Did your elderly parents take their medications? Did you remember to feed the cat? Did the kids get picked up by the bus after school? Is your car getting the best gas mileage it can achieve? These and thousands of similar questions migrate in and out of our conscious thoughts all the time. Now welcome to a new world where common anxiety is first heightened, and then overcome by constant connectivity to smart objects and sensors embedded in our lives. Get ready to have the words “monitor” and “notification” be two of the most common terms in our lexicon as smart objects become increasingly part of our daily experiences. The smartphones we now can’t live without are at the cusp of being extensions of our consciousness and tools for coping with our complex personal lives. Interpersonal communication and access to information was just the tip of the mobile-digital iceberg.
Our phones are fast becoming remote controls for our lives with objects as ordinary as our lamps at home already becoming controllable from anywhere. But according to Trendwatching.com http://trendwatching.com/trends/internet-of-caring-things/ , the internet is evolving to be about connected objects, or caring things, that we interact with via our iPhones and Android phones that will monitor and alert us to everything from the mundane to life threatening. Today’s breaking headlines and weather alerts will be augmented with notifications that we aren’t drinking enough water or that our floor needs to be vacuumed. How we consume, what we consume, and what triggers our actions will be transformed from passive to active. How should Brands think about this imminent reality? They certainly should not watch from the sidelines as connecting technologies like Nest https://nest.com/ and Mother https://sen.se/ potentially become trusted advisors in consumers’ lives regarding prioritizing their needs and suggesting their behaviors.
The imminent invasion of connected devices will give our homes, cars, and workplaces their own kind of consciousness that will further dilute our involvement with traditional media and change the way consumers will want to learn about and engage with brands. Retail and consumer brands who integrate into this consciousness will build strong relationships with their customers. The omni-channel centric fixation we need today is just the foundation for this future. Digital strategy will need to evolve to truly integrate seamlessly into the consumer’s world of notifications, indications, “settings” and required solutions that will be manifest in this new virtual “third hemisphere” of our brain that extends our awareness via our mobile devices.
How might this look? First think how your brand can be relevant to this expanded consciousness of connected devices. This may be easier to achieve for retailers and consumer products brands that provide life’s needs versus wants, but social anxiety is real and can also be an aperture in which to engage. What notifications can a brand provide that are not immediately linked to replenishment but seek to forge a necessary relationship? Next think of digital innovation differently, evolving from addressing need states to overcoming anxiety states. How can your brand intervene in a moment of potential distress or, better yet, be a proactive partner and get credit for avoiding distress? What products or services could you provide that uniquely support your brand’s purpose and mission and can be monetized and delivered via notifications? What potential partnerships exist between your Brand and the emerging world of smart, connected objects?
The need for brand strategies to maximize the potential of connected objects and the apps that enable them will be new territory and require experimentation with new roles for retailers and consumer brands alike. The potential is a completely new medium with which to engage and create value. It will be fascinating to see how we expand the notion of relevance and innovation in the future as the boundary between us and our “things” blurs, and our values shift from consuming to connecting with Brands as extensions of our senses.
Bill Chidley is a Branding and Experience Design Consultant with over 29 years of experience at Interbrand.