The Digital Detox: Should brands worry about the trend?

The Digital Detox: Should brands worry about the trend?



Time and time again you’re told that Social Media is the key to getting your brand name out to the masses. Extremely prevalent with the dying print industry, rise in ad blockers and people reaching for their phones the second a TV ad break begins.

You’ve listened. Put all your focus on creating engaging content, learned the ins and outs of Facebook Business, and delved in to the world of influencers. Then, just as you’re satisfied with your Social Strategy for the year ahead, you hear of a new trend – ‘Digital Detox’.

What exactly is a Digital Detox?

Yup, it means what you think. People taking a break from Social Media and the wider internet for a period of time. The Global Web Index conducted a study in which they asked 4,438 internet users aged 16-64 in the US and UK how many had taken a Digital Detox. They found that 1 in 5 had previously taken a full detox for a period of time, and 7 in 10 have attempted to moderate their digital consumption at some point.

But as a brand, should you be concerned that this trend will quickly increase and have a negative affect on your plans?! In short, the answer is NO WAY.

Here’s why.

Social Media is still rapidly on its way to becoming the leading platform for advertising. Close to half the world’s population are on at least one social network, and 64% of online shoppers said that a video on social media has played part in at least one purchase decision in their lifetime. So, even though people are jumping on the Digital Detox bandwagon, it’s not yet a big enough trend to be even making a dent in overall social stats. In fact, even off the back of the Facebook vs Cambridge Analytica saga, when #DeleteFacebook was trending, Mark Zuckerburg revealed this made little to no real effect, and only an ‘immaterial number of users’ actually deleted their accounts.


So, if we know it’s nothing to worry about, what can we learn from the trend?

Firstly, it’s important to understand where the trend initially came from. Over recent years Social Media platforms have been under fire for negatively impacting mental health – particularly in younger users. Rates of anxiety and depression in young people have increased by 70% over the past 25 years, and experts think this has a significant link to the rise in social media usage. As more and more people are becoming aware of this, the Digital Detox trend is rising in parallel.

How do Social Networking sites feel about it?

Instead of Social channels worrying about people taking a break and purposely trying to use the sites less, they are embracing it, making the Digital Detox trend grow even more. During 2018 nearly all Social Networking sites, including Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, created tools which helped users monitor and keep track of how long they are spending on the sites.

A sceptic might say this is due to increasing pressure from the media. However, more optimistically, it could well be that they believe if people are using Social Media less, but are happier and more engaged when doing so, it’s going to be positive in the long-term.

Therefore, it’s key to note that more than ever brands should be aiming for attention grabbing social ads that keep users engaged, but as well as this, ads that give users a positive and enjoyable experience, which makes them feel good. Brands are becoming more and more responsible for this as they become increasingly connected to their audience.

Additionally, brands should wake to the reality that with users spending less time on each platform, it limits the number of adverts they can physically see. One way to address this could be to target smaller, more focused groups, when it comes to ad spend. Quality of engagements and views, over quantity, is incredibly important going forwards.

Brands can utilise the Digital Detox to their benefit

Another way brands can utilise this trend is to support users with their Digital Detox. We’ve seen many hugely successful campaigns which have done just this. Seamlessly blending an online brand experience with an offline one.

Pasta sauce brand Dolmio showcased this perfectly with their ‘Pepper Hacker’ campaign. They created a device which blocked connection to WiFi in the home, to encourage the family to get away from the internet and enjoy dinner time as a family. Interesting, as the campaign was promoted via online advertising, yet they took time as a brand to understand that quality time can’t fully be had when phones are present.

Another great example is from KFC and their ‘Phone Stack’ campaign. The Malaysian leg of the fast food chain created an app which timed how long people could avoid using their phones for. The tracker worked when mobiles were stacked on top of each other and the longer people stayed off their phones, the more KFC reward points they received. Again, a brand encouraging their audience to spend more time offline, despite knowing this is the best way to target them. But by doing so, they managed to remain at the forefront of their focus longer than they would by solely posting a social ad.

So rather than the growing trend in Digital Detox’s being a threat for Social Media Marketing, it in fact provides valuable lessons which can be of benefit going forwards. In time, following such take outs can hopefully build an increasingly positive platform for brands, and more people can enjoy learning from and engaging with content in a positive (and healthy) way.





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