Food for the Digital Soul

Gene Paek, Director of Interactive, NYCA

Beef pot pie. The ultimate comfort food. One night, I stumbled upon greatness—Marie Callender’s microwaveable beef pot pie. I read the cooking beef pot pieinstructions.  Microwave for twenty minutes. I paused and re-read. Twenty minutes? Not fast enough.

How fast does fast need to be? For today’s consumer, fast isn’t fast enough. And their communication consumption habits are changing just as fast. Email replaced the written letter. The web replaced the printed page. Texting replaced the phone conversation.  And now we’re communicating in 140 characters or less.

As agency-species, it’s part of our genetic code to adapt to change. And adapt faster than fast to keep up with the pace of the consumer. Agency-species that can’t keep up will become extinct. Problem is if you’re a brand manager riding on the thinking of an agency-species that isn’t pushing this pace or level of change, you’ll become a fossil too.

Today’s natural selection process has nothing to do with agency size. It has everything to do with how comfortable that agency is with being uncomfortable.

For example, CP+B is ten times bigger than an agency like Big Spaceship, but both adapt to consumer communication habits at the same rapid pace. It’s part of their agency culture because their agency-species feel comfortable being uncomfortable. Recommending strategies to connect with consumers that haven’t been documented in multiple case studies or put through rigorous rounds of focus group testing could make some feel uncomfortable. Uncomfortable because their particular strategy is more hypothesis rather than theory. But in today’s digital space, this is the type of thinking that is thriving.

It’s hard to feel comfortable in today’s digital world. Platform technologies change every day. Consumer web consumption habits change constantly. Just when you’re about to feel comfortable, the game changes. The trick is to not try and be completely comfortable with a particular technology or platform before implementing a program utilizing it. Just have the appetite for diving into how your consumer is consuming and embracing new ways of doing.

Find comfort in beef pot pie because if you’re looking for comfort in the digital space, you won’t find it.

Gene Paek, Director of Interactive, NYCA

gpaek@nyca.com; Twitter @gpaek

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