What about an advertising showing you pain dry? If that was not captivating enough, you could then have joined 12,000 others on YouTube who watched the full 11-and-a-half-minute version. Ronseal’s ad, which shows a man painting a fence. We can consider it as the latest campaign to take advantage of a growing consumer desire for a slower approach to life. A bit later, Diageo released a 45-minute video of comedian Nick Offerman drinking a glass of Lagavulin whisky by a roaring fire. Keeping silent all across the duration.
Unlike the majority of ads with deliberately noisy, attention-grabbing soundtracks, all of these spots took a quieter approach – the crackle of a fire, the sounds of the countryside or methodical brush strokes accompanied pared-back visuals. They are all examples of “slow marketing”. And it’s a trend on the rise. The slow movement began in the 1980s, when political activist and writer Carlo Petrini protested against the “fast food” of McDonald’s. Since then, the concept has spread to other areas of culture – including slow fashion, slow photography and slow parenting. It is not hard to understand the attraction. As Robert Colvile writes in his new book, The Great Acceleration: “What single quality best defines how our society is changing? Is it that life is becoming fairer, or more equal, or more prosperous? No… it is that life is getting faster.”
The cult of productivity has rocketed since the 2008 recession and the development of digital technology has created an “always on” culture. But all our efforts to shave minutes off each of our mounting tasks have only enabled us to work harder, not smarter. We are distracted, anxious, irritable and overwhelmed. Or as Carl Honoré, author of In Praise of Slowness, puts it, we are infected with the “virus of hurry”. “As a culture, we have decided to use digital to make everything more efficient and productive,” Tracey Follows, chief strategy and innovation officer at The Future Laboratory, says. “As digital technologies are now extending into making humans more efficient through monitoring, tracking and optimizing via wearable tech, people are starting to wonder if this is turning humans into nothing more than high-performing machines.”
This has led to a renewed interest in the mind. In 2015, the meditation and mindfulness industry made nearly $1bn, according to research conducted by IbisWorld. A desire for calmer pursuits and more antidotes to the digital deluge have led to surprise success stories, such as the popularity of illustrator Johanna Basford’s colouring-in books for adults. Waterstones saw a 300% rise in sales of coloring books last year. Ironically, the demand for coloring pencils has placed such a burden on workload at Faber-Castell that the pencil manufacturer has been forced to draft in extra workers at its factory.
“The idea of slowing down and mindfulness is the antithesis of the constant availability of social media and things that prompt you with a new piece of information or opinion,” Daniel Müllensiefen, a reader in psychology at Goldsmiths and resident psychologist at Adam & Eve/DDB, says. He adds: “It’s almost necessary to have a domain to focus on yourself and get back into a state of equilibrium where you are in charge of your thoughts and feelings.” We might all benefit from slowing down, deepening our conversations — rather than skimming at superficial levels a mile a minute and getting back to basics: putting consumers first, listening, providing service, working sustainably, teaching, relationship building and operating ethically.
Put the consumer first: In our speed, we’re getting ahead of the consumer. We must always anticipate consumers’ needs, but we need to be sensitive about tripping them in their paths. Attentive and disciplined listening is one critical preliminary step before we engage. At the end of the day, the consumer is our teacher.
Back to the listening backyard: Social media has opened up a massive feedback and listening pipe. But we can’t ignore our own brand backyards. Slow marketing is about giving direct contact as much credence as external conversation. Boring stuff like 800 numbers and direct-feedback forms — or even a “Talk directly to us” button — is just as important as a Twitter account. Slow marketers never miss the obvious outlets of consumer catharsis. Getting this right lends credibility to other conversational assets.
Conversational sustainability: Yes, we can get the conversation going almost immediately or launch a quick-hit buzz campaign, but the rules of slow marketing suggest that the biggest word-of-mouth dividends accrue from longer-term, often more operational investments: great products, superb experiences, world-class customer service, committed employees who fortify the brand.
Build brand credibility: A slow-marketing movement would suggest that before we go crazy with the cutting-edge, we must reflect on what it means to be credible in this new environment. Consumers can see right through us, and credible brands win.
Create the hub first: Add the satellites later. I recently sat in a presentation where a social-media-enamored brand executive suggested killing off the brand website. A slow marketer would never dream of that. The website is the hub for essential information, basic consumer search, syndicated content (including for retailer partners), direct-feedback opportunities, wireless applications and services, and more. Moreover, brand sites are significantly more trusted than other ad or promotional vehicles.
Pick your battles: The social-media feeding frenzy puts a premium on responding to all conversation. You don’t need to respond to everything. Take a step back before diving in. In some cases, not engaging is the best form of engagement.
The benefit for brands that respect people’s time and take a slower, less transactional approach to communicating is a potentially more powerful relationship with consumers. “We are so used to brands promising us ‘immediacy’ that it is refreshing for people to discover things for themselves,” Follows says. “Inspiring people to get lost in their own sense and imaginations is going to prove very important in retail and travel. “This move to a less “push” and more “pull” form of communication could pay dividends. If quiet time is a luxury, then brands that provide this can benefit by association. The effectiveness also depends on who a brand is trying to reach. Demographic differences may impact how individuals respond to lower-key ads. “The strongest positive effects of these ads are on the people who are quite stressed and under pressure, and appreciate the opportunity to relax,” Müllensiefen says.
But while brands shouldn’t all rush to embrace slow marketing, understanding how a campaign resonates with overwhelmed consumers is certainly something to think about. After all, as Mahatma Gandhi once said: “There is more to life than increasing its speed.”
Take it slow, my friend…