Despite the fact that just about everywhere you go, the chant is either digital-first or mobile-first, the truth is that we all still live in the real world.
And the real world is not mobile-first, or even digital-first. It's people-first. People, who have always wanted -- even needed -- to connect and share, to master the elements and simplify their lives. It's in our DNA.
Yet we continue to look at technology the way early man probably looked at the first fire -- with fear and with awe, thinking about magic and looking for control.
Fritz Lang's "Metropolis," a dystopian film that played out the anxieties of industrialization, imagined a machine man that could replace human workers and had to be destroyed. That was in 1927.
But things got better. We learned we could be the masters of technology.
The 1934 World's Fair had the first prototype of home automation. Just five years later, a feature in Popular Mechanics predicted that homes would be equipped with multiple control centers, from which a homemaker could give her commands to appliances. Ray Bradbury's "The Veldt" imagined a home with machines that could dress people, even rock them to sleep.
Just last year CNN predicted, "Your Jetsons connected home is almost here," harkening back to a futuristic cartoon family that was a favorite of my generation. Y&R's Iconmobile is among those here at the Mobile World Congress helping to create a true showcase of these possibilities.
So, are we back to the future?
Well, there are some new things -- the ability to have objective insights on human behavior based on real behavior. That is definitely new, and wrongly named big data. But big data does play a key role.
Cheap chips, more memory -- unbound communication means a lot of information about human behavior.
Life-recording sensors capture real-time data that can measure anything -- for example, the difference between light and sound sleep.
And perhaps most important is the new generation of people, a "Generation World" that is constantly connected. They are ageless, borderless, global citizens. Self-directed people who feel their empowerment. They share much in common, whether they are 13 or 60 and, in fact, those two age groups have, for example, a 40% overlap of their favorite music artists. And they see mobile as freedom, not as a device.
So how are they responding to the onslaught of digital stuff?
The internet of things, in theory, is supposed to be about purposeful convergence. Yet so much of what we see is really the internet of useless things -- my absolute favorite is a pre-programmed final "farewell" tweet when a device detects that your heart has stopped.
Purposeful convergence? Maybe not. Technology for technology's sake is empty. It's the value exchange that matters -- about going back to human needs.
What's the value exchange of tracking your investment progress on an app? It's the desire to determine what's right for you -- a DIY life, where you manage instead of outsourcing to a specialist. We love Waze because it anticipates your journey and responds with a suggestion that is organized around what you want to do and where you want to go. What is special about all the apps that organize you -- that drive efficiency and ease? They free you to do the important things in life.
Consumers are happy to provide data that tells us more about them, but they want it to be interpreted with intelligence (so annoying when it's not), and they expect it to answer a need. There has to be a value exchange.
So, beware of the "digibabblers" who think digital is the card that trumps everything and that mobile is the ultimate trump. The bottom line for all of us who are helping our clients engage their customers in today's world: Build experiences for life, not for machines. Not for software.
It shouldn't be surprising that Amazon has been actively searching for retail space. It understands that convergence reflects consumers' lives. Warby Parker gets it. The company started as an e-commerce business but now know that its retail stores make the entire brand experience better. Consumers want their offline and online lives meaningfully connected.
Remember as we reach out to our clients' customers that creativity is the story and innovation is how we share it. Technology is the enabler. All of it must come together to inspire, motivate and galvanize action.
If you remember nothing else, take these truths to heart:
- Big data is a buzz word. Primal data helps us understand human behavior.
- Marketing to people can never be reduced to algorithms. Humanity always surprises.
- Real life takes place offline. Purposeful connection must be the beacon for convergence.
- Understand Generation World. Focus on insights that will lead you to actionable ideas, whether or not they are digital.
- And, beware of being driven by only new things. Let's use insight to learn from human behavior, so we can build a future that is worthy of us.