I'm one of the millions of North Americans that gets anxious when my smart phone's battery starts to run low. My heart stops when I misplace my phone and I'm not embarrassed to say that I have experienced the phantom vibration of the phone-addicted. I also love to have the latest gadgets, and will constantly test out new apps and new things that will make life easier to manage.
Even with all this tech-savvy, though, there are times that I reminisce about simpler days: when information flowed from 9-5 and from many fewer sources.
Don't get me wrong: I actually enjoy the fragmentation of news sources today from both a professional and personal standpoint. However, I'm often and equally frustrated by the constant confrontation to disengage or disconnect.
As it turns out, I'm not alone. Earlier this year, I attended a session with a market research company that presented on emerging consumer behaviour trends. One of the findings was counter intuitive. On the one hand, people want more technology -- wearable, simpler, more accessible and more integrated -- but they also have a clear desire for a structured disconnection. Thousands of companies are working on our need for more tech, but almost no one is purposely working on our need for a break.
This matches my own experience. With a phone in my pocket that's always buzzing, I live this contradiction every day.
I recently had an eye-opening opportunity with a truly unique Canadian experience with a new client, Rocky Mountaineer. I would describe them as a train company that's not focused on transporting you from A to B, but rather enjoying the moments you can encounter throughout the journey.
I love seeing our country, but I had one thought when preparing for the trip: how was I going to survive hours without cell service?
The idea of being off the grid frightened me. I was not going to be accessible, be able to look for information or keep up to date with what's happening at home or around the globe.
Unexpectedly, I didn't explode. No one got hurt. And I lived.
In fact, for the first time in many moons, I was forced to take in my surroundings without the possibility of being interrupted -- and I absolutely loved it. My epiphany was that the constant access, responsiveness and distraction of the technology I hold so dear, actually needs a scheduled break. Not just when I'm on vacation, but daily.
The idea that people have an underlying need and the fact that a specific lack of communication is satisfying seems like a huge opportunity. In a world where my industry and our clients are often trying to fill the silence with content, I realize there is a place to actually create the silence and deliver a message or an emotional connection.
There are a couple of campaigns that have capitalized on this insight -- but only a couple.
The first was a beer company in Europe, which built a vending machine that spit out a bottle of beer in return for 3 minutes of standing still. In a more direct case, there are a cast of new apps, BreakFree or Moment as an example, built to curb your addiction or give you a scheduled break from your phone.
The lack of activity in this space is a chance for some companies and their marketing departments to break through. But you've got to differentiate from tourism or travel campaigns that are promoting 'getaways'.
This differentiation can be making disconnectedness a regular, as opposed to occasional, thing.
Removing distraction and providing some techno-peace, could very well be the next best way to connect with customers, employees or spectators of your brand. It sounds counter-intuitive to connect by disconnecting, but insights like this one is like an hour off the grid -- hard to come by.