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Looking beyond disruption: Why it's time for the marketing industry to start over

The mission for brands now is to look beyond disruption, and to make marketing easier to connect with, argues HeyHuman director of innovation Dan Machen.

Marketing is in love with disruption as a model; it sounds progressive, it feels assertive, it seems impossible to ignore. But is it? Research suggests there are challenges to the model’s implicit assumptions: first, that people are open to interruption, are receptive to a relationship begun on brand terms and crucially, in the context of our complex digital lives, that people have attention to spare.

A recent study by HeyHuman, working with social communities and neuroscience partners, set out to explore the kind of relationships people really want with brands, the impact of digital devices on attention, and real-world behavioural dynamics in the digital age.

We found that people are actually as nuanced in their relationships with brands as they are in human relationships – it’s far from ‘brand love or nothing’. We identified 14 different brand relationship types ranging from, for example, McDonald’s being seen as a ‘quick fling’ to 55 per cent of us qualifying smart technology as ‘can’t live without’. Overall, participants prized ease, accessibility and value over traditional concepts of brand relationships and loyalty.

Turning our attention to our ‘best friend’ technology, we partnered with neuroscientists to see how multiscreening affects attention span, finding that what is perceived as multi-tasking is, in fact, task-switching. People divide their attention every time they switch, with a third less measurable recall when switching between devices. The takeout for brands amid such maxed-out attention is to ensure communications are easy to process.

The mission for brands, beyond disruption, is to identify your desired relationship with people and how this will evolve, determine your comms balance to drive conscious recall versus key brand asset use to build ambient recognition, and to optimise UI/UX to simply solve life’s problems – a differentiator of ‘lived’ brand experiences.

Despite the love for ‘disruption’, our research suggests a new model – and mission – for brands is to make marketing easier to connect with, more familiar and, therefore, more memorable. In the context of transformed digital lives, it’s time for marketing to start over.

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