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19 August 2013

In search of some peace and quiet, digital detoxication and the business of silence

An always-on mentality, omnipresent bits and bytes and a constant mental rush-hour. In these times of virtual noise we are living not only an economic recession, but also an attention crisis. The switch from analogue to digital reorganized and radically disturbed the hustle and bustle of everyday life. This change goes inevitably hand in hand with a reactionary movement.
Digital detoxication
The harder it is to avoid technology and to escape from noise, the more we feel the urge to do so. Consumers are more and more following a digital diet and are on a quest to make their life quieter. Marketers try to respond with products and services that reconnect them with the world around them. Welcome to a new age of simplicity and relevance …

Digital detoxication, a result of FOMO or JOMO?

Everybody on all possible media channels are screaming for someone’s reaction. Out of fear of missing out (FOMO), people continuously feel the need to be connected with the outside world. As a consequence, phenomena like sleep-texting and phantom vibrations appear. Like all addictions this requires sooner or later rehab to cope with the overpowering technology. On the other hand, some people are just afraid of change and feel threatened by the information overload and choose to ignore the virtual world.

Bypassing technology shouldn’t be the answer. We should plead for digital education to learn how to digest all the messages and add personal filters. Not only for children at school, but also for business people. In that way we will have a better grip on technology. Apps like Flipboard play on this need.

Of course, a lot of people find joy in missing out (JOMO) now and then to allow them to focus on other important things. The Hoge Kempen National Park, for example, launched the Disconnect App. This tool allows you to cut yourself off from all social media to enjoy nature in all tranquility. I believe marketers should take into account that consumers only want information on a need-to-know basis. Instead of bombarding them with messages, they should come up with services that value the detech-moment or ease the information selection.

On a professional level, focus in your daily management is of course very important. Currently employees get distracted every 3 minutes. In order to increase productivity, companies like IBM organize technology quarantines during a certain period: no e-mail, no smartphone. Initiatives like log-off Friday embrace social contact: having a drink together or go to someone’s desk instead of sending an e-mail. But is it really necessary to ban social media in companies? Look at Google. Distraction might lead to creativity.

Silence, a cover for big business?

Believe it or not, but silence has become a luxury product. Many companies sell silence and consumers are prepared to pay a lot of money for tranquility in all aspects of their life. Just think about the selfness holidays (work on yourself in silence), customized ear plugs and quiet household products. In the UK the Noise Abasement Society attributes the Quiet Mark label. Philips received this seal of approval and makes from silent products an important (expensive) segment. Has it really come so far that people can’t achieve silence themselves and need a business for it? Will silence marketing maybe become the new hype and challenge for marketers? Are brands brave enough to go entirely off the radar for a certain period? Dare to create silence for your customer.

I am convinced you don’t need massive resources to come to some moments of reflection and rest. Recently Leo Bormans asked for some minutes of silence in the TV show Reyers Laat, a unique experience. He considers silence as qualitative attention. Psychologist Edward de Bono also pleads for creative pauses: moments of boredom turned into sparkling new ideas. Why don’t companies organize some minutes of silence each day?

Zen rooms in firms already allow employees to relax in nice seats and have a personal conversation, away from the open space. Even trains have nowadays silent train compartments. And students prefer more and more to study in a silent library or in a monastery. Maybe we should consider silence as a tool for togetherness? Or are we all just in search of simplicity and simplification?


Debranding, the ultimate form of branding?

In the Yearly Marketing survey 2013 some de-words appeared for the first time: debranding, defriending,… It already indicated the consumer tiredness of the marketing overload. How do marketers need to cope with this de-trend?

Department store Selfridges, for example, had a ‘No noise’ campaign. To get away from the commercial clutter, they stripped logos from famous products, like Heinz, to offer it as a debranded version but at the same time as an exclusive collector’s item. But with this debranding, didn’t they ask for more attention and even add to the noise?

Because of brand saturation, ads lose their impact. If your brand can launch logo-free consumer campaigns, you can be sure about your brand’s ubiquity and strength. McDonald’s and even Ford were successful in debranded actions. Let consumers look at the product itself, unaffected by brand messages. Let the product shine, so that over the top branding becomes unnecessary! The challenge of marketers is to introduce campaigns that don’t look like campaigns. Next to silence marketing, will focus on simplicity be the ultimate differentiation tool?


Marketers should look for an answer to the cacophony of brand messages and contribute in one way or another to the trend of digital diets. Hunger is the best sauce and allows you to put in place simple products and services to bring back some peace and quiet. Simplicity, simplification and focus, without turning off entirely all social media, are important buzzwords. So my message to marketers is RIP: Reconnect (with yourself, your consumer and the world) In Peace...