Did you know that 64% of people want regulators to speed up the production of a COVID-19 vaccine, despite the risk of fatal side effects going unchecked?
It’s a similar situation in the tech world. We’re hacking and optimising quicker than ever before with little regard to how certain innovations are impacting us.
But society is changing. Now more than ever, attitudes are moving away from progress for the sake of progress and closer towards meaningful innovation.
One example is Facebook, which has switched its focus from turning VR into the next frontier of gaming to creating virtual spaces for home working. So how can brands, which benefit from innovation daily, be more human as well?
Navigate the experience age more thoughtfully
The mixed reality age is nearly here. In March, Snapchat reported that the time spent using AR lenses is up 25% while eMarketer believes 83.1 million people will use AR at least once a month this year. But there’s more to AR than filters.
AR is having a profound impact on experiences, but it’s also improving users’ everyday lives in new and interesting ways. Ikea’s Place app, which uses AR to help shoppers see how furniture will look in their home before they buy, is just one example of this. And while the furniture example isn’t new, it’s a case study for the direction that innovation can take.
Snapchat recently stressed that the future will see AR move towards utility over creativity alone in their annual partner summit, pointing out that AR has the power to change the way we see the world – be that through education, healthcare, advice or commerce. So far it’s why AR has outperformed VR in terms of mainstream adoption. But it’s not just tech – brands are changing too.
Dare to be more human on social media
In 2015, a Gawker article entitled ‘Brands Are Not Your Friends’ hit out at corporations for taking an overfamiliar tone on social media. Five years on and attitudes have changed, with influencers helping to give brands a voice.
Increasingly, brands are also using social media to take a stance on everything from racism to climate change. Unfortunately, many still don’t feel as human as they could be on social, and part of that is down to a fear of misstepping.
Brands don’t want to make mistakes but to make mistakes is human, which is where the need to be more daring comes from. Likewise, social has shone a greater light on the need to know your audience inside out. Those who make sweeping assumptions based on demographics alone quickly get found out.
Brands also need to be more socially aware than ever, especially with the arrival of social commerce and the eventual coming of advertising in private spaces like WhatsApp. As brands align with users and their friends even more, those who will benefit most will be those that feel more human and engage on a deeper level. After all, social media is and always will be an engagement channel, built on two-way conversations, unlike TV which is purely broadcast.
Facilitate meaningful connections
But going deeper isn’t just about the conversations brands have with their audiences. Facebook is leading a shift towards more private spaces, from Facebook Groups to Messenger Rooms – it calls this the digital living room.
All this has coincided with COVID-19, which along with increasing the time spent on social is causing spikes in instant messaging – in some countries, instant messaging is up as much as 50%, showing how much we rely on it.
Brands needn’t feel shut out, however, as Messenger and WhatsApp have become major touchpoints. Commerce aside, imagine a future where more brands use these spaces to spark meaningful connections with users around passion points and goals, just as Adidas did when it created its Tango Squad, which used dark social to connect 1400 young football fans from around the world.
Don’t fear artificial intelligence, invest in tech for good
Social aside, advancements in AI are happening quicker than many of us can comprehend, and this is fuelling a lot of Orwellian fear. Nevertheless, there are many working in AI with genuine ideas about how to better society.
As AI charges onwards, organisations like AI for Good are using machine learning to create a fairer world, through tools capable of detecting domestic abuse and initiatives to help young people into careers that don’t exist yet.
Just as brands have pledged to help fight racial injustice through generous donations, many corporations that continue to benefit from AI have a chance to invest in tech that aims to make life better for us all.
Why am I telling you all this?
This year I started my agency, Digital Human, which works with brands from all sectors to inject more humanity into digital marketing and technology, as brands and tech companies strive to be more human in a digital-first world.
I started the agency because I believe that with so much innovation, it’s easy to lose sight of what matters to humans. It’s hard to predict how events like COVID-19 will shape our tech habits, but with the focus back on society, it makes sense that the next big updates we see will be more people-centric.
What do you think? Get in touch via [email protected] to speak with me more about the themes in this article, speaking opportunities or Digital Human, or send me your thoughts and comments on LinkedIn.
Kunal Pattany is a public speaker, technology commentator and the founder and CEO of Digital Human. With 15 years’ experience in marketing for leading companies like Kantar, a WPP data and insights company, he has turned his attention to the impact of digital and AI on humans and society’s response to innovation. To find out more about Digital Human, click here. To talk with Kunal about speaking opportunities, email [email protected] 👋