obey the dig­i­tal il­lu­sion


It is time for on­line mar­keters to delve deep into the hu­man psy­che to un­der­stand today’s dig­i­tal savvy con­sumers, be­lieve Soumick Nag, IMRB-Kan­tar, and Rohan Gupta, Fu­ture Brands.

Tech­nol­ogy today is ubiq­ui­tous; it has pen­e­trated ev­ery phase of our lives. Be it for shop­ping or get­ting di­rec­tions, the dig­i­tal na­tives are highly de­pen­dent on the in­ter­net to make their life more com­fort­able. They are liv­ing an on­line life and dig­i­tal mar­keters need to tap that for pro­mot­ing their brands. Soumick Nag of IMRB and Rohan Gupta of Fu­ture Brands talk about the need for mar­keters to un­der­stand the darker side of hu­man psy­chol­ogy.

Any vague­ness in the ti­tle ‘obey the dig­i­tal il­lu­sion’ is to­tally de­lib­er­ate. It could be taken para­dox­i­cally, or lit­er­ally. You might be mo­ti­vated to ac­cept the need [to obey] as an ac­cu­rate im­age of re­al­ity, but should we sur­ren­der to ev­ery ex­per­tise and whim of the ‘gi­ant’?

Wel­come to the brand new world of ‘screen life’. We are en­grossed in this so deeply that we no longer rec­og­nize the count­less ways in which it stim­u­lates, dis­turbs, and ex­cites us. Wel­come to the world of too much va­ri­ety, too many choices, too much make-be­lieve—a world dom­i­nated by rep­e­ti­tion.

re­mem­ber­ing Ge­orge Or­well

“If you want a pic­ture of the fu­ture, imag­ine a boot stamp­ing on a hu­man face—for­ever.” —Ge­orge Or­well, 1984.

If you want to imag­ine the present, imag­ine a boot stamp­ing on a hu­man face—with an ‘in­junc­tion to en­joy’, for­ever.

Born out of a utopian and he­do­nis­tic im­pulse of open­ing up new do­mains is a new era of free­dom— free­dom which is an ob­ses­sion. The in­ter­net is be­gin­ning its era of coloni­sa­tion by forc­ing peo­ple to look at ev­ery­thing, not through tinted glasses but a mo­bile screen. Who can es­cape the screen any longer and who can ever look at the world and at them­selves through naked eyes again?

We have got into the habit of fre­quently check­ing the screen of our phones, not only for mes­sages and emails, but also to check the time, and to re­as­sure that the uni­verse has not for­got­ten us and moved along in a sep­a­rate di­men­sion.

The world runs on the dig­i­tal plat­form now. Big data is ev­ery­thing and we are con­stantly afraid of not be­ing part of it; so we ex­hibit and tag ev­ery­thing we like. Noth­ing is pri­vate any­more. It is by be­ing on screen—both as the on­looker and the ob­ject be­ing viewed—that we val­i­date our own ex­is­tence. We are no longer in the rat race; the race is now to be­come a rel­e­vant and significant data point that will de­ter­mine the mood of Twit­ter on any given Sun­day.

abun­dance as a metaphor for vul­ner­a­bil­ity

Today we are in an age of abun­dance where need has been re­placed by greed. We are con­stantly seek­ing val­i­da­tion from brands for our be­hav­ioral pat­tern to­wards ac­quir­ing more. And amongst all this we find our­selves vul­ner­a­ble and los­ing our tan­gi­ble hold of re­al­ity. We are seek­ing some­thing phys­i­cal (as ex­perts talk about how ‘con­nec­tion’ has re­placed ‘com­mu­ni­ca­tion’) but on a medium which fol­lows the laws of fluid dy­nam­ics.

As the so-called dig­i­tal ne­ti­zens find them­selves in the per­pet­ual trap of seek­ing ful­fil­ment and val­i­da­tion, their de­ci­sion-mak­ing process is dis­rupted by ‘ob­ses­sion with con­sumerism.’ As a re­sult, ‘buy! buy! buy!’ will never work and nei­ther will pop-up ads and na­tive ad­ver­tis­ing, but the il­lu­sion of sta­bil­ity, rel­e­vance, and of be­long­ing can over­come the feel­ing of ‘alone to­gether.’ There is des­per­a­tion for some­thing to help them make sense of their ex­pe­ri­ence, some­thing that gives them a way of in­ter­pret­ing their own rel­e­vance in the over­pow­er­ing big data world. Even if any­thing you say or do is tran­si­tory give them some­thing to live by, give them some­thing to make them feel in con­trol.

the brand is watch­ing you

Ed­ward Snow­den has made the world be­lieve in the power of the in­ter­net and the things or­di­nary peo­ple can do with the help of it. This is the time to take a step back and un­der­stand peo­ple’s re­lent­less ob­ses­sion with screen life and per­suade them to be­lieve that their lives mat­ter to me, you, and the brand. Even when no one is look­ing, the brand will al­ways see and like, share, re-pin, and retweet be­cause the brand is watch­ing you and you are dis­play­ing your­self for be­com­ing a part of some­thing big­ger than just you.

This is the best time for on­line mar­keters to sell more at a higher price be­cause con­sumers are pro­grammed to ‘obey the dig­i­tal il­lu­sion.’ ‘Obey the dig­i­tal il­lu­sion’ ex­poses the hes­i­tant re­al­ity be­neath the al­lur­ing sur­face of the mod­ern dig­i­tal cul­ture. And we do be­lieve dig­i­tal mar­keters must strive to un­der­stand the ‘darker side of hu­man psy­chol­ogy.’

lever­ag­ing the darker side of hu­man psy­chol­ogy

The Franken­stein called de­pen­dency is the key source of vul­ner­a­bil­ity. In his book The Shal­lows, Ni­cholas Carr has said, “is Google mak­ing us stupid?” When he posted

We are no longer in the rat race; the race is now to be­come a rel­e­vant and significant data point that will de­ter­mine the mood of Twit­ter.

the ques­tion in an es­say in The At­lantic, he tapped into a well of anx­i­ety about how the in­ter­net is chang­ing us. He also crys­tal­lized one of the most im­por­tant de­bates of our time—are we sac­ri­fic­ing our abil­ity to read and think deep?

For the first time in hu­man his­tory, we are able to over­lap two dif­fer­ent worlds.

Today I have ac­cess to 700 friends on my FB list but I am sit­ting alone in a café, on this rainy day! Am I re­ally to­gether with my friends? Or is it an il­lu­sion of com­pan­ion­ship? There is chaos all around us, mul­ti­ple agen­das, end­less de­sires, ever chang­ing dy­namic am­bi­tions, etc. To es­cape this chaos we find our­selves get­ting at­tached to this one de­vice that en­joys our in­di­vid­ual and un­di­vided at­ten­tion. It is in­ter­est­ing be­cause we run away from the real world chaos only to stum­ble upon and get en­tan­gled in the virtual world chaos.

im­pli­ca­tion for mar­keters

do not sell the prod­ucts, sell the fan­tasy

The task at hand is to fig­ure out what is the fan­tasy of your ser­vice/medium/prod­uct. The fan­tasy of so­cial me­dia is an ac­tive so­cial con­nec­tion with ev­ery­body. When some­one is brows­ing an e-re­tail web­site they are not look­ing at a shop dis­play but at their own imag­i­nary wardrobe—that is the fan­tasy as­pect. But the il­lu­sion breaks when they see the price. Mar­keters should try harder to keep the chain of illusions un­bro­ken. In­stead of selling them the prod­ucts make them feel that they own it.

change the grid of the por­tal lay­out

On­line is a plat­form that puts im­age first while the text is the il­lus­tra­tion. As a re­sult mar­keters are al­low­ing peo­ple to in­ter­pret the im­ages their way. In­stead, mar­keters need to con­trol peo­ple’s in­ter­pre­ta­tion. Pro­vide de­scrip­tion, brand sto­ries, and rel­e­vant text to shape peo­ple’s per­cep­tion.

shift the ide­ol­ogy from bridge to des­ti­na­tion

In a real-time sit­u­a­tion, peo­ple tend to search things ran­domly be­cause they do not know what they are look­ing for. Mar­keters should play the role of an an­chor by giv­ing them a cus­tomized ex­pe­ri­ence. ■

On­line is a plat­form that puts im­age first while the text is the il­lus­tra­tion.

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