APAC Brands Queuing Up For ‘Digital Detox’

Digital addiction is beginning to wreak havoc on personal relationships, many contend.

APAC Brands Queuing Up For ‘Digital Detox’

The increased use of digital devices seems to be reducing the amount of meaningful person-to-person interaction. “Phubbing,” a term coined by The Macquarie Dictionary of Australia, accurately describes the rising habit of snubbing someone in favour of a mobile phone.

Indeed, digital addiction is beginning to wreak havoc on personal relationships, many contend. In late 2015, the “Computer in Human Behaviour” journal, for example, published the results of a survey that found ignoring your partner in favour of your phone can not only damage your relationship, it can also lead to depression and lower overall levels of life satisfaction.

So what do these findings mean for digital devotees across the Asia-Pacific region? With a population of 4 billion and nearly as many mobile subscriptions (3.7 billion), according to British outfit trendwatching.com, how should APAC brands react to this trend?

Some are responding with a call for “digital detox,” according to Emily Tan, deputy editor at Campaign Asia-Pacific.

“They are looking at ways to gently remind society to value the people around them, rather than talking to them via a device,” she said.

Case in point: Fast-food company KFC’s “Phone Stack” campaign is an example of an innovative approach some businesses are taking to encourage consumers to look up from their devices.

The genesis of the project came out of insight that Malaysians spend a quarter of their waking hours on phones. KFC wanted to challenge consumers to put down their phones at mealtime, so it came up with an app that encourages people to link their phones in a stack at KFC outlets. Touch their phones and the link is broken. Leave the stack alone and the more KFC rewards them.

Word soon spread. In one month more than 6,000 “So Good” minutes were shared. An average of 23 minutes was spent offline per month by those who used the app. The app also secured a Bronze Spike at the Spikes Asia 2016 awards for creative communications.

Reebok created a similar campaign. In the first quarter of 2015, the footwear and apparel retailer promoted its ZPUMP Fusion sneakers with a campaign that encouraged Korean commuters to look up from their mobile phones and get active. A game called Subway Pump Battle was installed in a Seoul subway station. The game consisted of two people competing to see who could press the most pump buttons in the time allowed.

Other brands that have jumped on board the digital detox include McDonald’s India and smartphone manufacturer Oppo in Vietnam.

Kristie Wong, marketing specialist at Asian branding and marketing agency btrax, said she believes using digital detoxing for a marketing angle is obvious. “It’s trendy and can make brands look ‘natural’–that addiction is bad and detoxing and being free of technology is good,” she said. “In particular, brands that promote healthy lifestyles or additive-free production benefit from this trend.”

Whether these campaigns will truly make a difference remains to be seen. “There is the argument that ‘digital addicts’ can’t help themselves and therefore need to be detoxed, but I don’t buy that,” Campaign Asia-Pacific’s Tan said.

As the saying goes, everything in moderation, right?