Have you ever thought about what it might be like, in this day and age, to be without your phone for a week? OK, sure, we’ve all gone without our phones for a day, or at least part of one. In fact, as I write this blog, I’m on a plane-one of the few places where phones are, for the most part, inoperative. Most people are able to endure this dearth of virtual interaction for the duration of a flight, but how many of us in the modern era are prepared to go without it for about a week? Now imagine you are 17 and 19-years-old! Add to that week of silence from a lack of cell coverage the absence of all Internet, all television (and for you young people, that includes cable and Netflix!) and even a land line phone (again, for younger readers, a land line is phone that may or may not have a cord attached it that plugs into a wall, or some sort of outlet, and does not allow you to access Apps or Facebook! Wink!). When I took my family to Big Bend National Park, Texas recently, we – teenagers included – did just that. We went radio silent. Foregoing modern day technology took us out of our comfort zone, and I just barely lived through it to share what I discovered.
I spend my days trying to find ways to connect people through mobile and social outlets. It’s not just my job; it’s my passion and my life. It’s what I love to do. I think my team and I have developed some of the most intuitive and creative ways to spark conversation between people, and for our business clients to communicate and engage with their customers. I get a thrill every time I see someone talking about the chains we work with and how they loved a program, a message, a coupon, or a post that we created. I spend my days engaging people in mobility and teaching and convincing companies to engage, as well. It’s a mobile world, and our team is finding new ways every day to increase the mobile usage in the marketplace and make it easier to use this technology for retail, at restaurants and for the services we all need.
So what happens when you take away all communication links and tools from a modern citizen? And more importantly, what happens to a modern teenage citizen when they lose all their links to the outside world? Well, as it turns out, we all survived. I am so lucky to have great kids. One is a freshman at the University of Colorado and the other a senior in high school… But asking them to live without the modern comforts of life may have been harder if I had adequately warned them. Instead, they discovered for themselves that technology doesn’t work everywhere, and for the next few days, we enjoyed one another. Our family hiked endlessly, we saw wild javelina (pigs), kept an eye out for bears and mountain lions, and we experienced the border of Texas like never before. At night we played dominoes that we bought in a Ghost Town (Viva ¡Terilingua!) and Texas Hold’em with the cards their Uncle Brad brought. Without Google Maps, we relied on a map book, trail guides, notes and read rusty signs for directions. We used our phones, though…as flashlights and music players and a camera (the panoramic picture features are amazing at times like those).
Technology ultimately did enhance our experience aesthetically and practically by giving us some tools and entertainment. But it didn’t control our attention; sure it added to our trip, but it was not at all necessary. In fact, the lack of a cell phone and all that accompanies it gave us a week of closeness, a week of adventure, discussion and thoughtfulness that few truly encounter today, especially as a family.
On the last day, as I drove toward civilization, and the phones began to blow up with messages, notices and voice mails from our increasing proximity to cellular towers, I began to think about how our culture and businesses interact with one another. We like to say we are creating conversations at Raze Media. And we are. But the real key is to generate experiences. How do we “experience” a brand? How do we use communication and technology to offer our client an “experience”, through and with us, that transcends the communication tools we have? That experience with my family’s favorite brands and establishments was what resonated in the absence of digital communication. For those four days, as we ate backpacked sandwiches, we talked about the food we craved from places that had made lasting impressions. Our desires weren’t just a product of constant reminders or adverts from our smartphones, but the result of quality experiences made even better through interactive marketing. We planned out our journey home to be sure one stop would include Dairy Queen and Taco Casa, and another the sand hills we heard about on the trail…
Marketing in its purest form is the embodiment of the experiences we have, have had and will have because of the impressions left in our mind and hearts by the brands we interact with. Is your marketing meeting that standard and giving a real experience? Most of you who say yes are merely lying to yourselves out of pride. The truth: Most brands aren’t, and some can’t, until they commit to a strategy deeper than “donuts and a coffee” or “buy one get one”. Our focus in 2014: Create Conversations…. and Create Experiences for our brands.
On the way home we made several stops along the 12-hour drive. And every stop we made was to those companies whose experiences we craved over a game of dominoes under the Milky Way. Happy New Year!