humans, we need to feel part of a pack, included and welcomed into a recognizable society. Even those of us who live outside the lines seek their tribe. I have worked with million dollar-grossing chefs, and top salon stylists who speak of misspent youths filled with alienation and loneliness. In their professions, they found their kind, and with that connection, came purpose and direction. Community envelops us in a safety net of support, freeing us up for risk and experience. So, essentially, belonging, and sharing in a broader experience it is possibly, the ultimate conduit to trial. “Water cooler” conversations are not idle prattle. We, as human beings, need these conversational ties to bind us to the larger whole. As our habits and practices continue to chip away at larger moments of connection, from working virtually, to disparate TV viewing schedules, we grasp at those opportunities to share and connect.
Just this past week, two major periodicals touched on the isolation issues our technology has fomented for us: The NY Sunday Times spoke about the truest form of love being the decision, as a couple, to watch a television show together, in real time. Even if that couple was separated geographically, they would cue up their favorite program while on the phone, so they could share in the narrative and experience the dramatic moments together. Something so basic merely a decade ago has become gallantry and commitment. The Wall Street Journal wrote of the dissolution of childhood friendships as the solitude of personal screen time has chipped away at the time and place for the flourishing of those special bonds that feed these relationships. A recent project we completed for Activision focusing on young girls tech usage proved this to be true: children are transitioning from multi-user console games to solo devices, and virtual partners. There is even an app for that – 20 day stranger, that connects people with ‘friends’ from around the world who will listen, and share. The play date may become a relic.
Let’s Make some Magic
The moments that we as marketers can create, then, need to be broad, inclusive and touch some element that marks them as mass memory. Whether its experiencing Coachella, and that moment when Kanye rises up above the crowd, to the shared pleasure of posting unboxing videos of the same box you share with your Birchbox community – finding that through line that binds us to a group is what gives us perhaps our deepest pleasure, and actually reassures us that we are on the right path to creating our own unique brand of self. Trending hashtags in which we get the joke, or a quip from a celebrity that we can rapidly share places us squarely within a larger whole – a place that feels safe and good. J C Penney ‘s wildly successful “Just Got Jingled” Twitter campaign proves this point. It created a chance for people to reach out, connect and then share back. Those events that illicit an emotional response feed us as human beings and open us to new opportunities.
I had the recent pleasure of spending this year’s Super Bowl with a group of about 30 septuagenarians, who were delighted and excited to share the day and watch not just the game but the commercials as well. When the infamous Jeep commercial came on, with its accompanying folk song “This Land is Your Land….” I watched this group begin to join in song – shaky and a bit tremulous at first – but then with unabated joy. Although the scenes of China and Brazil gave them pause, still, the pleasure they exhibited in sharing a moment with a song they all knew and had learned as children was incredibly touching. It reminded me of the power we as marketers have to create moments that matter, and that bring us together. In this age of micro-marketing, perhaps its worth remembering that its our job to connect and create those spaces where people can come together to laugh, to cry and to share. We are experience makers first and foremost. If we do that right, the rest is easy.