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March 12, 2015
Yes, There Are Still Some Digital Resisters
We’re all plugged in — but not all of our target audiences are

It’s 2015. Yet there are some people who haven’t gotten the memo. Or, to put it a better way, haven’t gotten the email, the text, or the Snapchat message. I had a few reminders of that recently:

I worked on some materials for a trade association client. While we debated the merits of email responses and landing page forms, our client said, “Don’t forget to include a fax number. Our members still use fax machines.” Turns out, the client was right.

A friend of mine, looking to buy a condo and familiar with how busy people communicate, heard this from a real estate agent: “We do not and will not text you. We are not teenagers, only teenagers text. We are professional Realtors.”

And this past week, we learned that South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham hasn’t ever sent an email in his life. Which means he likely hasn’t personally paid a bill online, ordered a shirt from an e-commerce site, or subscribed to an e-newsletter. Perhaps that’s a function of having aides and assistants handle his personal and professional business for the past 20 years. (According to Pew, he’s not alone. Approximately 9% of US adults— that’s 22 million people — still don’t use email.)

So are there still large numbers of people who resist adopting the kind of technology that’s second nature to most of us? How does an industry like advertising, so obsessed with new shiny objects, appeal to these people? Are modern-day Luddites even worth paying attention to anymore?

Now, you’re probably reading this because you check the website, subscribe to an RSS feed, got the Talent Zoo daily email, or saw me pimp it on Twitter. Staying digitally connected is expected in our industry, and many other industries as well. And there will always be a group of people who go even further, keeping up with Snapchat and Meerkat or whatever’s in vogue at this very moment. But are we an accurate reflection of the total populace, or even our clients’ target audiences?

It’s easy to fall into a trap of thinking that most of the world makes a living by sitting in front of a computer, where they can spend hours debating the true colors of a dress. But we have a large swath of the population that doesn’t use computers much at work—they make a living in blue-collar jobs or other service-related positions that don’t require daily Internet use. And many have jobs that mandate being on their feet all day. Then there are people who prefer to spend their free time offline, doing rustic activities like hiking or gardening as opposed to indulging in social media.

I’m certainly one of those people who hates being disconnected. I’ll go into withdrawal if I can’t access email or Twitter for several hours. Maybe it’s the FOMO talking. Or maybe my brain has been rewired. But just as much as I try to keep up with the latest and greatest, I also have to keep in mind that many people are simply content not to keep up.

And all of us in advertising and marketing need to remain aware of that. While the Internet of Things creeps upon us, there will be a large segment of the population that isn’t interested in having a refrigerator automatically re-order milk when it’s running low.

It’s only natural that brands and marketers, especially ones with smaller budgets, are becoming heavily dependent on digital to spread the word and make the sale. That’s not going to change. But when we overlook the Luddites, we miss a population that still spends lots of money and can be persuaded.

It takes an extra effort to understand how people behave if they don’t work, act, or think like us. But nothing would make our industry more irrelevant than deciding to ignore people we think aren’t relevant.

So let’s take the time to truly hone the proper media mix, and messages, for a population that isn’t as savvy as we might be. Perhaps they’re not long for this world. But they’re still around, living, dreaming, and buying.

Their money’s just as good as ours, even if they don’t send it via electronic bill pay.

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Since 2002, Dan Goldgeier has been writing the most provocative advertising columns about advertising and marketing -- over 170 of them, covering every related topic you can think of. Now based in Seattle, Dan is a copywriter and ad school graduate who's worked at shops big and small. 

Visit his copywriting websitesee his LinkedIn profile or follow him on Twitter.

And please, buy his book for 99 cents.


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