Technology was long ago accepted by the masses, thanks to its speed, practicality and intuitiveness. Businessmen and communicators likewise found benefit in its reach, personalisation options and infallible measurability. This trend continued in 2020.
In 2020, investment in digital communications exceeded investment in traditional advertising in the USA. And if, at the start of the year, there were still many Slovenian companies whose communication was based on traditional approaches, with only a hint of digital, many things changed after the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic. Digitalisation projects, which had been low on priority lists in the past, were miraculously realised in just a few weeks.
The global pandemic accelerated digital transformation to lightning speed. If we add the development of artificial intelligence and future technologies, such as 5G, which will finally provide conditions for the Internet of Things (IoT) and the continued digitisation of everything, then it can seem like analogue times are over for good, doesn’t it?
Not so fast...
You Can’t Digitise Emotions
It’s true that everything that can be digitised will be sooner or later.
But emotions will stay analogue. We often buy with our heart and only then try to rationalize our decision. During the unexpected quarantine, we quickly moved our social and business lives to various virtual environments without hesitation, and they more or less went on uninterrupted. But we realised, even faster, that the stream of thoughts, intimacy of emotions, interpersonal chemistry and creative energy do not flow through optic cables and base stations as easily as with good old personal contact.
Analogue is impractical, fallible and slow, but it can also be intimate and profound. It has the unbeatable power to reach our hearts or move us. Digital is convenient, measurable and fast, but at the same time it’s cold and superficial.
Communication in virtual environments is like fast food delivered when compared to genuine contact. Fast food restaurants don’t ruin true culinary experiences, but they do increase people’s expectations of analogue experiences when they take the time to enjoy them. And since we are on the topic of time: modern smartwatches can do more than just count hours and minutes. They are music players, wrist telephones, personal assistants, trackers of vital bodily functions and motivators that encourage us to live a healthy lifestyle. Inspiring from every aspect. But why do many of us still prefer classic, more expensive, usually Swiss analogue watches, which have to be maintained and calibrated? Because of the convincing story behind them, a centuries-old tradition and the artisan skills of watchmakers, all attributes that appeal to the heart, not the mind.
There are many such examples, and they tell us that, despite the digitisation of the world – or maybe because of it – there will always be space and demand for the analogue.
It’s true that everything that can be digitised will be sooner or later. But emotions will stay analogue. We often buy with our heart and only then try to rationalize our decision.
More Digitisation, More Analogue Disconnects
Technology has thoroughly changed our behaviour. We live in clouds where we, plugged-in 24 hours a day, consume content, communicate and create. Every day we do so more quickly.
But the more technology changes our lives, the more we appreciate those analogue experiences that we use to escape from the connected world. We replace the mountain of e-mails, hours and hours of Microsoft Teams meetings and infinite tweets and Viber messages with gardening, fitness and baking sourdough bread.
Some telling data from the USA: average mobile phone use grew from 169 to 229 minutes per day between 2015 and 2020. At the same time, yoga and various forms of mediation have gained more than 50% in popularity since 2012. Membership to fitness centres has doubled since 2000 and the global spa industry has seen nearly 10% annual growth since 2015. It seems that we are constantly trying to balance the speed and convenience of the digital world with the authenticity and depth of the analogue world in our lives.
It seems that we are constantly trying to balance the speed and convenience of the digital world with the authenticity and depth of the analogue world in our lives.
In Search of Balance
Life strives for balance on all levels. When we tip too far away from it, we find ourselves in trouble: mental, familial, financial, medical, etc. It is similar to the balance between digital and analogue, both in the life of an individual and in the business or communication models of companies.
If we wish to impress a modern consumer, we must convince their digital mind and win over their analogue heart.
Companies with business models still based on analogue principles are, of course, catching the last transformation train to catch-up with the increasingly digitized everyday life of the masses. But even technological companies, who grew on digital principles, cannot rely solely on almighty algorithms but must also know how to move a consumer’s emotions. Revolut and N26 are digital banks without brick-and-mortar branches. The only analogue contact with such a bank is the card. It is no coincidence that these two banks offer their clients the most appealing cards, which you gladly pull out of your wallet, even though you could also pay with a phone or the aforementioned smartwatch. In our rush to innovate, we must not discard everything authentic and tangible. If we wish to reach the hearts of consumers, we must hold onto the essence of analogue.
If we wish to reach the hearts of consumers, we must hold onto the essence of analogue.
The holy grail of the future of communication and consumer experience lies somewhere in the middle between the digital and analogue. It will be discovered by brands that understand the omnipresence of the former and intimacy of the latter. Brands that profoundly comprehend both the minds and hearts of their consumers and provide them a flawless and seamless experience of transitioning between the two worlds. These are the brands you fall in love with every step of the way, without even knowing it.
The column was originally published in the 473rd issue of Marketing magazine.