Bob Deutsch, President, Brain Sells
Technology is great but we must not forget that the future has an ancient, living heart. Human nature keeps that vital organ pumping in search of hope, predictability, and comfort.
People now view more web pages on their iPhone browsers than on Windows mobile or many dot.com platforms. However, before manufacturers can increase the ROI and loyalty from the mobile experience, designers need to leverage more than just another device or provide location data and proximate points of interest to eat or shop.
Maximizing eyeballs ("Spray 'n' Pay") is not enough. With all this platform and device choice, attention often becomes so fragmented and frenetic, content so sliced-and-diced, that people come away feeling less "situated" than at the outset of their search. GPS-enabled Where.com is a metaphor for the opportunity – yet to be realized – that mobile can offer.
Managing Their Place…
Regardless of creative bent, personality or profession, human beings seek a sense of "their world as a manageable place." People want to feel they can, in the words of the archetypal battlefield commander, who after briefing troops, screams, "Move Out!" It's not that people expect the world to be their oyster, but they want the confidence that stems from feeling they have the lay of the land so they can move forward with their chins up. That's the real "search" experience people crave.
Nowadays, though, more often than not, we feel that we live in a world that is too fast, too competitive and too unpredictable. It's not that people don't have answers. They rightly don't know what questions to ask. The current context of the world is, "I don't know the name of the current context of the world."
Today so much is commoditized, especially connectivity and content, even time. People are living in an endless series of staccato "nows" where context is lost resulting is a diminution of long-term motivation. The search for finding an expanded-me has been derailed.
The Ubiquitous Mobile Opportunity
This is where mobile can come in. Mobile devices are always with us. They are handy (literally) or in our pocket, and become part of our body (and image). This makes them different. It makes them intimate, which makes them a unique tool to help people establish a firmer footing.
In these streaming digital times, agencies need to produce always-with-me experiences and participatory venues for mobile consumers. They must go beyond slogans, sales shout-outs and exaggerated snippets of behavior. They must create seamlessly integrated communications wherein video material is interwoven with other presentation forms (some user, some pro-sumer generated), all in the service of broader brand stories that fit into real peoples' real lives. To do this, agencies must understand people, not just technology. (Parenthetically, each person is a unit of many parts. Agencies should follow a similar organizational plan.)
Design for Coherence
So that people don't feel constantly overloaded and splintered, successful digital agencies should design digital and mobile experiences that provide a sense of coherence among the myriad of "unconnected dots." Then individuals could flourish and in that personal blooming an enhanced sense of community would emerge. A vital life vitalizes everything around it.
To convert the pressure of time rushing by to time well spent takes more than a few new bells and whistles. Agencies must transition from connectivity, to content, to context, such that each of their clients is perceived as a partner, not merely a provider of product. This requires a vision of the company as more than a bullhorn for sales, but a facilitator of customers' self-expansion. That's the leader who makes everyone else the center of attention. That's the Ur-Leader – the one who is valuable, not just available.
Culture is a mega-structure that creates an undergirding to peoples' quest for meaning. It enables individual exploration and creativity within a social matrix. Current times have largely shattered that structure. The irony might be that a little hand-held mobile device, a modern invention par excellence, could evoke a sense of culture by helping people situate themselves in a world where space and time have been obliterated.
Agencies need to become purveyors of culture, not just hawkers of products or multi-platform razzmatazz.