Real danger – is infobesity going to jeopardize the travel industry?

Is infobesity going to be the new obesity? This constant urge of people to gather and share information. With a 24/7 online presence and continuous social snacking, it is leading to a phenomenon called FOMO: fear-of-missing-out – a compulsive concern that one might miss an opportunity for social interaction. Although widely prevalent amongst youngsters, it seems that we all suffer from it. It is now even classified as a disease! Is our brain going to protect us from the present overabundance of information? And an even more important question for us PR agencies: Can we still effectively deliver the travel and holiday messages of our clients in this information overload era?

We human beings have our limitations and boundaries. Let me give you an example: I can lift 20 kilos but lifting 150 kilos is not going to be possible for me. We don’t only have physical boundaries, our brains are not inexhaustible either. With the introduction of internet, our mind has to endure even more challenging tasks. On a daily basis we already received tonnes of (un)wanted information, but with the arrival of the digital highway we now rise and go to bed with an avalanche of information each and every day. Just as is the case with a full hard disk, our brain cannot deal with the enormous amount of info and messages poured out over us. When the sponge is full, it stops absorbing water. Some academics now say that this overload of information is going to damage our health in the long run.
Gaining the consumer’s attention has become a true battle between hundreds and hundreds of industries. It’s a worldwide million-dollar business and thousands of companies are vying for your attention every day. Individuals are blasted each and every day non-stop with messages via print, radio, TV, outdoor advertising, brochures, fairs, web, mobile and what else. And just imagine when Google glass is here to stay.
95% of these ‘Please-listen-to-me-because-I-want-to-tell/sell-you-something’ messages will be lost in the deluge of (commercial) PR and advertising puffery that is discharged over us consumers day in day out. Wrong message. Bad timing. Just irrelevant. Not of interest. There are many reasons why these messages don’t come across. Our brains are smart. They know right from wrong and enough is enough. In other words: be selective. What is news for you is often advertising puffery for media (and consumers!). Every day we receive hundreds, if not thousands of (commercial) messages and our brains have to process approximately 100.000 words. Did you know that this figure equals about 34 gigabyte of disk space? To protect ourselves from going into overdrive we forget. Full stop.
The travel industry too is bombarding the consumer with enticing ads, broadcasts, brochures, banners, articles, displays, and other publication tools. Spray and pray your message, ad, press release, blog, tweet, Facebook post will hit a few targets. We PR-agencies are also partially to blame for this flood of information as this is the nature of our work. We owe it to our clients to start thinking about it. After all, our clients use our services to get their message across and make their destination or product stand out in the crowd. Cheap prices. Yes, that is still an effective way to get the consumer’s attention but to me this is the least attractive option as the travel industry needs to earn money.
With the rise of social media over the past 5-or-so years and the increasingly popular smartphones, we are now a 24/7 gateway for information. Every industry wants to get its share of attention. As a PR-company we want to share the latest news of our clients and promote your destinations and products to the consumer via news sites and travel communities, preferably in the most unique way possible of course. Sadly enough, so does the rest of the world so the over-consumption of information means it slips of the mind of the consumer like water off a duck’s back.
While the travel industry is a perfect industry to swoon the reader with beautiful photos and inspiration, when your main summer holiday interest is a walking vacation in the mountains of Southern Europe the multitude of a thousand other holiday messages is lost on you. Despite all of this, social media – one of the major causes of infobesity – also offers some great opportunities for direct business to consumer contact. Take for example the webcare team of our own airline KLM. They have a team of customer service specialists that reply to complaints, questions and remarks 24/7, 7 days a week and in 10 different languages! One-to-one communication 24 hours a day. A PR dream come true.
I think it is time for a new mind-set. We’ve got to stop catapulting the public, the travel trade, the media and bloggers and start to think about what we really want to say. Selectivity is key. Mass communication is becoming old-fashioned, micro communication the challenge.Target the individual, the couple, the family, the group and senior citizen on the right moment with the right message. Perhaps it is time to put those marketing plans aside for a while and read up on how the human brain works and how activity in the brain gives rise to thought, emotion, behaviour and action.
So we are changing our work approach slightly again. Like going back to the ‘old-fashioned’ roadshow along media titles; visiting the offices of newspapers, magazines and websites together with our clients for face-to-face meetings on what subjects / topics / angles the editors/journalists are looking for their readers. They love it. And yes, picking up the phone again to call instead of this eternal emailing. They love it. And for example stop calling press releases press releases as the messenger has become everybody.
So in the months to come, if you’re looking for me, I’ll be in the library flipping through books on the human brain. Because here lies one of the answers to getting the messages of our clients across better. And in the meantime, I have one advise to the travel industry to stand out a bit more from the crowd: FOMO! – ‘Focus On More Originality’!