We reach for our smartphones every time we have a free minute. Or even in between conversations that we are not really tuned into. From the time we wake up, our smartphone is an intimate companion.
Many of us are so addicted to electronic stimulation that every ping is a potential distraction. Swimming in a sea of urban wifi, we love internet data.
We did a dipstick survey, of 170 WhatsApp groups, each comprising about 40 members on average. We found that WhatsApp group forwards occupy an average of 34 minutes of your daily time—that's more than an 18-year-old would give their mother in a day!
And what do these WhatsApp forwards contain?
- Topical forwards or current affairs.
- Motivational or funny videos; that are sometimes YouTube links. (More than 50% of YouTube views come from mobile devices.)
- Information relevant to the group—so a mothers group can have parenting tips
- Information/invitations to local exhibitions or events.
None of the above are branded content; they're just content that is considered to be of interest to that group. Google gives a good picture of what India has been looking for. We are consuming news stories of public downfalls, aspirational celebrity perfection and runaway successes!
People switch off the minute they see the brand logo—nobody wants to be sold to in their "pause-time".
For instance; India's top 10 Google searches of 2016 include Vijay Mallya, PV Sindhu, Donald Trump, "Sonam Gupta", etc; Other key searches, were Olympic games, Pokemon Go and Rio 2016.
This makes perfect sense because while brands may want to tell and sell, the content that gets my free minute is actually content that offers a pause button or helps me take a break from sell.
Pokemon Go is an encouraging exception—it is branded content, with a "curiosity-based" hook.
Fact is we all have too much going on and we are motivated to lessen the burden. Case in point: in the last decade, men have untucked their shirts. Billionaires are often seen in jeans. Indeed, informality has become the new sign of privilege, with uniforms restricted to blue collar workers. Powerful people have balanced the rigour and personal discipline of their work lives by eschewing formal clothing.
And we are all in the balance game. And where we give our free minute, has much to do with where we seek balance. Though we may be rushing headlong, we're actually all searching for the pause button.
We may be addicted to speed, but it's slowness we really crave. Our work and habits are screaming "Now!" — but what we really yearn for is "later."
So what does this "counter-balancing" paradigm mean for what kind of content will work in 2017? Is it possible to plan content that has people hooked?
I asked Aishwarya Rajinikanth Dhanush, about her "Kolaveri Di" days. Its languid tune and beat had made the song one of the biggest runaway YouTube successes of 2012; WhatsApp forwards had a huge role to play in making it so.
She candidly said, "You can't plan the real runaway successes."
Perhaps true. But you can certainly do these things
- Don't be obsessed with having your logo at the right hand corner of your content every time. People switch off the minute they see the brand logo—nobody wants to be sold to in their "pause-time".
- Let the viewer guess something, feel involved, participate, feel valued. Don't over-explain.
- Be insightful about what people can mirror and match with.
Here's hoping there are more 'Pokemon Go's' in next year's top search interest list.