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Marketing Communications: It’s About Creating Engaging Moments

May 14, 2010

“With iPods and iPads and Xboxes and PlayStations…information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than a means of emancipation.”

— President Obama

President Obama’s recent comments to the graduating class at Hampton University included concern about our preoccupation with all things technology and social media.

As one journalist wrote, “the president does not hate your precious freedom to isolate yourself in a cocoon of music, video and text messages. He just realizes that if students are going to realize their potential, they need to focus more on the classroom.”

It’s a good way to put it. We do tend to operate in a cocoon, a world of our own making made up of multiple communities and technologies.

This sense was reflected in the recent University of Maryland study, 24 Hours, Unplugged, in which 200 students gave up all media for 24 hours. Their self-reported responses included,

“I am clearly addicted and the dependency is sickening.”

The funny moment on YouTube. The pics of a new family member entering the world. The posterizing slam dunk. The recap of the date told by a friend on Facebook. A playful text. The latest Tweet.

Like a drug to our brain, these moments take the edge off, either connecting to our heart or distracting us from the routine of life.

In a sense, we’re addicted to moments. Mobile is essentially our fix on the go.

While the scientific jury is still out on whether or not there is truly such a thing as Internet addiction, it appears that dopamine and the same neural pathways that are involved with drug addiction are at play while experiencing the Internet and social media.

While we may not admit to such a dependency, most of us thoroughly enjoy the fix, and the next one, and the next one. Well, you get the point.

What does all this mean for marketing communications?

If your audience operates within a cocoon, if they can’t put down their iPhone, if they’re looking to be touched, moved, and entertained by right brain moments, your marketing communications will need to deliver these moments.

Because if you don’t penetrate their cocoon of communities and technology, you won’t reach them.

I’m not just talking about literal moments. Moments also include stories that touch our humanity, empathies and funny bones.

Takeaways for marketing communications:

1. Your media mix must be robust. Where’s your audience? Be there. And be more than just active in social media–match your audience’s expectations and energy level!

For example, most colleges and universities have no personality on Twitter. It’s just another way to post press releases and announce events. There’s so much more potential! Follow the example of these institutions that do more.

2. Your audience is no longer passive. Media is now about sharing information. Your audience is used to being engaged by brands. Provide opportunities for engagement!

For example, does your online magazine treat your readers as passive or active? Does it provide opportunities for comments and discussion? Does it continue stories from the print version providing more in-depth content? Maybe you should consider a blogging platform for your magazine.

These are only a couple of thoughts about finding ways to penetrate your audience’s cocoon and meet their appetite for engaging experiences with your brand. There’s so much more.

UPDATE (June 6, 2010): NY Times, Hooked on Gadgets and Paying a Mental Price


3 Comments leave one →
  1. woychickdesign permalink
    May 17, 2010 9:41 PM


    And the trick, as you know in higher ed, is to adequately staff more engaging ventures. Everyone agrees it’s a good thing to do, but no one is shedding any activities that have been less effective to free up time for efforts like those you’ve recommended here.

    It’s unsustainable and ineffective to dabble in too many things. As John Wooden said: Never mistake activity for achievement.

    • Rick Hardy permalink
      May 17, 2010 10:26 PM

      Well said. Lack of assessment, and the decentralized nature of higher ed are reasons why marketing has been slow to make changes at many colleges and universities. But overall, I’d chalk it up to lack of progressive leadership.



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