How Brands Can Thrive in a World of Digital Detoxes

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Pebble Studios' James Beveridge on what a change in digital habits means for brand engagement
How Brands Can Thrive in a World of Digital Detoxes

There are clear dangers to being constantly plugged in. Now more and more people are wising up to the potential side effects of their ‘always on’ lifestyles.

77% of students are open to a no-social-media month. With 10% admitting that this would be in their best interests. Social media also makes around 7 million Brits feel ‘depressed’, as they constantly compare their own lives to the ‘perfect lives’ depicted in their feeds.

Screen addictions are now commonplace. And most people are becoming increasingly aware of them and want to change. For example, 62% of UK adults say they hate how much time they spend on their phone. And more than a third of UK internet users have tried a digital detox.

The negative impacts of too much screen time are all too clear. But are digital habits actually changing? And if so, what does this mean for brand engagement?

Screen Time Awareness

Recent movements in the tech industry suggests that a change in the tide is coming. Apps such as Apple’s new Screen Time feature for OS let users see a detailed breakdown of how they’re using their devices. Others like it from Google and Facebook are trying to prompt modern audiences to be more aware of their excessive behaviours and take measures to reign them in. Perhaps an indication that a tipping point has been reached. 

As awareness grows, it’s likely that larger and larger audiences will begin to take a more considered approach to their time spent online. To keep key audiences engaged, brands will need to find ways to connect in more meaningful ways. 

Measuring Fan Value

Impressions data (especially social media data) often leads us to believe certain things about audiences and the content that gets them going. However, amount of impressions (likes, shares, comments, etc.) isn’t necessarily an accurate indicator of real-world value. 

A recent report by Campaign found that 62% of marketers have pulled back on spend due to fears about false and faulty metrics. A clear indication that social stats and content with broad share-ability simply isn’t translating into genuine brand value and growth.

To keep audiences in your corner, content needs to give them a reason to be there, and a reason to stay around. Instead of impressions, high click through rates will be indicative of value. Long dwell times will show audiences are connected and involved. This is what actually counts for brands. And this can’t be achieved with empty passive content.

Putting The Fan First

To be worth their time, content will need to put them at the heart of it. This means content designed for fans and built with their role in mind.

This type of content - content as involved experience (be that immersive content, game elements, community aspects, etc.) - resonates on a deeper level as it is able to build lasting memories, create fan communities, and kick starts loyal relationships. This is engagement that translates in real terms, long after first impression. As audiences grow more mindful and more aware of throw-away content, this is the time for brands to do the same.

Creating Content Experiences

When creating content experiences we ask certain questions that ensure they are hitting the mark with the core audiences they are designed for. What will the fans most enjoy? How can they be most involved? What will build the deepest connection between them and your brand? For maximum impact, this needs to be considered from the outset, allowing the design of the content to encourage audience participation.

One of the most effective ways to bring your audience into the story is to add game elements. This creates an active experience where audiences must interact, discover, discuss, share.

This Star Vs the forces of Evil fan experience is not only a 360 YouTube and Facebook video but also a digital treasure hunt which encourages fans to find clues every step of the way.

This added touch encouraged conversation and sharing among fans. Resulting in 1.25 million YouTube views, 2.5 thousand Facebook shares and endless appreciative comments from fans of the show and even its creator Daron Nefcy. What set it apart? The way in which it brought fans into the fray. Giving them multiple reasons to care, re-watch and engage.

Craft and Care

Audiences now have the most incredible devices in their pockets. 4K, even 8K handsets are growing in size and image quality.

Taking advantage of this resolution and vibrant picture is a great way to stand out, engage audiences and dictate the conversation.

This Time after Time VR TV trailer for ABC did just this, while also immersing the viewer in a time travel experience. Rather than a run of the mill trailer, opting for a high quality immersive experience was a stand out way to introduce a new show, giving the audience a reason to remember the name, the themes and the main character.

By involving the audiences, and delivering unparalleled visual quality, this first of its kind immersive teaser trailer generated increased conversation in an exceptionally cluttered and challenging market. Showing that pushing the boundaries of tech is a great way to get attention and build more lasting connections. 

Reward and Results

Tailoring content to specific core audiences is another high impact way to increase engagement.

By aiming the design around narratives, community elements, rewards, and quirks specific to hardcore fans, content will maintain attention for longer, dwell times will be high, and click-through rates will go through the roof.

For example, just days before the launch of the Sony Z3 handset, this social media teaser went live and generated over 500,000 organic views in just two days! Why? Because it was tailored to the people that loved the brand, rewarding committed fans by giving them a chance to prove their brand knowledge and devotion.

The broad approach is no longer effective. It’s now riskier to appeal to the lowest common denominator. You’ve probably heard of Kevin Kelly’s 1000 true fans concept — that 1000 devoted followers buying into everything you do is better than countless vaguely active fans.

By doing this well, this content experience actually delivered so much organic engagement that it had to be taken down from YouTube as it was attracting more attention than the product launch film. Which was quite the achievement. 

In Summary

It’s crazy to think that quality, beauty, and intelligence now seem like brave creative territories for brands to step into. But audiences are far smarter and more conscientious than they are given credit for. The change in tide suggests that the trend will be to switch off, meaning mindless scrolling will no longer be the norm. This shift demands that brands change too. Developing higher value content experiences that give them a reason to show up and stick around.

At Pebble Studios, our drive is to build experiences that audiences remember and treasure. And we’ve got bags of experience in delivering this type of next-generation ‘content experiences’ that work to engage disenfranchised audiences on channels that are all too often plastered with ‘fish n chip paper’ content. So if you’ve got a project that you want to transform into something with real impact get in touch!

James Beveridge is co-founder of Pebble Studios

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Pebble Studios, 1 year ago