Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile you could miss it.
– Ferris Bueller
Dear all my friends in digital marketing,
Take your faces out of your phones once in awhile and look around. I know it’s hard, but you’ll thank me. Besides the idea of spending face to face time (no, not FaceTime) with friends and family, there are some really good reasons why marketing, advertising and PR people in particular should check out of the digital scene, and check out some real life people and places once in a while.
1. The real world is where the people you’re marketing to live
The real world is where you can see them in the wild. Look at buyers in their native habitats, like the mall, the movie theater or just walking down the street with their faces planted in their mobile devices. Put your phone in your pocket and park yourself at a Peet’s and just watch the people. What makes them select one movie over another, or go into this store over that store? Did they know where they were going before they got there? Did they see a banner ad, get an email? Watch a video? Did their phone tell them where to go?
I know you understand the demographics and psychographics and cultural propensities of this group or that tribe, but actually lurk and listen to their conversations and observe their behavior. Not in a creeper way, but as a cultural anthropologist. Take notes on a real paper pad with a real pen (you can buy them at Staples). You may learn something, and at the very least you’ll spark your creativity for the new year by looking at things from a different perspective.
2. Spark your creativity by looking at things from a different perspective
I don’t know about you, but I get pretty wrapped up in analytics reports and results vs tactics and this campaign vs that campaign, and most of that takes place on a glowing laptop screen or on my phone. Individual people from around the world become numbers grouped into aggregates, turned into awesome visuals, and that’s fine for the big picture but for new campaign ideas and adjusting the course of current initiatives, there’s nothing that refocuses the creativity like getting outside, looking around and talking with the people. We’re not just marketing professionals. We’re consumers too, so take the opportunity to think about what appeals to you. Think about things like user experience and the types of things that influence your behaviors.
Marketing, advertising and PR require creativity, and creativity also requires quiet time. You can’t have quiet time when you’re filling every single second with some sort of digital information from email, Facebook and Twitter to Instagram, Snapchat and gloriously addictive apps and games. These things are important, but real-life interactions are important too.
3. Take a tech break to focus completely on one or two things at a time
Emails flood my mobile inbox sometimes faster than I can delete them, and if I’m half-focused on what’s coming in, that means I’m only half-focused on everything else I should be working on or thinking about. There’s a value to multitasking, but I think a lot of people keep checking their email and social media accounts because it’s easier or more exciting than what they’re supposed to be doing, and something may appear that gives them a good reason to do something else. Just a theory.
Social media, video and PR thrive on big, disruptive ideas, and big disruptive ideas require a disrupted mind. If you don’t look up from your phone and pay some attention to what’s around, you run the risk of just mashing up other people’s ideas or getting caught in a loop of your own ideas. You also run the risk of walking into things or getting run over by a bus.