Africa Style: Social and the lost art of conversation
by Masingita MazibukoRecently, post-dinner conversation at a party, an article I read in The Atlantic and a book I am currently devouring have all explored similar themes: Have we become uninteresting as human beings, slaves to our devices, and content to be so? Are some of us opting out, to trading ‘always connected’ for the bliss of solitude?
The article, “The Eavesdropper”, covers an interview with Prof Sherry Turkle about her recently published book, “Alone together: why we expect more from technology and less from each other”. The book is “Quiet” by Susan Cain; it purports that the corporate world is informed by extroverts — to the detriment of many.
Critical starting point
In all these worlds, connection is a critical starting point — a real desire to engage with the person you seeking to talk to.
For a brand, this may mean appealing to the emotions. Insight is critical to ensure emotional resonance. As important? That this approach needs to be underpinned with sincerity. A real understanding of consumer behavior is therefore the starting point for any brand.
So often we marketers rush into the ‘sales pitch’, to words and images that drive home the rationale aspect of the brand, rather than unpacking the human truth we are tapping into.
In contrast, the recent ‘Share a Coke with…’ campaign has the fortitude of timeliness (that is, during hard times and trend of selfies) and simplicity in driving involvement. When people choose to keep their empty Coke cans, one cannot help but applaud. The packaging has become a talking point and permanent media which has captured the hearts of many.
Element of bravery
Conversation today also necessitates an element of bravery. Nike’s shift of a significant portion of spend from traditional media into the digital sphere not only highlights courage but has opened new conversations with targets who may otherwise have simply been aware of the brand.
The ‘Run Jozi — taking back the streets’ engagement (a spinoff from Run London, etc) uses social media to recruit perhaps nonchalant runners to engage in sport and share their journey. With digital as the conduit and the unusual race as the enabler, Nike has built myriad connections and started many conversations concerning its entire range, from footwear to apparel to technology (such as Nike+ and the Nike+ FuelBand).
The art of conversation requires us to pay just that much more attention to the world of our consumers, and to appeal their emotional side. In this way, we not only move them but prompt them to engage so that they contribute to the evolution of the brand connection.
Dynamic and organic conversation — not unlike our post-dinner discussion, which wove backwards and forwards and in and out.
Masingita Mazibuko, marketing director at Unilever, contributes the monthly “Africa Style” column to MarkLives.com. The views expressed within this column are entirely her own.
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