A fundamental human need for community may be the next big opportunity for marketers

A consumer desire to feel connected to others may be the next big opportunity for marketers.

According to Adam Bain, chief operating officer of Twitter, at the recent IAB Mixx event in New York, the first two weeks of Thursday Night Football livestreams on Twitter saw an average of 2.35m viewers.

And that’s in part because “the audience isn’t just connected to devices, but to each other,” he said.

Consumers today indeed want to feel connected – and fulfilling that need will present an opportunity for brands and marketers in the years ahead. That was according to another IAB Mixx speaker, Kevin Slavin, who is founder of Playful Systems at the MIT Media Lab.

Slavin said the Pokemon Go phenomenon is a good example of this concept in action.

“Pokemon Go is bigger than anything that you or I will ever do,” Slavin said.

It took just 19 days to reach 50 million downloads – and had 500 million downloads within 70 days. It also earns about $10 million a day and was played by one out of every 16 people on earth at its height – or what Slavin called “an America and a half worth of people.”

And, as a result of the Pokemon phenomenon, Slavin said he has seen countless new pitches for companies that want to do location-based games now, too.

But, per Slavin, it’s the brands and marketers that provide new types of experiences that actually mean something to people that will be rewarded as consumers will spend time with them. In Japan, for example, McDonald’s locations are PokeStops and PokeGyms and the brand has seen a 19 per cent spike in sales for those 3000 locations.

“They knew what was possible and what people wanted. That’s why this happening,” Slavin said. “We knew people wanted to feel reconnected to the places they live when cities become theme park versions of themselves. It conspires to make people hungry.”

And, he said, location-based games address a fundamental human need as a result of becoming disconnected.

“We look for ways to re-enchant the places we go – they become so routine and small,” he added.

And so, as a result, brands and marketers need to think about what they have that brings back the feeling people had when Mash was on and 125 million Americans were doing the same thing at the same time, Slavin said.

“None of us have that anymore — of actually feeling in sync, of feeling the same thing at the same time,” Slavin said. “It’s not how Twitter, Instagram or TV function. All of these things have desynchronized. It’s about how to make it feel like we’re part of one another’s lives again.”

In other words, Slavin said, what people are looking for is other people.

“There’s a totally unmet demand for feeling present with other people,” Slavin said. “I don’t mean connected to them. You know what is happening in their life. I mean to feel they are there. We don’t really have anything built for that. Things that happen from time to time — like Red Bull with the stratosphere jump — there were 10 million people who engaged with that and not just the jump. They were engaging one another…there was promise [with] platforms like Twitter, but they have come up short. It’s about how to engage those so they feel like what you feel in this room when we saw that Wrigley’s ad. It’s different to see it together than to watch on your phone and alone. That phenomenon is under-explored, but the technology exists. That’s the next big thing, but I don’t know what it looks like.”

For his part, Lars Bastholm, global chief creative officer at Google, agreed technology changes, but fundamentally people do not. In other words, marketers will inevitably find new ways to connect.

“VR is at the stage where the Web was in ‘95/’96,” Bastholm said. “We kind of know this will be really, really, really big, but we don’t know what parts.”

Bastholm also pointed to Project Soli, or what he called a remote control for the world, as real-life magic.

“[They’ve] actually developed magic. It’s a series of hand gestures that impact the physical world. That’s what this is,” Bastholm said. “Now we have to figure out how to apply magic, but I am so deeply fascinated by what we can do with this and where we can go. The combination of voice and gestures can control the world.”

Lauren Wiener, president of buyer platforms at Tremor Video, also said we’re about to see AR/VR move from gimmick to mainstream.

“As more immersive experiences emerge to capture [consumers’] imaginations, I believe gaming is the petri dish to watch,” she added.

And, again, she said that’s in part because of a tribal sense of belonging consumers want and need, like the communal pleasures of the movie theater. Lockheed Martin’s Trip to Mars is a good example of one such experience.

Bryan Wiener, executive chairman of 360i, also noted consumers want to feel connected, but his solution was earning consumers’ attention via storytelling.

“The Internet was supposed to be the death of advertising,” he added. “We are flooded by so much information our brains are fried. We’re seeking emotional connections with people. The products we consume and the underlying companies that provide them -- we care about their values. And how do you connect with people in digitally led environment? Stories.”

This can include classic ascending storytelling in which storytellers build up to a climax or modern descending storytelling, which is much more like the inverted pyramid in journalism in which the most important part of the story is in the headline and the first paragraph.

“Journalists have a few seconds to get your attention,” he said. “And even if you decide not [to read the whole story], you will get the gist.”

Geico’s pre-roll ad on YouTube that jokes about ad skipping is a good example of descendent storytelling.

“The completion rates were amazing and even if [consumers] did skip it, the message was given [in the first five seconds],” Wiener said.

Agencies/campaigns of the future will also have to be channel agnostic, he said.

One example of this concept in action is Canon’s Photo Coach, which used social listening to identify the most photographed areas of New York and captured real-time data to deliver tips to allow consumers to take the best possible pictures.

“It shows how to deploy data in marketing programs and illustrates a program that couldn’t be done if relegated to one channel,” Wiener added.

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