IRL vs. URL: How Collective Effervescence Impacts Creativity

Prioritize memory metrics over impressions and clicks

Technology, social media and artificial intelligence, have been touted for their opportunity to connect us. They offer the ability to share updates with loved ones across the globe and provide the opportunity for brands to hyper-target specific individuals. More recently, the power of AI has turbocharged the process, adding layers of complexity and nuance.

But in fact, the echo chambers and overwhelming volume of information are making us lonelier. Connections become less meaningful and without memory.

Knowing we're at the peak of a digital age, have we gone too far in replacing true community with the false promise of a digital family?

We are seeing a severe decrease in our collective attention spans, at a rate we should consider a medical emergency. Over the last two decades, they have decreased 69 percent. And it's no wonder—we're served 20 ads as we take our morning IG or TikTok scroll. Do we remember any of them? Many of us can't recall a single Super Bowl ad from February or make it past the headline of an article.

We're at a paradigm shift in marketing, and with that comes opportunity. When we sift through the data of emerging consumers (GenZ and Gen Alpha), there are trends we shouldn't ignore. These cohorts are looking to get off their devices and engage with humans and brands in ways that can create communities and memories.

Sixty-five percent of audiences are looking to engage in more emotional and sensory brand experiences and collaborate to construct the kind of future they wish to live in.

The concept of Collective Effervescence—sometimes equated with religious connotations, but thought of more broadly—means "the feeling of energy and harmony when people are engaged in a shared purpose." Consider that for a minute. A feeling or energy and harmony when people are engaged in a shared purpose. What a powerful concept with the ability to connect people and shift culture through the kinds of emotional experiences that leaves lasting impressions.

Crafting moments of shared purpose

But how might we craft these moments of resonance? It's imperative that we bring talent with lived experience into the fold. Agency and marketing teams should create the kind of rich, equitable and collaborative environments that bring diverse voices to the table and drive robust conversations that lead to true emotional impact. Community organizers know how to connect with communities. Those who have served know how to make others feel valued. 

Starting with millennials, we saw audiences looking to purchase from brands that shared their values. We wondered if this was virtue signaling or the new normal. Emerging data says the trend is only growing, with 66 percent of Gen Alpha wishing to purchase from companies doing good in the world.

But there's more.

Gen Alpha has been called "the new old-fashioned generation." And while they are tech-savvy, they are less tech-dependent than previous generations and elect to put aside their devices more than Gens X or Z. What's more, Alphas seek to co-create with brands to find solutions to today's largest problems. That isn't only a signal, it's an open invitation for connection, one that marketers should embrace.

With misinformation, fear-monger and hate speech riddling digital media, we're all looking for a bit of positivity in our lives. Anger, isolation or loneliness block our ability to build trust. Positivity, joy and wonder become key elements that drive creativity, positive memories and brand associations.

Dr. Marten's Presents is a concert, event, and content series we worked on. It exhibits the potential of live community-focused events as an opportunity to prove a brand position, connect with the community (both in retail and in venue), and create brand-level storytelling and content that captures authentic memories and connections. It also exhibits an investment from a brand in the kind of experiential marketing that evokes memory and goes beyond short-term conversion metrics. 

adidas Community: Honoring Black Excellence was a years-long initiative we worked on that spanned filmmaking, workshop curriculum creation, IRL workshops happening in retail locations, and community activations centered on creating real impact and celebrating change makers within the Black and Hispanic communities. This exhibits how a brand can co-create with leaders with lived experience, and prioritize true community impact over short-term marketing metrics. 

Memories last longer than clicks

This is why the future of brand marketing will prioritize memory metrics over impressions or clicks. A "view" in an endless doom scroll means little. But a lasting memory can lead to a lifetime of brand affinity, loyalty and positive recall. Plus, IRL experience can offer the kind of brand security not easily found online.

There is power in collective experience to shift hearts, minds and culture. When we share a moment, we can see each other's humanity. With digital isolation, a fragmented media market, and a polarized society, it is near impossible to create an ad or a message that breaks through.

Brands have long been a powerful force in connecting people through shared purpose. And experiences have the promise and ability to bridge digital divides and connect us once again.

We probably don't remember the hundreds of ads that will scroll through our feeds and out of our minds today, but we do remember the way someone, or some brand, makes us feel.

I am always inspired by this women-owned team out of Montreal. I think brands have much to learn from interactive public artwork that aims to "reinvent how we live together in the 21st century". Their installations beg people to get out from behind their screens and invite the kind of discovery that I think can truly help us see each others humanity and connect. 

With the launch of the Heineken "Boring Phone," I think you are seeing brands—especially ones that rely on in-person engagement—embrace this move off of social media and off technology and too human interaction. I love this spot that highlights the difference of a concert experience when you are on a screen—or embracing a collective experience. 

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Ben Hennes
Ben Hennes is co-owner and CCO at Happylucky.

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