High Touch in an Age of High Tech

I was recently at the Ritz Carlton, Puerto Rico, as we sponsored the Worldcom PR organization’s annual conference. Let me tell you, the PR folks who are in this group are top-notch people who are not only good at their craft, but they are also a fun group! These pros know how to do it right, from the destination to the hotel to the nightly activities and dine arounds.

I had some great conversations with these PR leaders. The name of the conference was “R U Ready” and the focus was on the future. The future, as in next year (I think the term ‘long term planning’ is obsolete these days) and R U Ready as in how do you plan to position your company in the future. Anyway, they brought in a number of outstanding speakers including the Secretary of State of Puerto Rico, Kenneth D. McClintock, and David Houle, a futurist, who was on the senior executive team that launched MTV, Nickelodeon, VH1 and CNN Headline News.

David and I sat at lunch together prior to his presentation. Oddly enough, our conversation led to my 12-year-old daughter’s new texting habit. “Do you notice school-aged girls hugging each other when they see each other out in public?” he asked. “Have you seen the boys chest-bumping? Do you notice kids don’t pick up the phone and call each other? Do you notice they use their cell phones as non-verbal communication tools? How many people do you know that don’t have a phone at home?” and many more. Look around, he’s right, kids just don’t communicate like we did. And that lead him into some of his observations

…”100 years ago, 50 years ago, even 25 years ago, we lived in a high-touch world. We used to hang out on the stoop, on the front porch, have block parties and attend county fairs. We had personal relationships with business owners, stores and brands. As we have become even more electronically connected, we have lost a lot of the human essential need for touch. Marketers need to realize that as this has occurred, there has developed a deficit in consumers to have a ‘feeling’ and a ‘relationship’ with brands”.

Building relationships with the consumer – isn’t that what all marketing is supposed to accomplish? How do you build a relationship without a physical touch or personal engagement? I believe you build true relationships with multiple touches, social media, print media, electronic media, well placed informative articles and field marketing, all fully integrated to ‘touch’ the consumer in multiple ways and at multiple times. The days of single-touch communications are gone…along with the corded telephone.