A Stranger’s Shoes and Digital Media

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I wondered whose shoes they were as I nearly walked past them. I tracked back to get the shot of the above photo.

Why are they put roadside so neatly? Is the owner coming back for ’em, perhaps? My mind went on overdrive over this. And then I had a thought, a connection this has to online media.

The reason Apple Inc. is popular and one of the most valuable companies in the world today — besides their superior designs and technology — is their obssesion with humanity. Merging technologies, arts and humanities. Simple!

We’re people. We have emotions. We feel. So why do we now want to focus solely on metrics and scientific data? Machines and numbers solely cannot tell how people really feel.

So my thesis: digital media / marketing professionals ought to realise that we needn’t separate humanity and online platforms and media. Ultimately they’re being used by people who respond remarkably well to what I call “soulful work”. Add some soul into your work and then put it out to the world.

The use of data to derive insights that enable better customer service, information, products and services is a remarkable thing. However, if the data aren’t digested from a human point of view — the bulk of the work we do will be in vain. Or, it won’t connect to the realities of the world and markets in which we live and operate.

Which then becomes a futile use of resources and unfortunately, the one valuable thing — time.

Anyway, here is my view on the impact of data, digital media and communication (and technology for that matter): the advanced connectivity we now enjoy should not be looked at as an enemy, or as a silver bullet even.

The machines, devices and online platforms which have blurred geographical boundaries are tools with which we can extend ourselves, our reach, influence and plainly, change how we work.

Likewise, the data we now are able to mine using tracking tools are wonderful, but not when used all alone. Your human insight and feel of the pulse of the market matters greatly — I think more than ever!

Consider Rusell Simmons. When he started his clothing label Phat Fam. He busted his ass for 6 years straight before the business took off. He lost money, investors pulled out and people nudged him to cut his losses as it bled him dry.

He went on to sell Phat Farm for $120 million in a deal that allowed him daily operations of the corporation.

Why am I switching to talking about Russell Simmons, though?

Simply to demonstrate that a spreadsheet or online media tracking tool would have only showed the downsides — the label eating up money for 6 years. It would not have showed the excitement in people’s eyes when they touched and felt the clothes, the enthusiastic suggestions they made about the line and what design direction it should take to be hot; the pulse of the culture that proudly rocked those clothes in the streets.

That’s why the media — and other types of products — we produce today, immaterial of the vast number of tools available to assist us, should lean more toward the experiences of human beings.

So, while you use metrics and scientific data, be equally curious and walk a mile in a stranger’s shoes and aim to touch their heart with what you do and sell.

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THEMBA JAY,

Communicate Your Genius