Business, Marketing

3 Important Reasons Why You Need to Get Lost

Last week, I went for a run. I got lost. And it was just what I needed. It may be just what you need, too.

Let’s back this story up for just a minute.

I sweat “Type A” from each and every pore on my body – except when it comes to exercise. Not even the notoriously abrasive fitness trainer Jillian Michaels, screaming obscenities in my ear and drop-kicking me down the street, could force that push of my own physical limits. Regarding exercise, I seek comfort, not pain. So, over the course of the past year, I’ve slowly trained myself to complete a daily 2 mile jog that doesn’t overexert any of my physical boundaries. It also allows me to check “exercise” off the to-do list. It’s all very satisfying – or, so I thought.

As I ventured out for my daily 2 mile jog last week, I decided to take a different path. I turned on the GPS and carefully carved out a new route that would still ensure I crossed my driveway threshold just as “2 miles” ticked on the tracker.

Off I went. It wasn’t long though before I realized my GPS was a bit…off kilter.

“Rerouting.”

“Rerouting.”

“Rerouting.”

After three bouts of “rerouting”, I realized I was out of data range (T-Mobile, why must you fail me?!) and there was no hope of ever truly being “rerouted”.

I was officially lost.

And like I said before – it ended up being just what I needed. I’ll tell you why in a moment. But first, let me ask – how comfortable are you right now? How comfortable is your brand? Your marketing strategy? Has it been a while since you felt the anxiety of flirting with the unknown? While “comfortable” is safe, it doesn’t move you forward – and worse, it can eventually push you backward.

Here are three reasons why getting lost, as I realized, is so important:

 

1. You’ll be forced to think critically (and creatively).

My typical 2 mile jogging path was so familiar that I could have ran it blindfolded. There was no “thinking” involved beyond the mechanics of putting one foot in front of the other. When I found myself in desolate territory and without the aid of GPS technology, however, the only crutch I had to rely on was myself. This forced me to think about my next moves very carefully. Suddenly, I was racking my brain to remember street signs and landmarks. I was looking to the sun to help reorient my direction (Ask yourself when was the last time you had to do that?). Getting lost requires a change in strategy in order to find a solution. In this process, your brain will be forced to think in a non-linear way that begets newfound ideas and creativity.

 

2. You’ll discover new things.

As I slowly started to orientate myself toward the general direction of familiar territory, anxiety was replaced with a sense of wonder. I had lived in the city of Nixa, Missouri for nearly two years, and never knew what beauty existed in its backyard. I passed sprawling acres of farmland dotted by hundreds of grazing cows, followed by narrow roads winding through woodland canopies. I spotted new neighborhoods tucked into the countryside, the curious architecture reflective of a time both old and new. You never know what you’ll find when you get lost, but for certain you’ll discover something you’ve never seen or experienced before.

 

3. You’ll realize new possibilities.

By the time I found my way back to my own driveway, I crossed the threshold clocking in at 4 miles – and I felt great. Had I not been forced into the situation as I had, never would I have thought it possible to double my distance and live to tell the tale. When you decide to journey down an unknown path, there’s no better feeling than coming out victorious on the other side. What was once unknown is known. Your experience is broadened, your perspectives are shifted. Now that I’ve proven to myself I can run 4 miles, there’s no going back to that 2 mile comfort zone. The benchmark is set higher, daring continual improvement.

 

Before getting lost, I was satisfied with being comfortable. After getting lost, I learned that overcoming discomfort is actually much more valuable.

So heed my advice. Lose your GPS, and throw yourself in an unknown direction. It’s only in being lost that improvement can be found.

 

 

Cassie D’Arpino is a freelance Marketing Communications & Strategy Specialist, helping brands better connect to their audiences in meaningful, emotional and effective new ways. Her experience prior to working as a freelancer includes six years in strategic planning and senior account service at a shopper marketing agency in Kansas City, Missouri. Cassie received her MBA from Missouri State University, and currently resides in Springfield, Missouri with her husband, Steve, Pekingese puppy named Bella, and two Persian cats, Garfield and Cubby. She is a lover of Sriracha, a neuromarketing nerd, and obviously, a fan of animals with short snouts.

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How to be human.

I read an article the other day about “how to be more human” with your social media strategy.

How to be more human?

Has the proliferation of “screen” consumption and contribution – texts, tweets, posts, and likes – finally choked our capacity for basic human connection?

Checking-Smartphones

In Sherry Turkle’s 2012 TED talk “Connected but alone”, the cultural analyst argues that cell phones and social media are shifting the way in which we relate to each other, and to ourselves – and not for the better. Over time, our attention has become fragmented, sporadic and fleeting; our ability to hold meaningful conversation has diminished.

Sherry’s insight into technology and social media’s affect on the human psyche had me pondering the implications for brands. My thoughts began to formulate by way of rhyme, because, what better way to channel your firing neurons than to the catchy beat of “There Was an Old Lady Who Lived in a Shoe”?

 

There once was a brand,
that lived in a screen.

Thousands of fans, likes, and followers,
so popular, it would seem.

The brand thought it was connecting,
but should have known,

When you live in a screen,
you’re connected, but alone.

 

While technology is hailed as a great way to “connect”, studies continually find that it’s actually making us feel more lonely and isolated than ever. A poignant yet haunting observation by Jonathan Safran Foer from the New York Times perfectly summarized the disturbing affect of technology on our ability to be…well, human:

“Technology celebrates connectedness, but encourages retreat. Each step forward has made it easier, just a little, to avoid the emotional work of being present, to convey information rather than humanity.”

Feeling connected to others is a basic human need. But if you believe you’re 100% connecting with consumers through social media and technology alone, you’re actually only about 50% there. There’s a huge emotional component that simply can’t be fulfilled through a screen.

And now, time for a disclaimer, since I can already envision a heated social media manager formulating his retort to this seemingly counterintuitive way of thought. I’m not discounting the various benefits of your brand engaging with consumers through social media, apps, text, online, and the like. In fact, I’m an advocate of their use and firmly believe in the value and real ROI of actively engaging through these channels. But if you believe your engagement strategy is fulfilled through this alone, you’re missing a huge opportunity to connect with current and potential customers on a more meaningful level. An emotional level. A human level.

So, for a moment, let’s put down the phone and step away from Twitter to identify three ways in which your brand can do just that.

Be where your customers are (outside the screen). Besides on their phone and online, believe it or not, people do have lives outside 5” screens. Know your audience well enough to understand where they spend their time, and then show up. The more you can physically get out into the community, the more word-of-mouth traction you can gain and the more brand awareness you will create.

Buy some stamps, get nostalgic, and use USPS. I don’t care who you are, or how old you may be, receiving a handwritten letter or pretty invitation in the mail is kinda’ fun. Not email, I mean, goes-in-that-box-that’s-outside-your-house MAIL. Do you have a customer that is discontent with your company? Why not put pen to paper and connect through a personal letter? Opening my mailbox to a handwritten note from the CEO would surely make me feel more appreciated than a generic email *ding* to my inbox. What about if you’re a company that’s about to throw a new product launch party? In addition to announcing on Facebook, why not send a nicely printed invitation to your top fans? There’s no better way to feel like a VIP than when you’re holding what feels like a golden ticket right in your hands. That same feeling just can’t be replicated through an e-vite. Sorry.

Create opportunity to gather. A Springfield, Missouri high-end clothing and accessory company, Staxx, recently organized an educational event focused on the various benefits of their new essential oil products. Hosting social and educational events that tie with your brand are smart ways to connect. I’d also love to see more brands solicit feedback from customers not only by way of email survey or Twitter chatter, but through in-person meetups. Customers want to know that you’re listening. They want to know their voice is heard. Accomplish all of this while building invaluable rapport by inviting a handful of customers to your office for camaraderie over coffee and donuts on a random Wednesday morning. It doesn’t have to be (and shouldn’t be) a scientific tabulation of feedback results. Just listen. Be human.

Used in tandem with technological engagement, face-to-face interaction is still the best way to connect with consumers, addressing the emotional void that can’t be filled by status updates, wall posts, likes and tweets alone.

We shouldn’t have to work to be human. We are human. Peer out from the veils of technology and start acting it.

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