so excited about the future, a new chapter in life, euphoria. it’s amazing!!!

I am finally engaged…thanks to the R&D that lead us to the touchscreen. Yes, the touchscreen - the ability to move shiny objects around with your fingers. Positioning text, images, audio and video as you personally wish (a.k.a. customization). It’s an incredible concept, bringing us as close as ever to the intersection between print and digital, macro and micro, general and personalized, online and offline, disruption and engagement. (Did I use every possible “buzz” word? Check.)

We say that “in the changing digital landscape, brands have gone from a one-way stream of communication with consumers to a 2-way dialogue” (source: every digital marketing presentation in the world). In theory, that sounds brilliant. But in practice, that idea has barely seen the light of day. Until now…thanks to touchscreen technology. This past week, my colleagues and I took a trip to Times Square to visit the headquarters of Conde Nast.  We were given a demo of the new Conde iPhone, iPad and tablet apps. Each app provides a new experience with the magazine’s content -it’s no longer just about reading the articles (and advertisements)…it’s about moving the content around, selecting exactly what you want and drilling deeper, taking actions and having the content react accordingly. And, of course, sharing the experience with friends. In a sense, the digital experiences that publishers are developing (or attempting to develop) create a meaningful conversation between the readers, content and brands. 

With the ability to “touch” through our digital experiences, we (consumers) can truly engage with what we are reading, viewing, hearing. Every digital asset that we interact with becomes a “chose your own adventure.” The physics of touching the actual screen - and, in turn, the content - (finally) challenges the idea that only printed material can physically satisfy your reading experience. The sensation of cracking a book’s binding or flipping through the pages of a magazine is now being reconfigured via iPad/iPhone/tablets. We can finally “touch” digital content, not just interact with it indirectly via a mouse.

For marketers, I think this poses a new challenge. Brands are used to pushing messages to consumers. Until now, digital marketing has been about disruption - forcing consumers to “click through” for more information…disconnecting consumers from the content that they really want to read/see/hear. That strategy won’t work for long. Marketers need to start creating ways for consumers to be a part of the content by creating experiences that capitalize on the concept of “engagement” - physical, touch-based engagement. Successful brands will be more than just advertisers, they will be content creators and trans-media storytellers.

For healthcare-focused marketers, I think the physical touch of emerging platforms fuses amazingly well with the actual physical nature of, say, health. Telling brand-stories in a way that connects and engages human beings to a medication in a “physical” way could change the entire pharma-marketing landscape (good luck figuring out those guidelines, FDA).

From a metrics perspective, it’s not just going to be about ad impressions, click-thrus and page views. It’s also going to be about engagement measures such as time spent and social interactions taken ….even if that time and those actions are not on your branded website. Could it be that building a brand’s value/equity online is finally going to matter…I mean really matter…to consumers???

Consider this: when you flip through a print issue of Vogue or Wired, the advertisements are part of the experience. Today, when you view content online, the advertisements (banners, buttons, etc.) are usually not a part of the experience (you have to click-through to another destination). Even when you can engage with ads online without leaving the original content (like rich media rollover ads), you’re experience is still interrupted. “Touch” changes that. I think brands can create a streamlined, holistic, story with digital content. Finally. 

So maybe not the kind of post you thought you were clicking into. Sorry, Ma.