The ‘relationship revolution’ has seen technology connect an unprecedented number of people across the globe. Social media has empowered billions, providing them with voice, community and opportunity.
And whilst this immediacy has opened the world up for so many, and provided brands with a direct medium to connect with their audiences, these platforms have also seen fleeting, superficial connections and growing distrust enshrined in the ways people consume, communicate and interact.
In a recent study by the NICM Health Research Institute, an international team of researchers looked into exactly how the internet may be changing the human brain.
Dr Joseph Firth, a senior fellow at the institution, reported that “high-levels of Internet use could indeed impact on many functions of the brain. For example, the limitless stream of prompts and notifications from the Internet encourages us towards constantly holding a divided attention – which then in turn may decrease our capacity for maintaining concentration on a single task.”
This shortening of attention spans might be perceived as bad news for brands looking to cultivate lasting relationships with their audiences online, particularly as the ubiquitous authority of social medias has started to present signs of weakening as users question their level of trust for the platforms.
Loss of credibility seems to be a growing issue in recent years, with one comprehensive study by internet security provider Malwarebytes suggesting that 95% of internet users expressed a universal distrust for social media.
Whilst this is undoubtably due in large part to recent political scandals from social media tech giants, the fact remains that distrust presents yet another obstacle for brands to negotiate for brands looking to form lasting connections with audiences.
Finding hope for meaningful audience connections
In spite of shortening attention spans and widening distrust, it’s clear that consumers recognise the sustained importance of online spaces in their experience of the world, and in seeking positive relationships with brands and peers.
In their most recent trend survey, Wunderman Thompson Data found that 76% of consumers say their everyday lives depend on technology. What’s more, 81% believe a brand’s digital presence is as important as its physical presence.
Hope is presenting itself, too, in many of the latest technological trends entering the market. As more of our interactions are playing out online, a process accelerated by the pandemic, consumers are seeking out lasting value and deeply individualised experiences online.
This extends beyond traditional online relationships with people and brands, to digital objects and experiences with which consumers can feel genuine identification and individuality and redefine their relationships with their online selves. This presents hope, and opportunity for brands. We outline two of these key trends below.
NFTs: A rise in verifiable individuality
No current trend demonstrates this gesture toward online individuality as loudly as the stratospheric rise in NFT ownership, a market which has grown to an astonishing $14.3 billion in 2022, from just $340 million in 2020/21.
Similar to Cryptocurrencies, NFT’s, or ‘Non-fungible tokens’ are unique pieces of data encrypted and protected by a blockchain to ensure they remain one of a kind. Whilst the potential applications of NFTs are various, serious traction has been seen in their function as one of a kind pieces of digital art.
These pieces of digital art hold not only monetary value, but, as the case of Bored Ape Yacht Club – a membership club for those who purchase a Bored Ape custom NFT (pictured below) – demonstrate a drive not only towards a more tangible, measurable sense of individual expression, but also toward interdisciplinary, gamified online experiences. (suggested photo here of several individualise Bored Ape NFTs)
Whilst some major brands, including Nike, have shown interest in the technology, serious environmental concerns in the amount of carbon consumed in the process of creating NFTs means brands should be weary of adopting them at this early stage.
However, marketers can take note of the thrust towards individuation as a force that might govern connecting with audiences in the years ahead.
Meta and the Metaverse
Social media giants are recognising this shift too, with Meta, formerly Facebook, leading the charge in an embodied – albeit digitally – social media experience. Meta is noteworthy in its bold approach to blended reality – combining physical and virtual experiences to create a heightened sense of engagement and individuality.
In its current nascent form, users within meta create customisable avatar, with a variety of virtual cosmetics, props and styles, again highlighting the desire for consumer individuality. Meta users can then employ Oculus Quest virtual reality headsets to physically inhabit a virtual space, interacting with other user’s avatars and objects.
This kind of hybridisation presents big opportunities for brands to engage with consumers at a meaningful, individual level, and it’s a technique which the mci group has employed effectively in recent years to help brands engage with their audiences. (link to case study on blended reality – BVLGARI)
The antidote to fleeting moments
It’s clear from observing these key trends that individuality, combined with blended reality will be key touchpoint for brands looking to engage with audiences online over the next few years. So how can your brand capitalise?
In 2022, we believe marketers should be looking to create multidimensional experiences for their audiences, in which individual expression can act as a force to counter the effects of shortening attention spans and allow audience members to connect meaningfully with brands, potential collaborators and fellow consumers alike.
Whilst Metaverse and NFT technologies are still in their early stages, brands with access to a broad interdisciplinary pool of marketing resources and expertise can adopt blended reality and deeper personalisation in their live and online brand experiences today.
To find out how the mci group’s interdisciplinary global next-gen platform for marketing innovation and breakthrough communication can help your brand to do just this, call +41 22 33 99 500 or e-mail: email@example.com