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Rebellion! Brands get on board the tech backlash

It’s no secret that the Western world has been completely taken over by electronic devices that act as portals of endless information, entertainment, shopping and communication. Marketers, naturally, understand the influence the digital realm has over the consumers psyche, not only when it comes to making a buying decision but, also, in relaying their newfound brand investment with online followers.

In the span of a few years, the mobile device’s influence has drastically infiltrated not only our wallets, but our minds. The effect of the latter provides excellent fodder for marketers trying to swim against the tide of the mobile tsunami.

Take a look at Kingsford Charcoal’s most recent TV spot called The Social Grill. The commercial presents a group of three friends watching a neighbor try out his new social enabled grill. They observe the neighbor interact with a touch screen and voice activation, light the burner with an app, take a selfie with a built in camera, and share the selfie socially via wi-fi capability. The tagline proudly explains, “Get off your Gas and grill!” Ironically, they include the hashtag #GetOffYourGas as the screen fades out.

So, what is this commercial trying to say? 

Indeed, a charcoal company would want to take jabs at a gas-powered system but Kingsford goes one step further. It says that the high-tech neighbor, in some way, has lost touch with reality. While an app-igniting, voice controlled grill may seem modern and convenient, to the onlookers it appears haughty, foolish, overly complicated, and just plain wrong. 

This ad makes the person clinging to technology appear out of place thereby reversing the contemporary conception of what we think it means to be a well connected consumer. In some ways, and very subtley, this commercial makes the “tech guy” seem unmanly and delusional because he forgot somewhere along the line how to simply light a fire and throw some meat on it. 

Even Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake have parodied our widely adopted and sophomoric digital slang, making it seem…well, stupid.

Kingsford is having fun with us. They know we are ALL like the “tech guy” and through this parody of life, their call to action is for us to unplug and relax. A lot of companies have had the same idea. Jell-O, for example, had parents take an annoyingly chatty teenage girl’s cell phone and put it inside a classic Jell-O mold (a la The Office). Tagline: “Set to Jiggle”

Stouffer’s claims that until, “Katie puts her cellphone down for the first time all week,” that she isn’t able to notice that her food has actual ingredients. As the commercial ends, her phone vibrates and her parents glare at it as if it were possessed by the devil, ready to drag their daughter back to the pits of hell. She doesn’t answer it, phew!

It is pretty clear to assume the strategy behind these advertisements: appeal to the solitude that comes with detaching from the “public” eye, simplify your life, get back to the things that make you human, take the more traditional route, rekindle family values, etc. Perhaps, if I buy Stouffer’s, MY family will be together again too!

To the digital marketer, commercials like this can be cringe worthy if, for no other reason, than the brands in question are taking the risk of alienating the mobile consumer. Why risk alienating a demographic that is likely to increase your revenue, look up your products remotely, and even purchase them online? It almost seems that instead of them driving the audience to the phone to learn more about the product and company, they are purposely trying to get them away from the very thing that will boost their ROI. Peculiar indeed.

At the end of the day these brands aren’t vilifying the mobile/digital industry, just the seemingly irreparable damage it has caused to the human condition. #KnowWhatIMean? 

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