asembl. Futures - Episode 1.

It goes without saying that the development of the internet has closed worldwide gaps. Wherever you are, there is easy 24/7 access to everyone and everything at the tips of our fingers. So, why are many of us feeling disconnected in a digitally connected world?

We were forced into isolation for a few years and began living through our screens. Meetings and events became zoom calls, socialising became online quizzes, and there was a spike in social media usage across all age groups. This sudden shift caused an increase in the average time UK adults spent using the internet. In 2020 we spent just over 4hrs a day online every day, with 3hrs of that time on a smartphone. Compared to 2019, this is a 30% increase in smartphone usage. Considering these stats, it’s no wonder we’re feeling digital fatigue and cut off from the outside world.

There were positive and negative outcomes from the sudden stay-at-home enforcement. We have learnt a lot about ourselves during this time. For the world of B2B, we were able to claim back lost commuting hours or add flexibility to the workday. It was a game changer that allowed us to put more emphasis on work-life balance. However, there is a knock-on effect of this. A remote working life behind a screen has been shown to increase the feeling of loneliness and isolation, highlighting the importance of in-person social interaction.

We are starting to bounce back. Our communities are beginning to heal from the social impact of the pandemic. The office is starting to get its buzz back, we can travel again, and there is a new focus on quality face-to-face interactions and events. But, many of us still live behind our screens and are not ‘in the moment’. It seems the more digitally connected society becomes, the more disconnected from our surroundings we are. We are not fully engaged in the here and now. It’s easy to fall into the trap of automatically reaching for our phones and losing focus on what’s in front of us. How often do you spot people recording the action on their phones instead of fully participating? Or, when you’re out with friends, are you updating your social media or messaging others instead of talking to the people you’re with? Technology at our fingertips can be distracting and cause us to search for instant gratification.

We are all social creatures; even the most introverted need to feel connected. If anything, the last few years have taught us the importance of supporting and nurturing our community around us. Whether that is our family, friends, neighbours or colleagues, we’re all in it together. There is nothing like the power of real-life interactions to develop a genuine connection.

We must explore new ways to rebuild that connection and resonate with our audiences. We can use technology to enhance our experiences and build our community, but at the same time, let’s remind people what it’s like to form authentic in-person connections and live life to its fullest.

Immersive experiences to create a connection.

connection

Mental Canvas

Mental-Canvas-04

This month we are in love with Mental Canvas. This nifty software tool is used by the likes of Nike and Walt Disney to bring their ideas to life. It’s an innovative way to visualise concepts in the early stages of planning by creating a simple 2D drawing, and then transforming it into a 3D environment. Creators can interactively explore designs, tell stories, and communicate in a new, exciting way.

For experience makers, Mental Canvas could revolutionise the design process. It’s ideal for showcasing walk-throughs and bringing concepts to life in the early planning stages.

For example, it could be used as a cost-efficient way of visualising an exhibition stand before moving on to more in-depth design and build.You could quickly draw an initial idea in 2D and turn it into 3D, helping you see how your audience may move around and connect with the space.

Anything that has the potential to minimise back and forth with designers, reduce costs and help visualise an environment, or experience a moment before it happens is, in our eyes, a game changer.

Return on Emotion

Understanding what the return is on any investment is essential. Otherwise, how else will you know if you’re achieving and can justify the initial expense? But what about the emotional connection?

Return on Investment is measured with logic and numbers. For example, the number of clicks a digital campaign has received or more monetary-based results (keeping the accountants happy!). Something that has been regularly overlooked is the emotional impact on consumers, but times are changing. Tracking the Return on Emotional investment (ROE) is fast becoming a crucial KPI in brand marketing strategies.

What is ROE? Quite simply, ROE measures how engaged, inspired, and loyal a person is to your brand or product. Thinking about your audience as individuals and creating a connection with them will go a long way. Knowing that people buy with their feelings is marketing 101. Even the savviest who will spend hours researching before committing will ultimately use their emotions to make the final decision. A study by Harvard Professor, Gerald Zaltman, claims that 95% of purchasing decisions are subconscious, meaning even the most rational consumer is oblivious to their feelings being the deciding factor.

As creators of human interactions, how can we justify the investment when relying on unconscious urges that aren’t easily measurable with stats and figures? Consider your audience’s state of mind, sentiment, attention, and engagement to set benchmarks against. Insights can be gained from simple solutions such as tracking how you’re talked about online or monitoring in-person connections like stand visits and audience participation. However, you could go one step further. Developing software can support human behaviour research. The leading software specialist, IMotions, can provide real-time, naturalistic data using biometric sensors such as eye tracking, facial recognition, and in-depth analytics to understand your audience’s actions, thoughts, and feelings.

Fundamentally, Return on Investment and Return on emotion go hand in hand. By excluding emotions from your KPI, you could lose a considerable part of your customer base — the stronger the emotional connection, the stronger the overall results. Consumers will feel more connected to your brand or product and, in return, will reward with lifelong advocacy.

Future Shock

There is no denying that Future Shock is seriously cool. The concept is to blur the boundaries between the physical and virtual. No expense has been spared to immerse you in a show of pulsating sound, light, smoke and clever virtual elements. It’s like visiting a trippy kid’s fun-house filled with the latest technology. As you walk through each environment, there is an element of adventure, leaving you excited to see what is around the corner. Among the 14 installations, the works explore AI, space, and the future of society. And although they do not sit together conceptually, each feature takes you on a sensory journey, knocking you off balance and reverberating through your body.