#Interaction: is digital better than human?

On Thursday, myself and Tom Cornfoot tweeted our way on to the guest list for Moving Brand‘s 13th birthday party. Following Tuesday’s D&AD talk, more brain food was warmly welcomed and we went along to their Shoreditch studios to find out more about the work they do and the ideas they discuss.

The panel discussion spoke about the way branding is moving, and with an eclectic panel ranging from menswear designer Patrick Grant to HP supremo Greg Johnson there was a lot to think about. To supplement the offline discussion, there was a really great Twitter dialogue taking place via #MB13 and those who couldn’t make it to the party were able to follow and join in. Half way through this got me thinking about the importance of offline vs. online interaction, and I posed a question via Twitter asking:

@movingbrands question: has the world moved for the better when it comes to human interaction? #mb13

Amazingly, my question was put to the panel and the answers that came out were fascinating. Patrick Grant shared a story about an elderly gentleman whose plight to pay his library late fines was exacerbated by a machine and that often we use technology for the sake of it where human interaction would work far more effectively A very valid point, however one answer that came from the panel that has stuck in my mind is:

“You can’t survive without digital AND physical interactions.”

The ‘you’ here is interesting. ‘You’ as in ‘you’ the individual –  that’s obvious. Humans can’t survive without both forms of interaction. In business and in our private lives, we need to interpret body language, tone of voice and expressions in order to have a meaningful interaction. But what about brands? Can ‘you’ (a brand) survive without either digital of physical ‘touchpoints’?

Think about it.

Can a brand survive through solely digital interactions? I’m struggling to think of a good example of a brand that interacts with you purely via a screen. Spotify comes close, but then the music it provides creates a physical experience, so misses the mark. With traditional ‘e-tailers’ such as Amazon, we still have physical interactions with them through receiving the packaging in the post (often this forms a conversation with a colleague or friend asking what you’ve got).

By the same token, can a brand survive without a digital presence? We’re forever Googling restaurants, hotels and other businesses, and in my experience, if they aren’t found, often they aren’t trusted. This isn’t going to change – in fact, it’s going to get more complicated with mobile-based searching becoming more and more prevalent. So the answer really is no.

For me, the holy grail for brands is to strike a good balance between your online and offline brand presence so that the interactions created are similar, if not the same for your customer. What you experience offline you’re going to want to extend or compliment online. For example, when travelling by train, you now want to tweet or check a website on your mobile to find out timings. In my experience, brands such as London Midland have struck a good balance – the service I receive from the actual trains and their website/Twitter feed are very similar and compliment each other well. And therefore to answer my own question, human interaction has gotten better as the world continues to move.

It was a very thought provoking evening and it was good to see some of the great work the agency is doing. Happy 13th birthday, Moving Brands!

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3 thoughts on “#Interaction: is digital better than human?”

  1. Great blog Asad. The interesting points at the talk seemed to centre around what you have summed up here:

    “…the holy grail for brands is to strike a good balance between your online and offline brand presence so that the interactions created are similar, if not the same for your customer.”

    As you have said, the most successful brands in the digital arena are the ones that are blending their online and offline activities to create one seamless user journey. When I think of services that really make a difference to my day-to-day life, they’re the ones that are just there, as if by magic when I need them, integrated experiences that are simple to use and can be relied upon to deliver whatever they promise to without my having to expend any real effort.

    I think there is a lot to be said about how brands approach the challenge of consistency across all channels, both online and offline, but I think it might call for a whole blog post on it’s own! Stay tuned…

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