Disconnect to Connect: Time for a Digital Detox

With a whopping 3.484 billion users across the globe, there’s no denying that social media platforms are a major source of news and information. These platforms are unique in the way brands interact with customers beyond social and geographical boundaries. Social media offers creative opportunities for brands to share user-generated content, photos and videos.

Digital technology extends across almost everything that we do. Texting, emailing and tweeting on the move have become the norm and often times to the detriment of our own health and well-being. While 24/7 connectivity has been a game-changer in the way we live and work, it’s not all positive news.  Being hyper-connected also leaves us susceptible to stress and burnout, exacerbated by digital overuse. Add to that, eye strains, constant headaches, back problems, sleeplessness – the list goes on.

However, all is not lost and there is hope yet with the emergence of a new trend that’s helping to free us from the prison walls of social media, and into a safe house where we have the option to check into a digital detox program. Simply put, digital detox is like taking a vacation – from our digital devices (mobile phone, tablets, and computers) and reconnecting with family and friends, and/or communing with nature in the physical world.

We’re all suffering from digital fatigue. As we see a dramatic rise in people’s attempts to disconnect, unsubscribe and opt out of digital communications, the idea of a digital detox is becoming very appealing.  People are making a conscious effort to refrain from or reduce their screen time.  Constantly looking at Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Emails are all taking a toll, even on personal relationships.  A recent report commissioned by GlobalWebIndex found that 1 in 5 of us are either on or tried a full-fledged digital detox.

What then are the implications for businesses as our customers tune out, unplug, or disappear from the grid?  For one, brands can’t afford to ignore this shifting trend.  And marketers must prioritize the value of loyal, long-term users over clicks, likes and shares.  Consumers have little time, and even a shorter attention span these days.  Brands must move away from capturing the biggest share and focus on maximising the opportunity by using the right channel, tone and time.

Time to Detoxify

Detoxing your brand doesn’t mean that you should stop advertising altogether. Instead, take advantage of the downtime and pursue an alternative approach. For example, you can “wake your customers up” by promoting a specific brand message that’s fun, interesting, and intellectually stimulating.

When KFC launched its ‘Phone Stack’ campaign, they created an app to encourage customers to refrain from looking at their mobile screens. Those who stayed away the longest were rewarded with KFC points which they could use towards the next purchase.


This tied in well with KFC’s digital detox promotion in two ways. First, the campaign served to promote the well-being of their consumers who voluntarily refrained from using digital devices. Second, KFC succeeded in positioning themselves as a brand that really cares about its customers.  A win-win for all in that KFC’s customers were not only able to detox their mind and body, the redemption points they earned could be converted into meals without having to dip into their wallets! Cool, right!

Practise Mindfulness

Since digital detox encourages users to think more about the long-term effect of their actions, incorporate mindfulness into your marketing strategy, i.e. use empathy to promote your brand.

Step into your audience’s shoes and find out what they care about. Is there a common issue or cause that aligns consumers with your brand? Personalizing your social media account is a great way to promote the team behind the brand.  Let your customers in on how your products are made, where they’re made, and how the business impacts the lives of people around the brand at a global level.

(Image from Krochet Kids)

Krochet Kids, non-profit produces simple, high-quality, hand-crafted, affordable items of clothing and accessories such as T-shirts, hats, and bags. Using the power of social media, they regularly promote the skills and knowledge of their employees, namely women from Northern Uganda, India, and Peru.  By enabling the users (audience) to directly engage and interact with these women, Krochet Kids has succeeded in creating a long-lasting connection between the brand’s messaging and its consumers.

Empower Consumers

Users are pretty tired of the scroll bar to get to where and what they want.  So, make better use of the shorter screen time to push for change and engage in a worthwhile cause.

Canadian clothing brand, tentree® plants 10 trees for every item purchased.  Through its annual sustainability initiative, it raises awareness on important environmental issues during Earth Week. In 2018, tentree® focused on the damaging effects of single-use plastics and in 2019, they focused on tree planting.

In Indonesia, as part of its campaign, tentree® plants the exact number of trees that matches the number of likes on their social media posts. The goal was to plant 500,000 trees if the post hit five million likes –  a tree for every ten likes. As a result, it created one of the most-liked posts in Instagram history, generating over 15 million likes that helped the brand to spread its mission of planting more trees. By encouraging consumers to double tap on the post, tentree® achieved a positive impact from their social media campaign to save the environment.

tentree-post-768x768.jpg(Image from tentree®’s tree-planting campaign)

Similarly, mark a time period of significance for your brand to associate with your audience, and share the reasons behind your cause, for example, saving the ocean, investing in rural schools, etc. Empowering consumers to actively participate is a great way to call attention to a mutually benefitting cause, which, in turn, can also help to increase brand recognition.

Positivity breeds Positivity

As marketers, we can push the focus on “likes” away from validation and into action when your marketing campaign adopts meaningful causes that matter. Adapting to your audience can turn the negative impact of social media into real social change.

The important thing to remember here is that taking a digital detox vacation is not the end of social media. It is an alternate approach towards a more sustainable marketing plan. Channel your brand’s message to echo positivity – both online and offline.

Don’t you think it’s time to invest in digital health? What say you?





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