obey the digital illusion

and February 23, 2017

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.

918Any 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Today we are in an age of abundance where need has been replaced by greed.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 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