Is there such a thing as ‘mindfulness’ in marketing?

Breath in… breath out… focus… be the audience AND the marketer…

Breath in… breath out… focus… be the audience AND the marketer…

Ten years ago, during some troubled times, a friend invited me to his Buddhist temple. He thought that I’d enjoy the distraction and serenity of the ceremony… which I did. Afterward, in the temple hall, we did something called “mindful eating”—where we were served spectacularly delicious food, but with a catch. We had to very, very slowly and deliberately chew, taste, and experience each morsel. I spent about 20 minutes eating a chicken leg. It was torture.

I was used to the chewless-swallowing method employed by Saint Bernards. Eating mindfully for me was nearly hopeless, but it did make me reflect on my flurry of a life.

Mindfulness is about being completely aware and in the moment—no distractions, clutter, past or future. You’re just in the present moment, completely focused.

Since my mini excursion to the temple, I’ve seen the concept of mindfulness rise above the buzzing, multitasking hive of our culture. Earlier last month, TIME magazine devoted its cover to the “mindful revolution”:

TIME Magazine Cover

Mindfulness is an appealing concept, especially in an age when all of us are doing 58 things at once, with 110 things queued behind them. The ability to focus seems like an incredibly rare gem.

All this got me thinking: Is there such a thing as mindfulness in marketing?

Being “in the zone” lends itself perfectly to social media, of course. Responding and being in tune to tweets, posts and comments, in real time, has a very present feel. And there’s a real value in that kind of here-and-now connection.

But I think mindfulness is key in another aspect of marketing and communication, too—being native. By “native,” I mean being mindful of, focused and present in the platform or vehicle you’re communicating in… and the audience you’re speaking to.

We’ve all seen examples of totally sucky, mindless, un-native work. Like the four-minute YouTube video that’s just a still photo with a soundtrack. (Why am I watching this?!?) Or the tweet that trails off because it has too many characters. The billboard with itty-bitty type—essentially turning it into a giant eye chart. Or the bait-n-switch “white paper” that’s really a thinly veiled sales pitch.

They’re all work created without being in the moment… without focus or purpose… and most of all, without thinking of their audience.

Here’s a good example of mindfulness at work. We’re just wrapping up a sizable project for a client of ours. They asked us to take some 60 pieces of literature and put them on iPads for their sales force. At first, the client instructed us to just drop pdfs of the print files on the tablets, but we knew that wouldn’t work—it would take too much zooming, flipping and squinting for the poor audience!

Instead, we took a more mindful approach.

We cut copy. Simplified graphics. Reworked layouts. Added links to make the pdfs interactive. We asked ourselves: How do we make these pdfs live in this world?

That mindset focused our thinking, completely. The client loved the results, and so did we.

There may be something to this mindfulness thing after all. But not the eating part.

– Andy Badalamenti is the creative director for CI-Group

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