The lost art of connection

When I started my career in marketing, I was wowed by the amount of fun it was possible to have at work.  In really simple terms, what mattered as a marketer was finding as many ways to connect with people as possible. Of course, the outcome was revenue generation, however using a mantra of ‘how can we touch more people with our brand’ inspired a whole new way of thinking. My memories of the creative process are extraordinarily fun and I still reflect on this as an extremely powerful premise.

Over the years, I’ve watched new and digital channels evolve at such a rate we never know what’s around the corner. From a Business to Business perspective, we’ve evolved from targeting businesses at a group level to using behavioural, consumer and demographic insights to connect to the individuals within it.  And whilst the way that we wish to be communicated with is increasing in complexity, the fundamental requirement for a human connection remains.

In life and in business, I fear we’re losing the power of person to person connections in favour of a digital existence which enables us to provide feedback without fear of retribution – or to begin and end a relationship by swipe or text. Don’t get me wrong, I love social media – mainly because it fuels my time poor existence with an instant hit of information and response which covers more ground than any single conversation with an individual ever could. Yet it’s nowhere near as good. Surely a shared moment or experience outweighs the value of any number of virtual likes?

It is my view that true connections are waning and we need to bring them back before we lose our ability to connect on a social level. This is worsened through the caution of connecting which is making it harder for people and businesses to market.  The once face to face meeting that ended in “I like you, let’s do business” has been replaced by “I’ll take your business card and check out your LinkedIn profile first before deciding if I have time to connect”.

Hail back to the glory days, and I remember a direct marketing campaign where we sent a banner in a metal tube which flew out of the tin as soon as you opened it. Granted, not without its issues and these days, a couple of potential law suits after it hit a couple of people in the face, but it did elicit a connection nonetheless and a 90% conversion to appointment. Creating an experience for a client that is so powerful they have to talk to you is where we need to be.

So this New Year coming, I’m advocating getting back to basics. Instead of sitting watching an issue unfold on social media, why not start a face to face conversation with someone to get an alternative perspective. Instead of swiping right, approach someone you like the look of and start a conversation and see where it leads. As Christmas nears, I’m already wondering how many electronic Xmas cards or Facebook messages I’ll receive this year, when what I’d really like is an envelope with a card in it or a hug from someone I love. So in 2017, I’m making a commitment to bringing the basics back and finding ways to connect with as many people as possible using all of the channels we have available – including the traditional ones.  As I said to the team this morning, in 2017 we’re going contemporarily retro… this space.