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Conscious Consumers are practicing digital minimalism. What’s the effect on marketers?


Minimalism. The word brings to mind sparsely decorated rooms, white space, people who focus on what they need instead of what they want. The 2016 Netflix documentary series with the same name focused on those who reject the idea that happiness comes from things, or who believe that “less is more.” Interestingly, in the documentary, this is presented as being an “American ideal.” Yet we also know that more and more Americans are embracing Conscious Consumer values, which include a focus on experiences instead of things, mindfulness, and finding satisfaction through doing well while doing good.

There’s a lot of discussion of minimalism when it comes to “things”: possessions, stuff, tangible objects. But there’s also the rise of digital minimalism.

This blog has talked before about the importance of being in the moment, and that includes putting electronic devices away. But versus being just a technology break, digital minimalism is a lifestyle. The approach isn’t about abstinence, but moderation. And it ties to mindfulness: When are devices useful and add value to our existence, and when are they a distraction, or detract from our ability to participate fully in an experience?

It’s even grounded in efficiency. We know that technological advancements make us more efficient at some things, but they make us less efficient at others. (How many minutes have you accidentally wasted by scrolling through Facebook when you meant to be working, or cleaning, or sleeping?) Author Cal Newport says, “[Digital minimalism] is motivated by the belief that intentionally and aggressively clearing away low-value digital noise, and optimizing your use of the tools that really matter, can significantly improve your life.”

Of course the selective use of any medium affects marketers. Limited screen time means fewer minutes to put messages in front of consumers, whether on social media, online banners, native content or even TV. But maybe it means a rise in the effectiveness of out-of-home, if people are looking up instead of down. It certainly means that being a brand that improves experiences is of high value. We’ll keep beating the drum of genuine interactions, transparency of values, and engaging with consumers in compelling ways that add interest to their lives.

Digital isn’t going anywhere. Video isn’t going anywhere. People are consuming more content digitally than ever before. A potential positive result of active digital use (versus passive digital use) is that users might be more focused, more engaged, and more willing to spend time with your content during their digital “on” times, but also craving for you to offer them ways to engage more traditionally if they have opted to embrace digital minimalism.

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