We live in a paradoxical time. On the one hand, we have access to a multitude of information, entertainment and communication at all times. On the other hand, we are increasingly isolated, lonely and disinterested in the real world. We stop living authentic and meaningful experiences and take refuge in a virtual world.
An example of this was what happened on New Year’s Eve in Paris. Thousands of people gathered on the Champs-Élysées avenue to watch the light show and fireworks at the Arc de Triomphe. However, instead of celebrating the arrival of the new year with hugs, kisses and toasts and enjoying the moment, everyone was glued to their cell phones, taking photos, recording videos and sharing them on social media. It seemed that what mattered was not being present, but rather being present and showing others what they were doing.
And this is an example of a reality that is more common than we can imagine. In 2023, I was with my family experiencing the Disney experience, in Orlando. And, in fact, even for a person like me, who never had (and still don’t have) Disney magic in my veins, I can guarantee that the experience is magical for all ages, especially for my 7-year-old daughter. However, what caught my attention was the number of people with cell phones on their Gimbals (stabilizers or “selfie sticks”), many even with more than one cell phone, with professional cameras and always looking for the best angle and best pose to record your experience. When we tropicalized this, CCXP also revealed the same situation in an overwhelming way, where practically everyone there acted as content producers through the lens and screens of their cell phones, but very few lived in the moment.
This attitude reveals a lack of human connection, empathy, affection, and joy. It also reveals a search for approval, status and recognition. But does this make us happy? Does it make us feel alive?
A different answer can be found in the film Wonka, released late last year. The film tells the story of the origins of the famous Willy Wonka, the eccentric owner of the largest chocolate factory in the world. I’m not going to evaluate the film, because I’m very far from being a film critic, but I’m going to accept the provocation from Julia Abreu, copywriter and screenwriter at EAÍ?! Content Experience, which brought a look at the message behind the film. In the film, we discover that Wonka doesn’t just sell chocolate, but experiences that delight people. He creates a universe of fantasy, of magic, music, chaos and affection, where anything is possible. He invites people to dream, to adventure, to have fun and to be excited.
Wonka represents an alternative to the disconnected world we live in. He shows us that there is more to life than technology, that there is more value in what we feel than what we show, that there is more beauty in what we create than in what we consume. He inspires us to live real moments, that make us grow, learn, love, laugh, cry. The message behind the story reinforces that technology was – and always needs to be – a means and not the end: a means for us to live experiences and not the end of the experience itself.
When we land this in the reality of marketing and consumer behavior, when we invite people to live – as Disney and Universal themselves do by prohibiting the use of cell phones in some situations – the act of purchasing happens naturally, because once the experience is memorable, the desire to materialize the feeling through a physical memory arises. Although at a low frequency, 100% of consumers give in to shopping for emotional reasons at some point and among the main motivations is self-gratification.
The age of experience is an age of connection. Connection with ourselves, with others, with nature, with mystery. It is an era of challenge, surprise, discovery and enchantment. It’s time to live, not survive. I hope we are all ready to live it.
*Rodolfo Brizotti is a partner and Head of Creation, Planning and Content at EAÍ?! Content Experience, a live marketing agency focused on content experience and innovations in organizing events, incentive campaigns, promotions, awards and the most diverse brand experience activations. He has worked with major players in the market, such as Whirlpool, Heineken, iFood and Havaianas.