A view from Matthew Hook

Let's make life easy for the brain-drained generation

When were you last really, really tired?

Perhaps a few weeks ago, returning from Cannes? If so, my sympathy is minimal. Having just had my third child, I am reintroducing myself to the extremes of mental exhaustion. Our newborn is wonderfully endearing, but distinctly vocal, and keen to see me in the middle of the night. When you are this tired, the first thing you notice is how difficult everything is for the poor old human brain.

In a world of extraordinary levels of stimulation and socialisation, this cognitive overload is becoming the norm. As a result, the brain is constantly looking for opportunities to take it easy whenever possible. 

Indeed, this laziness has enabled one of the big technology success stories of the past few years: contactless payment. Contactless has been effortlessly accepted by technophiles and technophobes alike. It’s easy, it’s a physical habit, the overworked brain loves it. And further shortcuts are coming.

Apple Pay launched in the UK this month, giving iPhone and Apple Watch users the option to tap to pay at more than 250,000 locations using their digital wallet. Across the pond, the buzz is all about the release of the Amazon Echo, a cloud-connected, wireless speaker that also serves as a voice-activated valet for Internet of Things devices or Amazon products (eg. "Alexa, turn off the living-room lights. Alexa, add loo roll to my shopping list. Alexa, play Some Might Say by Oasis.").

Of course, not every technology of this kind will succeed. But Apple and Amazon’s strength in both services and devices should allow them each to thrive in the world of brain-free commerce.

But what does this mean for our industry?

As other new technologies take hold, the distance between "intent" and "transaction" will continue to shrink and the media landscape will continue to converge at pace. The challenge, therefore, is what are we doing to make people’s lives easier?

With all the technology at our fingertips, it would be easy to create increasingly complex experiences for consumers. By contrast, the customer’s intent is being clearly signalled – please make it as easy for me to buy from you as possible. As marketers, we can do more.

The craft of classic advertising – creating brilliant ideas that engender latent trust and affection – is perhaps more important than ever. But we also need to look at the total media ecosystem of a business with the aim of reducing the distance from intent to transaction as much as possible. Most customers already view a brand’s media as a shop window. If we don’t make purchase as easy as possible, we are missing a trick in a nation of overtaxed, overtired brains looking to catch a break.

Matthew Hook is the managing director of Carat UK