Mind the reality gap

I haven’t written in a while – I’ve been combining busy-ness with laziness for a few months.  But the article ‘Majority Report: Looking through the digital hype‘ by BBH’s Strategy Director Ed Booty, has jolted me into writing action.

It’s a good, thought-provoking piece on whether the so-called ‘digital revolution’ has really changed the way we live now.  Ed, a former St Luke’s colleague of mine, argues that although it’s very exciting witnessing the massive changes taking place in technology, people’s lives and needs aren’t really changing all that much.

While essentially this is true, I think the article misses out a lot of the subtleties that the ‘digital revolution’ in general and improvements in internet possibilities have brought us. I think that needs are being met by new technologies. They’re things that people adopt and take for granted.

Less than 10% of people may be using Twitter but there are a hell of a lot more people using technology to do ordinary stuff online like shopping, that they didn’t do before. As many as 80% of readers purchase books from Amazon for example.

Working as I do on both user experience and campaign strategy, the latter hasn’t really changed – you still frequently need a ‘big idea’, in effect you just have more channels to choose from.  However, a lot has changed.  When we talk about what’s possible now we can talk about creating wholly personalised online experiences for individuals.  The potential for tools for purchasing, selecting, comparing and understanding has improved so unbelievably radically in the last few years, the last couple of years…

People of ten years ago would not recognise the way we do retail or account management online.  They would be blown away by being able to browse Amazon on a touch-screen mobile or by the sheer number of applications that are now available, cheaply. They would be stunned that a mobile instant messaging service was being accused of bringing rioters together in real time. They would not believe that e-book readers were one of the biggest hits of Christmas 2011. I’ve gone from thinking iPads are a bit posey and not as good as laptops to thinking my life really won’t be complete until I have one.

So while we still watch the same shite on TV and drive the same stupid cars, we are doing quite a lot of things differently. The commenter on Ed’s article was correct when he said brands need to get about it now, understand how it works, occupy the space. Fail fast and become experts in everything. You have to keep up or you’ll not know what’s become so normal we take it for granted.

I hope I haven’t missed the point here. I’d be interested to know what people think about this.

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