IoT: Invisible, Calm Mrktg

The future of marketing is atmospheric. Like storm clouds on the horizon, the Internet of Things is gathering steam, gaining speed and becoming a reality for consumers. Between connected cars, kitchens, wearables and more, can your marketing survive — or will the IoT be an extinction level event?


For marketers who cling to interruptive design, the next few years will be a rough ride to the bottom. Because as more devices in customers’ lives are connected (an estimated 50 billion by the year 2020), customer attention will become the most precious commodity known to brandkind. When virtually everything in your life is connected and able to communicate, constant updates, notices and chirps could quickly overwhelm. Marketers who contribute to this noise risk rendering their messages irrelevant, ignored and ultimately extinct.


Instead of acting like dodo birds, let’s examine the shape of things to come and evolve. Embracing the Atmospheric Approach to marketing will enable marketers to utilize Calm Design and create ambient marketing that effectively disappears while driving customer action. Instead of fighting for attention, the Atmospheric Approach integrates marketing quietly into the customer’s environment so they can choose to attend to the message — and take action with the least amount of mental cost. It can inform without interrupting, and empower without intruding.


Marketing is already everywhere, and it’s always been interruptive by nature. To compel action, we first need people’s attention. But to effectively attract their attention without distracting them, marketing must learn to effectively utilize the peripheral senses with ambient tactics — haptics, lights, tones and timed triggers are just a few. This is where Calm Design lives, empowering the peripheral attention and only requiring the amount of attention that is absolutely necessary to convey a message.


Think of the Roomba, with a distinctive tone to let you know it’s in trouble — or when its task is complete. Think of the colored rings on the Amazon Echo quickly conveying device status. Think of a stoplight — a glance and you know whether to go. Calm Design, pioneered at Xerox PARC in the early ’90s, has been a key aspect in good product design since humans first boiled water. As every object becomes a connected device, marketing opportunities will increase exponentially — as will the risks.


Want to learn more? This summer at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, I’ll be presenting a keynote session on How Calm Design Will Save the Internet of Things along with Amber Case (cyborg anthropologist, author and TED Talk veteran). If you plan on attending, please join us. If not, keep watching HackerAgency as we reveal how marketing must evolve as the IoT gains traction. Together, we can Save the IoT.