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The True Purpose Of Digital

by Walker Smith

This video posted by Samuel Bendett got my attention. It shows a drone made of sticks and a few plastic propellers powered by a simple motor. Have a look.

Tyler Cowen also posted the video with a rhetorical question about whether the next war will be fought with sticks and stones. I would ask the same question about marketing.

In our enthusiasm over digital tools and technologies, we have persuaded ourselves that digital is an evolutionary step beyond analog. We celebrate or lament a future in which digital wholly displaces analog. We have postulated that the endpoint of digital is the end of brick-and-mortar retail or of linear TV or of live events. We wring our hands that digital has weakened and shrunk analog interaction to the point of a public health epidemic of loneliness and a political crisis of echo chambers.

All of this is rooted in the fundamental and generally unstated, even unrecognized, assumption that digital and analog cannot coexist. The rise of digital means the end of analog. It’s one or the other, and digital is going to take over.

And then we run across a video that shows an analog version of a contraption that is often used to symbolize the all-digital future to come. Drone warfare. Drone deliveries. Drone surveillance. Drone data collection. Drone claims adjustment. Drone inspections. Drone videos and photography. It’s a digital future delivered and conveyed by drones.

Yet, drones aren’t digital. What we see in this video is that drones are just a bunch of sticks tied together with a digital motor to make them go. It’s not digital instead of analog. It’s digital making sticks fly not making virtual sticks. It’s digital powering analog. It’s digital enhancing analog. It’s digital making analog better.

We keep misdescribing digital. We live in the analog world in which we have digital technologies that make analog life easier for us—more convenient, faster, cheaper, more reliable. But digital doesn’t displace analog. Nor do we want that.

The lesson learned from the pandemic was how little we liked living in a digitally immersed lifestyle. In my view, “the human” won. People have always used tools and technologies to make their real lives better. Digital is just another in a long line of them. Nobody wants a virtual life instead of real one. But everybody wants the power of digital to make analog better. The future of digital is an enhancement to real life not a replacement.

Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider By: Walker Smith, Chief Knowledge Officer, Brand & Marketing at Kantar

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