Let's Not Get Carried Away With Faux Relationships

Technology Can't Replace a Good Consumer Experience

By Published on .

Derek Walker
Derek Walker
I am unapologetically a consumer. And I don't really care what you think. I love buying things and using them, and then completely forgetting about them until I need or want it again. What's wrong with that?

"What about building a relationship?" you ask.

News flash folks! I save my relationships for living, breathing human beings. I love interacting with humans, talking to them, eating with them or just hanging out with humans.

I don't want a relationship with my deodorant; I simply want it to work.

Yeah, I know, I'm a "dinosaur." "The future is online or interactive." "Resistance is futile. I will be assimilated."

Assimilate this!

Do you really need me to tell you what you can do with social media and apps? FourSquare this! (Just use your imagination as to the gesture I am making.) And while I'm an Apple fan, let me tell you where you can stick that iPad.

Give me human interaction any day. There is something about riding in the car with my teenage sons simply talking that Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin cannot duplicate or replace for me. There's something about the touch of a woman that can't be replaced by the latest blog post or YouTube video. They don't even come close. No contest.

We in advertising and marketing need to remember this, and embrace it. The technology may seem to make us closer, but in reality it is less intimate and personal -- less human. We need to speak to the human in all of us. It doesn't matter if it is on TV or radio or outdoor or, yes, online. If it doesn't recognize the human in us, it will never make the connection we seek.

I understand to some of you, I am speaking another language. That's okay. I know that you've been so immersed in the technology and the metrics that nothing else matters or it seems that way. We throw out words like "authentic" and "honest" as if they can be manufactured. They can't. They must be nurtured and grown.

What has brought on this rant? A hamburger (actually a cheeseburger).

I was sitting in the car with my sons at a hamburger drive-in in Charlotte, N.C. I will not mention the name as to not advertise for them. We saw it on one of those food shows; looked up the directions on the web and drove to it, while listening to the radio, to try their hamburgers. What an experience.

They had us at the first bite!

"Shhh. I'm busy." That was my 15-year-old's response when I asked him how it was. My 17-old and I burst out in laughter. The conversation that followed was simply magical. We talked about the food and school and work and each other. We talked. Anyone with teenage children knows what a feat that is to get them to open up and talk, but my sons did. Were the burgers and fries magical? No, but they did help create an experience for us.

So, what does this have to do with advertising? Everything. Although we heard about it on TV and found it using technology, I haven't looked to see if it has a Facebook page or a Twitter account. I don't care. I don't want or need anything to mess with the magic of the memory. For me, the consumer, the message is the experience. I don't need to see commercials about how good the food is. I need to see and hear a message that talks about the experience of eating in your car. Price is not my motivation.

And I was not alone. As I sat there, I saw customers coming and going, and they were happy (or at least smiling). When was the last time you saw people in real life enjoying a meal at a hamburger place? And I realized, it's great to be a consumer.

As a consumer, I could eat a great hamburger while enjoying time with my sons. I could laugh and joke with them. On the ride home, my oldest turned to me and said, "Our visit is their commercial, nothing fancy, people sitting in a car having a great time. Anything else would be just wrong."

I smiled. My boys get it.

We're focusing so much of our energy and time on the delivery system that we're ignoring the quality of the message. You can talk about all the advertising greats who don't get interactive, but great storytellers can tell a story anywhere. Too many of us have forgotten this. Great art direction and copywriting skills allow us to craft messages that develop into conversations easily, because they speak to the human being, the consumer -- even in social media, especially in social media.

You may understand the technology but how in touch are you with the human consumer?

Derek Walker is the janitor, secretary and mailroom person for his tiny agency, brown and browner advertising based in Columbia, S.C.
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