I can still vividly recall when my family got its first computer. Even at that young age, I was enthralled with the opportunities that it represented, and I must say that the computer age or information age, whatever you want to call it, has not disappointed. But the only thing more amazing than the power of the devices in our hands is their seemingly magic ability to have access to the sum of human knowledge in a near-instant.
Where computers led to a shift in the way we work and create, the internet has had such a remarkable effect on human society that it is almost impossible to overstate. It has changed the way we talk to one another, the way we meet new people, fall in love, find a new restaurant, and oh yeah, overthrow governments. It has also changed the way we do business, the way we shop, and the way we interact with brands.
Truly, the one area that is often the most surprising is how easy it has become to separate us from our money with the latest Prime Day sale, the latest app, or the latest service that people a mere generation ago could not have even fathomed. I can call a car from the palm of my hand and monitor the vehicle’s location via satellite map, all from my smartphone? Mind-blown.
The conversations we can now have with brands through social media, though seemingly annoying at times, are actually a much more human experience than anything that came before it. Previously, you either had to either write or call a company to speak with a drab call center agent, and that was the extent of your personal brand interaction. Though marketing and eCommerce are getting more automated all the time, a person can still publicly tweet at a brand, and that still requires a human response.
As a marketer, I sometimes still consider it unsavory to talk about human beings as “consumers,” apt as a descriptor it may be at times. Those “consumers” are people with lives and families and, like me and you, are just trying to “live their best life,” to use the parlance of our times. “Consumers” should be a word for economists, not marketers, because marketers should be looking to have an honest, human conversation with a brand community.
In this way, it is clear what “digital” has done to marketing. Marketers nowadays must not only craft a narrative around brands but must also be the first line of communication to the community or audience, and should be trying to make the most of that conversation. Viewed through this lens, seemingly shrewd marketing tactics such as segmentation is just a fancy way of saying, “not every person is going to be interested in buying our stuff, we should focus on the ones that are.” Still sounds pretty human to me.
As a person who can still remember a time without the high-tech gizmos we all enjoy today, but who still grew up still surrounded by them, I’ve learned that the more human you can be in your online and offline communication, the better chances you will have of actually making a human connection. It seems like common sense, but in this world of smartphones, apps, and services of every shape and color, it would be best to remind ourselves that as marketers, and humans, there is always a flesh-and-blood person on the other end of any digital interaction.