Real innovations are taking place beyond our screens, says brand strategist Daye Moffitt.
Increasingly, creative agencies are asked to produce digitally relevant, new and inventive ideas. No pressure of course; except there is, and gigabytes of it. Accelerating change is a real thing. Technology evolves as we blink. And those that don’t evolve synchronously will soon die; cause of death, irrelevance.
But here’s the question: have we become so obsessed by the digital realm and its linkage with forethought that we’ve failed to see the enduring value of a brand’s physical presence? I think so. And here’s why: In today’s digitally overloaded world, physical presence is a gesture to your consumer, and if executed correctly, a measure of quality. Conduit Inc recently argued that the move towards the ‘end of print’ in favor of digital content is in fact having an ‘invigorating’ affect, declaring that the value of print has increased because it now stands out more than it did in the past; a direct symptom of the multitude of electronic and digital distractions vying for our scattered attention.
Consider the rare joy of receiving a personal and handwritten letter in your mailbox: Or the distinction between the thrill of a postcard versus an email. The difference experienced is an inherent sense of keepsake or ‘felt value’ in something tangible, where someone (business of person) has taken the time, money and effort to produce something real. Irrespective of whether its thrown away the next day or not. Still not convinced? Perhaps the new ways in which agencies are reinventing communication materials to create purposeful meaning and benefits will sway your opinions.
The perfect example: The Drinkable Book. To assist people in the developing world who don’t have easy access to clean water, DDB North America collaborated with WATERisLIFE to create a guide to safe drinking water. Printed in English and Swahili, The Drinkable Book teaches communities about safe water habits: Critical information, but only the start. Each page of The Drinkable Book includes two filters treated with silver nano particles. These particles remove bacteria that cause diseases such as cholera and typhoid. And each filter, which costs only a small amount to produce, can be used for a month. This clever little book provides someone with clean water for four years. Innovation indeed. And there are more examples: like a mosquito-repellent newspaper in Sri Lanka that mixes ink with citronella essence to help combat a country plagued by dengue fever. Or a giant poster on a wall at the University of Sheffield featuring a poem, In Praise of Air that’s been coated with microscopic particles of titanium dioxide; which, when mixed with sunlight and oxygen absorbs atmospheric pollution.
The more you probe, the more cases you stumble upon. Genuine brand and communication innovations are taking place beyond our screens. Which leads me to my next point: Sometimes technology fails. And sometimes, it’s just not the best business solution. Yes technology often fails, I hear you echo. But I’m not talking about that inevitable, awkward moment when your Mac stubbornly refuses to sync with your client’s PC system. Or even the recurring and agonizing occurrence of The Spinning Wheel of Death. I’m talking about those moments in recent history where brands have thought long and ‘logically’ about the ways consumers behave, their new unmet needs and indeed, their future desires.
There is no better case in point than the humble digital photo frame. Whilst on paper it makes sense, on your mantelpiece, or lord forbid, wall, it makes little. At best I’d call it a numbing of the senses. And at worst, just plain, bad, misguided taste. This perhaps explains the digital frame’s wearisome presence on the Top 5 Gifts to Return After Christmas list; cited: These gadgets looked neat on Star Trek 20 years ago, but digital photo frames have become obsolete. I concur. I’m not saying that there’s not still a significant role for digital or online communications; I’m simply saying that striking the right balance and knowing when to exist in which world is key.
Long live what’s real.