Life is all about intermittent reinforcement. It’s the positive, life-enhancing jolts that come with no known frequency, but often when you least expect it. And the scientists tell us that kind of ‘bits-and-pieces’ reinforcement is the most addictive, the most persistent, the hardest to break. Kinda like mobile media.
My daughter woke up at 7am this morning. As I rolled over and squinted at the clock I felt that old paradoxical pull again. My warm, fluffy bed was yanking on my left arm, and the daydreamy image of my daughter standing in her crib, arms outstretched for me was pulling on my right.
I threw on some pants from the dirty laundry pile in the corner of my room and tied my hair up on top of my head. I had intended to brush my teeth but her yelling was becoming more demanding and in the hopes of avoiding a headache before the 8am hour I shifted gears to the hallway and accepted furry teeth for the time being.
As I opened the door to her room, light rushed in and I could make out the outline of her tiny self, standing up with her head popping just over the top bars of her crib. The yelling stopped immediately. She had my attention. Her smile was contagious. I walked over to her, beaming from ear to ear and saw her outstretched arms. I waited for her to call out my name to be extricated from her confines.
“Ipad?” she said with a pleading tone.
“What?” I said, in horror.
“Ipad. Iphone.” She repeated, nodding to herself. This sweet cherub was demanding screen time at 7:30 in the morning in a voice only Stalin could rival . How could this be? Acceptance hit me like a grand piano from a 4th floor apartment window.
She SEES me. She watches me from her high chair at breakfast as I scroll through my seemingly endless newsfeed on Facebook. What a guy I knew from 8th grade had for breakfast. What my neighbor is listening to in her cubicle. The offerings for the most part, are numbingly boring. So what makes it compelling enough to divide my attention from the person on this earth I love most? Intermittent Reinforcement. Every once in a while, between the selfies at the gym and the status updates, there is a hit. I am given a moment in time where something genuinely important, emotionally authentic or hilarious is happening before my eyes.
And just when I started to berate myself for being a bad mom, I realized that all of life is similar to my newsfeed on facebook. Why do I wake up in the morning, and get out of bed? Because at some point each day, I ‘m going to get a hit. I will be given a moment that captures my entire self. All of life is not buzzing with intensity. Life, like my iphone and the ipad, is often boring, demanding and frustrating. But it is the intermittent reinforcement that punctuates the monotony, that pushes me to wake up each day, looking for the hit. What draws me to mobile media is the same powerful mechanism that draws me…to life!
So what does that mean for us as marketers?
- Your ‘hit’ will be defined by the mundane context it sits in. In digital marketing, your ‘neighbors’ shouldn’t necessarily be as interesting as you are.
- Don’t design your own site to be all hits. Too much buzz turns into noise.
- You’re not competing with life; you’re part of it.