The Explosion of High Touch to Counter High Tech

First there was a story in the British publication, House & Home that featured a Paris pied-a-terre.

The designer talked about how it was fashioned to express the French love of style and culture. How the owner was passionate about having “a mix of soothing colours” and “bold statements of personality.”

The owner was barely 30 years old. He made his zillions in “technology integration.”

The designer notes that owner was a bit of a geek, but valued the richness of French Culture even spending two years studying Parisian literature written during the French Revolution.

Right now I am sitting in a coffee house in Atlanta that is located right in the middle of a Millennial lifestyle group called “Young Digerati.”

The Claritas PRIZM cluster, “Young Digerati” is described as “affluent, highly-educated and digitally-connected.”

Its description goes on the say Young Digerati folk are into yoga clubs, clothing boutiques, local antiques and flea markets, home décor, juice bars, coffee houses and microbrews.

No question that the tech-heads have their own unique set of social skills.

They are drawn to the indie coffee houses. They purchase the organic, politically correct and local coffee blends. They have the cream foam crafted to look like flowers or birds. They sip their coffee in groups.

But once seated, instead of talking with one another, as a communal group they interact with one another plus their other friends on social media.

High Tech… High Touch… even when they leave home for the office…

A front-page story on this morning’s Wall Street Journal is titled, “Restrooms Get a Makeover.”

The article is all about how office restrooms are transforming quickly into “centers of retreat” complete with areas to relax, listen to music, watch nature videos and converse.

There is a picture that features a women’s restroom in a WeWorks co-working space. A spokesperson from WeWorks describes how staff now takes possible co-workers into the restrooms after showing them the high-tech conference rooms.

And… the restrooms are now what sells the co-workers on making WeWorks there offie destination.

Airbnb is featured in the WSJ article with its installation of forest-themed restrooms with tree stumps and the sounds of crickets chirping at its San Francisco headquarters.

In Airbnb’s Portland office, the men’s room is retro-videogame themed with stations where guys can play Pac-Man and Mario Bros. arcade game.

The West Coast is high-tech haven and just a tad… a tad… out there.

The article also notes a Raleigh North Carolina marketing firm using more than 20,000 pennies to create custom tile for the restroom floors. All the coins have been installed heads-up except for one.

Apparently, new employees are given a bonus if they can find the one coin that is not heads-up. My bet is that the new employees might not be that time-efficient in actually doing the work they were hired to do.

There was an article earlier this week about how the grocery stores are dashing quickly into the digital order online and drive-up to get the orders.

Article after article… stat after stat… shows that few of the programs are actually netting dollars in the red and most of the retailers doing it are not just losing money, but are losing a lot of money.

Ace is the place with the helpful hardware man.

Ace is also the place that draws in the techie Millennials because they can interact with a human being that cares vs. going to a Big Box home store with self-checkout lanes only.

Every day I hear more and more and more and more and… about digital, digital, digital, digital.

Just as the press has it engrained in their headsets that Trump will not last through his first four years, the press has it equally engrained in their headsets that the Jetsons world of automatic cars and self-cooking kitchens is going to be reality in the next few years.

Unfortunately seeing the world through Manhattan, DC and the West Coast does not provide the most accurate portrayal of not just American society, but the techies too!

There are brands that do get it.

Maybe first in line is Apple. Check out the TV ad running right now about Apple Security.

As much as Airbnb has gone a bit overload on the design of their restrooms, if you have not used Airbnb for travel bookings lately, take a look at the website. It is way more High Touch than you might think.

I used to own a MINI back 10 years ago. Not like I am a High Tech genius, but I do interact a lot with digital literally… with stats and numbers.

I purchased the MINI because it was hip and cool. I have yet to see a MINI ad that promotes its High Tech equipment… but whether I am in Atlanta or San Fran or Austin or LA, I see a lot of the techie geeks driving MINIs.

My fun car today is a 2003 VW Beetle convertible. Other than power windows, there is no digital anything on that “fun car.”

I will end this post with a line I have myself saying over and over and over again to our partners and clients.

The Millennials are literally driving the marketplace right now as they couple, purchase their nests and begin birthing kids.

Will we experience a repeat of the same market dynamics of the 70s and 80s and Boomers did the same thing? Nope.

Will we witness a shift of everything to high tech and digital embodied in everything from app-only banking to self-driving cars to online purchases with drone delivery to face-time and texting replacing true face-to-face? Absolutely not.

I may not have all the answers of what will unfold, but I will place $100 bet that human in-person interaction, expressions of creativity and the arts, personalization of design and style, customization of products further made-by-hand and good home-cooked food made from scratch is going to explode!

CEO & Discovery Chief at EXPERIENCE Insight Group, Inc. In the business to discover and craft brand experiences that humans seek out and engage in.