Bonin Bough thinks brands are still behind when it comes to messaging

Bonin Bough

Former Mondelez chief media and ecommerce officer Bonin Bough, giving a delayed keynote during Cannes Lions at OMD during lunch, took the stage like a stand-up performer - cadence like a tommy gun, shooting out facts:

-80% of small business fail in first 18 months

-5 billion have cell phones but only 1.4 billion have a toothbrush

-96% have cell phone but less than 90% wear deodorant

-80% of people look at their cell phones, not their partner, as the last thing before bed

-The average age now to get a cell phone is 12

Bonin was here to talk freakonomics of the mobile generation with his new book “Txt Me: Your Phone Has Changed Your Life. Let’s Talk about It.” He bravely added his phone number to the cover as an experiment, in part to demonstrate society’s obsession.

Heard of phantom vibration syndrome? It’s a real thing. People imagining their phone buzzing in their pocket. Bough likens it to a disease, saying science has shown “using phone and messaging is as dangerous as using cocaine. We are strung out on this thing called mobility.”

What impact has it created long-term with how we interact with one another? Our attachment has created opportunities to lie, according to Bough. He asked the audience who has taken their phone to the bathroom; unsurprisingly, just about everyone raised their hand.

“Pee time is me time,” he said. “We’ve created a societal norm that it’s inappropriate to text from the table so now people lie about going to the bathroom to check Instagram and emails. This is uniquely interesting to this device having an impact on society.”

We’ve now seen a generation who grew up on Facebook, which has ushered in “a death to hierarchy and a rise of radical personal transparency,” which raises the question - what does the new transparency look like from a parental standpoint?

Gone are the days kids would leave the house on a bike and see parents 8 hours later. There is now an absence of rebelling in youth that previously came with autonomy of setting out un-digitally-tethered to now having GPS and being tracked wherever we go.

“Before when you’d go to college you’d have a call once a week with your parents, and now kids text every day. What does that mean to the transition of independence?” said Bough.

What does that mean with the way brands communicate, and equally as important, what does it mean for communication-at-large?

Bough relayed a telling story about a woman who texted the cover of the book just to see what happened. They engaged in back and forth dialogue and what came out was that texting “ruined her relationship.”

When Bough asked for details it was revealed this woman considers herself “a texter” while her ex-boyfriend was “a phone guy.” Because texting had become her main form of communication, she realized she has a hard time “on her feet” – communicating in person with him was a struggle.

“She would panic over communicating something serious,” he said. “It demonstrates how personal people are willing to be in these platforms now. As we [marketers] think about opportunities in front of us, messaging is becoming the pervasive way to communicate, even across apps we use everyday (Linkedin, Facebook, WeChat). What’s really unique is that we now have the power to communicate directly with the consumer.”

Despite our dependency, it’s still a struggle to get brands to move into mobile. What does content look like in a text-driven world? He asked, “how will we create next generation content where all our time is? What is creativity in this industry going to look like when attention is there in droves?”

For now, brands are decrying the need for a mobile strategy while largely ignoring one of the main uses, and time spent, with mobile.

“Think about how many brands are inside messaging. Messaging is the space where brands are going to win, but they are far from there. A year ago I was talking about creativity and messaging and still no one is there, but that will change. Eventually all the ad tech that exists for social, will exist for messaging,” he said.

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