Help People Connect By Disconnecting

You’re having a strategic marketing discussion to find solutions for connecting with people in new, meaningful ways, and someone presents a solution based on the digital trend du jour. You know the digital tactic in question is not the right answer – but you’re hesitant to speak up, because you don’t want to appear to be fighting against technology. The truth is, you’re not against digital progress – you simply recognize a competing call within yourself for real, honest-to-goodness human connection. 

Good news: You’re not alone. You understand that sometimes, people want to look around instead of down. You worry that all too often, “digital” is a reflexive catchall we cling to without thinking. Instead, we should look for solutions that deliver a real experience and then explore how digital might support and extend that experience. 

This means that sometimes your surest strategy to connect with people looking for meaningful experiences is to let them experience your brand – unplugged. 



Brands need to rethink their strategies in reaching people, because in the jungle of digital, hacking your way out with machetes to find that right balance of digital and physical is becoming harder to do. And that’s the sweet spot where brands and marketers need to be. In an on-demand world where all of history can be called up in an instant, it’s the present that is the most valuable. 

But people want authentic moments and instantly spot brands trying too hard. Let’s strive to give people interactions that resonate. 

If an experience is great, people will eventually share it – that’s where digital comes into play. If it’s not great, they won’t. That’s your filter. And while we need to empower that sort of sharing, the sharing isn’t the core of the experience. It’s what they felt in that immediate moment that inspired the desire to share – which in turn, leads to success for the brand. 

Sometimes taking digital away for a moment can earn extra attention – and appreciation – from connection-hungry people. Some brands are already playing with this in very public ways. 

Coca-Cola took a tongue-in-cheek approach with their “Social Media Guard” – basically a dog cone that doesn’t let you look at your device. Brazilian beer Polar took it a step further, creating a beer cooler that impedes cell signals. While that clearly represents an extreme, there’s no denying a “stunt” like that gets a brand attention – and appreciation. And what happens when the cooler gets moved and cell signals return? Everyone rushes to Instagram/Facebook/Tweet their experience and the brand gets mentioned every time. This isn’t disruptivefor the sake of it; it’s about finding a balance in our chaotic lives. 

These examples worked because instead of shouting messages in a one-way manner, the brands got out of peoples’ way. Here are approaches you can explore to provide real-life moments and memories worth sharing: 

Design great experiences…they will get shared. Give people a reason to look away from their screens by creating a strong real-world presence. Those engagements are more likely to send your consumers rushing online afterwards. For Millennials – and other digital obsessives – it’s not real until it’s posted. #PicsOrItDidntHappen is the anthem. Sorry Bitcoin, DogeCoin and the rest – Likes, and Retweets are the realdigital currency, and everyone wants to get rich. 

Be unmistakably you: Creating a meaningful connection between brand and consumer online or in an app is eminently doable, but too often forgettable. Example: “Oh that game was fun! But I have no idea what brand it was for…” Creating something different and out-of-the-ordinary, which – bizarrely – real-life interaction is becoming, means creating something memorable and sticky. 

Stunts can feed the beast: Brands need to be looking for moments to bring together the real world with the digital world. It’s why the brand experience approach is rapidly gaining traction. Don’t fear stunts. Going in saying, “We want to make a big, surprising moment” is not inherently constructive, but dismissing stunts as one-and-done or because they’re risky is wrong, too. Stunts bring surprise and are often strong experiences. When the new Carrie movie created the “Telekinetic Surprise in a Coffee Shop,” people in the coffee shop might have been the initial audience, but because the experience was strong, it’s been viewed nearly 57 million times on YouTube alone – and most of that attention is organic and – even better – free. Real-life stunts serve as unique entry points to sharing online. Those experiences feed our hungry digital avatars because they’re authentic and memorable. 

Activations rooted in doing instead of showing are always going to be the most effective – for brand loyalty and awareness. It sounds obvious, yet too few brands do it: create experiences that people can gravitate towards, that hold attention for more than a few seconds, and that connect. 

Put your brand in that and watch your digital engagements INCREASE. When you design a real world success, you see success in the digital world, too. 

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