Episode 13. Today, we are speaking with provocative writer, journalist, and award-winning author, David Sax. David has recently published “The Revenge of Analog,” which is a fascinating read and today he discusses the world of analog, being human and highlights Brands that merge physical and digital experiences to give customers a superior overall experience.
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Grab a coffee and take it all in.
Fascinating new book, “The Revenge of Analog.” I loved it. It talked to me about being a human again. Do you see these new worlds or analog, pushing back to vinyl, pushing back to things that are very touch and feel, as just a blip trend or is this something that we’re really moving towards?
You know, it’s funny. You said it reminding you of being a human again. You were always a human. You never stopped being one as far as I know. And I think that’s true of all of us. There is this common saying of, “Oh, well, we live in a digital world.” But we don’t live in a digital world. The world has always been and will always be an analog world as long as we’re on this planet. And so I think what we’re seeing is, not a push back, but sort of a realization of what the value of the tangible things and ideas are in this world. When we have everything digital at our fingertips, we’re able to choose what we want that is analog.
Obviously there’s a big bet on, let’s call it physical experiences today. We’re seeing like the digital giants like Amazon moving into terrestrial, coming down from outer space and buying Whole Foods. As you call the physical sort of superior mediums for life, how do you see that world sort of colliding?
Well, I think it’s … Amazon’s a great example. Another example that I was talking about just before with someone was Warby Parker. Here is a company that was founded a bunch of years ago to do something that no one had ever done, to sell eyeglasses online. And that was their whole thing. And then they quickly realized that they were limited in that market and opened up stores. And the stores were so successful that it propelled the brand forward and inspired all these copycats. Yes, they still sell a lot of glasses online, but people still want to try those glasses on and, if anything, they’re more likely to buy glasses at Warby Parker because of that. It’s not a question of either or, “We are a digital company,” or, “We are an analog company.”
In the modern world that we live in today, will be living in, you need to do both. And you can’t sacrifice one and just dismiss the other away. You know, the experience of online shopping is always going to be limited by the size of the screen and what you’re able to put on it.
Beyond some of the examples you had, who is doing it really well?
IKEA. So IKEA is a physical place. You got to the stores. The stores are some of the most successful retailers everywhere. They reach their customers through online ads, through billboards, and through this giant brick of a catalog that they drop on everybody’s doorstep pretty much around the world. And yet, they are technologically sophisticated in the data that they collect, in the products that they make, and the way they deliver products and services to people. So you can go to IKEA, drive there, collect your stuff, assemble it with your Allen key at home, swear, getting a divorce, like all of us do. But they recently bought TaskRabbit, so you could have someone else go and do it with the ease of an app. But it’s not just going to be one, “Oh, we’re only selling POANG chairs at stores that you have to go to,” or, “We’re only selling them online.” It’s both.
Let’s talk creativity for a second because that brings us to an interesting world. How is analog unlocking creativity today in the work place and in the agency world?
There’s a really good example that comes from the music business. Over the past 15, 20 years, digital recording software like Pro Tools has enabled musicians to go in record albums in their bedrooms, change everything from sort of a drum kick to vocals around, adding all sorts of effects. And it’s made lots of music possible, but a lot of artists are going back to analog means of production. They’re saying the limitations of pressing record on a tape and recording a song and then liking it or recording over it allow a certain kind of creative freedom, which is a freedom of not being able to change something. The freedom of giving it your best take and sort of forcing that creative energy. So you have artists like Jack White, Lady Gaga, you know the Wu Tang Clan creating some incredible albums like this. Dave Grohl, The Foo Fighters, won a couple Grammys with some of these albums.
In the agency world, you’re seeing the same things. There are ad agencies that say of their sort of creative designers, “For the first draft of a campaign, don’t touch a computer. Paper, pen, whiteboard, sticky notes. We don’t want you to be constrained with a document that you’re then bound to, we want it to be loose, we want the ideas to flow freely, and we will capture it all and sort of wrestle it back into digits later.”
So I think that mixture is something that those in the creative fields, whether it’s art, or design, advertising, marketing, are starting to play with again now that the stigma of “Oh, you’re using print, you’re a dinosaur,” is over.
What do you think the one thing that brands can do to transform the way they engage with people is?
I think it’s remember that they are engaging with people. Human beings, right, who live in a physical world. Not ones and zero, not avatars, not a Facebook profile that is statistically driven. And human beings respond to real things. They have emotions. They want to feel appreciated, and respected, and recognized as individuals. And it is easier to do that with things that are physical, that they can hold in their hand, that they can talk to someone and see face to face than it is by any number of CRM-derived ads or social media
So, David, thank you for taking this caffeinated journey with us. Again, read the book “The Revenge of Analog.” It was brilliant. It was fascinating. And thank you.