Fidget Marketing For A World That Won't Stop Moving

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How should brands connect to consumers who just can’t stop moving?

Social psychology and marketing professor, Adam Alter, has a new book out. It’s called, Irresistible – The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked (you can check out my conversation with Adam right here: The Business Of Addictive Technology With Adam Alter - Episode #562 of Six Pixels of Separation – The Mirum Podcast). It’s not just technology and how these developers engage, connect and ensure that consumers come back that should be worrying. It is also who we are (all) becoming – as a society. It’s no longer a question of how healthy/unhealthy it is for us to be so constantly and consistently connected to technology, it’s also about how we just can’t stop doing something… anything at all times.

Keep moving. Keep busy. It’s more than a habit.

On one hand, we’re seeing an increased interest in mindfulness practice and meditation (look no further than the mass success of apps like Headspace). On the other side, we’re neck-deep in a culture of people (and this is affecting kids too) that just can’t stop doing something/moving. For kids with more severe issues like ADHD, etc… there was this little toy called the fidget cube and fidget spinner that took off on Kickstarter. The lore goes that kids who fell on a spectrum would fidget with these devices, and that would both calm them down and help them to focus. Now, these toys/devices have crossed over to the mainstream. Everybody wants them. Not just kids. The hottest toy going these days are fidget spinners. You can find them cheapish ($5 – $10 range) but they also can quickly move into the $25 – $75 range as well. It would be easy to dismiss this craze as something that could become the next Yo-Yo. After watching these fidget spinners take off in popularity with elementary school kids and move up to adults who are, simply, looking for something to fidget with at all times, it should give us all pause.

Always fidgeting.

Whether it’s thumbing through a newsfeed, responding to text messages or incessantly checking out iPhone for updates, that digital desire to always be flicking, fondling, clicking and tugging at your smartphone is now transcending digital with a new-ish version of the stress ball… and the real concern should be the habit-forming nature of how these young kids (and adults) always need something to do. Much has been written on the subject of stillness (here’s a great primer from Pico Iyer‘s excellent TED Talk, The Art of Stillness), but what seems like a innocuous gift to a kid, or just following along with what’s hot in toys today, could well be programming the next generation to always be moving, doing, etc…

A tougher environment for business to come. 

We see the process of selling and marketing to consumers as “moments in time.” The concept that while consumers are watching (or engaging with) media, we can get our brand messaging in front of them. Brands work on the newer digital platforms by being present should a consumer be searching or chatting with another consumer about a brand, a competitor or looking at a catagory for a potential purchase. We know that we’re already in the age of distraction, but what if this shifts to the age of fidgeting? A place where these is never a moment when a consumer is doing nothing at all. A place where consumers are always doing something else. A place where consumers are constantly fidgeting.

Is the future about fidget marketing?

Will brands be faced with new challenges as they try to get their messaging to the masses? In my second business book, CTRL ALT Delete, I made the case for utilitarianism marketing (the idea that a brand can provide tools and functions that add more value to their consumer’s lives than simply advertising to them). Watching the popularity of fidget spinners take hold, it made me wonder what more a brand will have to do with that kind of constant competition? Especially as these distractions look, feel and act so innocuous… they live and breathe in the background (but are always there).  It may sound like an additional nuance in the spectrum of how marketers connect to consumers, but there must be some kind of compounded effect taking hold – especially in the younger generation. Imagine marketing or trying to grow your business in world where consumers are alway fidgeting. The obvious solution will be for brands to produce their own (branded) fidget devices (look for those on trade show floors any time soon). And, while these devices may be a fad, it does seem to be another re-wiring of our brains, and consumers desires to constantly be fidgeting with something. Will brands try to out-fidget these devices? Will brands watch these devices come and go as fads do, but take their essence and try to create marketing that compliments this behaviour? It would be too easy to dismiss this as a fad and not dig deeper into what it represents.

Consumers want to constantly fidget. Brand are going to adapt. It won’t always be pretty.