In 2016 Analog Will Once Again Be The New Black

Why 'Beyond Digital' Is What Marketers Need To Watch


The color black never goes out of style in the world of fashion.

I got back to my office at Microsoft this week and this nice big book was waiting for me in my mailbox. Not my email inbox, my mailbox.

I immediately opened it and read it all. It was refreshing and not distracting whatsoever. I gave my full attention to it for almost 15 minutes.

The producers of the book are Colossal Media. They are a collective of artists and creatives best known (and you know this if you're a New Yorker like me) for painting innovative murals on gigantic walls that help deliver messaging in urban areas to people in public spaces.

A friend fired over his top 10 music list of 2015 to me (check mine here) and all of the music sounded like it was produced in 1985 with analog keyboard equipment. The warmth of the sound made it feel truly human and gave it character unlike so much of the digitally synchronized and post-edited music of our modern era. This analog music is warm and actually keeps mistakes in the production to make it feel more real.

In all of this digital exhaust, the apps that gain our attention the most are those that help you create a photo that makes it look like it was taken in 1920 or produce video to make it look like it was produced originally on VHS tape. Why the need for such analog-enhancing technology in the second decade of the 21st Century?

We are at a tipping point in marketing this year that will have a drastic effect on what happens for the next 50 years. Forget the articles you've read on how brands need to do things in real time or use analytics. Most of us in the marketing practitioner world wrote those things back in 2009 when we ran our first social listening reports using Radian 6.

Instead, think about everything you have assumed is correct in marketing and the world at large for a minute. Then assume it is all incorrect. I know this is hard to do but 2016 is the year we may finally cross the chasm (Geoffrey Moore) into the 21st Century in marketing by using the analog past as an influence. This is because we are on the verge of entering a world that is beyond digital. A world where analog experiences weave into the digital world that are personal just for you and back again due to the advent of virtual reality, the Internet of Things and multi-app synchronization. We are finally on the verge of being in a world where connecting on a human level via the help of software will stand out more than any pure digital or electronic form of expression.

With all the excitement of what happens in user interfaces of an electronic landscape, the emails we manage, the social media posts we navigate, the videos we comb through we should not forget about the physical spaces we actually inhabit.

Wait, who cares about face-to-face interaction with people in this day of ultra-technology?

Actually, quite a few of us do whose eyes aren't buried into our tiny screens. At the end of the day we are social beings. We crave experiences and being around others. In this year, those who make the most effort to fuse what happens in digital with the physical world have the most to gain.

Because we ultimately inhabit both worlds.

I'm not a huge believer in astrology but this upcoming Chinese new year which begins February 8th is the year of the monkey. It is one where 'disruption and delight' are rewarded and 'conventionality and normalcy' may possibly be punished. It is also a year where work and status mean less than connection and relationships. Not solely digital connections. True human, one-to-one, face-to-face personal connections.

Analog has the ability to be an important part of our holistic marketing plans in 2016 because marketer's don't divide the world into analog or digital silos. Also because we have entered an era where digital is all around us, content pollution is a big issue and the knowledge economy is mainstream in the majority of the world (or tipping in that direction). For your product, service, philosophy, movement or culture to be discovered isn't about having the biggest or most utilitarian message or product, but one that creatively resonates with people's souls and creates one-to-one human word of mouth that a Facebook status update, a text message or a Tweet cannot replicate.

The best marketers and developers rarely sit down when trying to solve a problem and say, 'what digital tool do I use and/or create today?' That means they aren't thinking about how people behave. The best designers, developers, marketers, entrepreneurs, lawyers, doctors, anthropologists, data scientists, etc. ultimately put people at the center of their experience. Not technology. Not code.

But people.

Thus, those who use the best tools regardless if they are digital or analog in 2016 will truly connect and create the ultimate landscape for people (which includes their customers or potential customers). For the majority of the "learning years" in digital marketing, the playbook was too much about data, calculations, algorithms, bots and APIs. While all of this is important to scale a business it doesn't get to the heart of what marketing and communications is essentially about. It doesn't even get to what the purpose of life is about.

It's about people. It's about connections. It's about learning.

So here's five other reasons why analog working to enhance digital marketing is the new black for 2016 in a bigger way than we could have imagined. This is the year digital marketing becomes simply "marketing." Where the best marketers are 100% holistic and can connect analog with digital with post digital. It doesn't matter where you do it but how you do it.

So why is analog more relevant in our digital world again?

1. The digital overload. We're in front of screens so often, that looking at more monitors and cell phones all day is too much.

2. Digital is stagnant. With platforms like Facebook you pretty much know what you're going to get. A bunch of images, maybe some video and a lot of content pollution. In the physical world there is less noise because you can control where you want to be and who you want to see. You supposedly can do this in digital too but who has time to work through what you want to see and what you don't want to see with filtered lists? (H/T to to Eli Pariser whose book 'The Filter Bubble: How the New Personalized Web Is Changing What We Read And How We Think' is an essential read!)

3. Events are getting exciting. In-person events help to facilitate the connections we make in digital. This is why urban areas will continue to grow in influence and why you can't be influential working in the middle of nowhere. That thinking is a myth refuted by all of the research conducted by Richard Florida in his book 'The Rise of the Creative Class.' Events are becoming very exciting because people are paying less attention to looking at their phone and actually connecting with people. The best marketers host real events with influencers, not simply tweet chats.

4. The allure is gone. Digital used to be associated with nerds and cutting edge thinkers, but now everyone is a 'digital content marketer' and many of their actions to sell products are as boring as watching paint dry.

5. Human interaction with feelings trumps all. It turns out even with tech being a dominant factor in our lives that people still like to connect DIRECTLY with other people, in person, face to face. That's why we all still love to attend concerts, go for hikes, run, ride a bike, sit in a park, attend a sporting event, visit family and friends, etc.

Like all fashion analogies, what the critics or experts say means little. What's more important is the wisdom of the crowd. What are your thoughts on this subject?


Geoffrey Colon is author of the upcoming book "Disruptive Marketing: What Growth Hackers, Data Punks, And Other Hybrid Thinkers Can Teach Us About Navigating The New Normal" (AMACOM) out July 15th on digital, August 15th on analog or on bootleg cassette tape wherever mixtapes are sold.

This post was inspired by a 2013 blog post I wrote on my Futurist Lab Tumblr entitled: "2013: The Seeds of a Shift Toward Postdigital"

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