I used to be able to remember phone numbers, but now I can barely remember my own. I used to able to remember how to get to a friend’s house, but now I can’t get to the end of the road without my sat nav. No sooner have I written down this title – than I have forgotten the point. But that is exactly the point. And I am not alone.
Our memories have stopped taking responsibility – they have handed it over to our mobiles. The more information we place within them, the less we hold within our memories. Ever more intuitive, our mobiles are evolving from phones to personal assistants. Research we’ve conducted on behalf of several clients indicates that many feel that our memories are worsening as a result of us outsourcing this once primary brain function to our mobile devices.
In fact, the study into mobile usage confirmed that today, only 20% of our mobile device usage is centred on contacting friends or family. The remaining 80% is centred around general tasks, such as shopping or getting directions, all of which are made easier and quicker via our smartphones. We are outsourcing our memories, simply because we can. And yet the behaviour points to an underlying tension or need. It seems likely that this tension is linked to the fragmentation of information and touchpoints, and in turn the fragmentation of consumer attention. The more bombarded by stimulus we are the less focussed on any one thing we become and as such nothing sticks. But regardless of the cause, the truth is that many people feel like they struggle to remember things far more than they used to. So the real question we should be asking ourselves as marketers is what should brands be doing as a result?
Whether digital is or is not a cause, it is certainly the answer. If people are looking to outsource the information they historically used to retain in their heads then brands that can play a role in facilitating this stand to gain.
With their resources and data, brands can have a better understanding of what their consumers need and when they need it than they do themselves, giving them a key opportunity to provide utility. It doesn’t sound sexy, but providing genuine help to the consumer can carve out an appreciated role for your brand in their lives.
Brands are already using data to provide helpful reminders aimed at driving sales; think of Interflora reminding you that your sister’s birthday is coming up, or confused.com prompting you that your car insurance is due for renewal and offering you a quote.
But simple reminders are only the tip of the iceberg. Brands need to reconceive these initiatives as delivering consumer benefit first and foremost, adding value through understanding of their lives and activities. Such utility is anything but dull. Just take Nike Plus – a simple running tracking mechanic made sexy and aspirational as well as serving a core need in its customer base. Or look at Barclays’ Pingit app, which makes paying friends back quick, easy and mobile.
Such benefits depend on the use of personal customer data, so the packaging of the offering is key. Brands need to ensure that they are positioned as helpful partners, not data predators plumbing customers’ personal details purely for their own bottom line.
The memory opportunity is about much more than pure sales. Pitched right, it creates retention, loyalty and ultimately takes brands into a new emotional space with its consumers. Because if you’re going to outsource your memory to a brand, you need to trust it deeply.
To reap these rewards, brands need to think hard about where they can fill a genuinely useful role in the busy lives of their customers, freeing up headspace so they can focus on what they want. Brands need to adjust their mindset from sales to service, and appreciate that the point of purchase is the start of the journey – not the end.
By Nina Rahmatallah, Director at Added Value.
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