In-person things are just… messy


So it turns out this free weekly email doesn’t have an editor or proofreader, and I often mix up hyperlinks because I’m like that. And since SO MANY of you reached out about a broken link from last week, I thought we could take a closer look at it….

NYT: There’s a Specific Kind of Joy We’ve Been Missing

It’s a guest essay from Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at Wharton and the host of the TED podcast “WorkLife.” He also wrote that article about “languishing” that you probably heard about and perhaps subsequently used that term in conversation.

In this new op-ed, Grant reintroduces a term called “collective effervescence” that I don’t find very accessible and don’t foresee using. However, I did find a lot of value in the conversation he framed around that term. Specifically, that “most people view emotions as existing primarily or even exclusively in their heads. Happiness is considered a state of mind; melancholy is a potential warning sign of mental illness. But the reality is that emotions are inherently social: They’re woven through our interactions.” 

He points to the reopening of social activities in the U.S. and how they are triggering the rebirth of shared live experiences at a scale and emotional impact level we couldn’t experience and may have forgotten simply living through just our screens this past year. Although we can be happy alone, he argues, our peak happiness comes when we share experiences with one another. 

It’s the kind of article that’s helpful to read as we’re all being pulled out of our comfortable at-home routines and rituals. I know I’ve been personally struggling with the human variables that affect human gatherings as we start to resume them — the dread of driving somewhere, the stress when a gather runs late, awkward silences, the inability to multitask and the need to actually have to pay attention.

Things were so much more simple and manageable and efficient when everyone was in their respective Zoom box, and we could rely on our overly scheduled, digital-only communications. In-person things are just… messy. But that’s good for us humans, too. It’s worth pushing past this period of uncomfortability. And necessary.

Grant writes, “Psychologists find that in cultures where people pursue happiness individually, they may actually become lonelier. But in cultures where they pursue happiness socially — through connecting, caring and contributing — people appear to be more likely to gain well-being.

If you watched the Jeff Bezos rocket launch this past week, you probably heard the live audio (or perhaps later watched the video) of the four “astronauts” laughing, shouting, and celebrating weightlessness and an incredible view of the planet as they unbuckled their seatbelts in near-space. It was a real-world example of the joy of celebrating a human accomplishment together as a shared experience. And compared to the excitement one would feel doing that by oneself, it was clearly more enjoyable. I’m both super jealous and also still adjusting to doing things with others at my house, let alone 66 miles above the ground.

I was fortunate to spend lockdown employed, healthy, and with my immediate family. We did things like “Surprise Weekend Road Trips,” and my wife and I played bar trivia via Zoom every single Sunday for a year to stay mentally engaged at a base level. And it worked (even if we earned last place almost every week).

But even with some of that “doing things” muscle memory intact, I haven’t been super excited to leave my home office as the world starts to reopen. I have faster internet at home than at the office. The food is better. My kids and wife are there. And my non-existent commute is fantastic. But I have also gotten a ton of energy from IRL coffee with my team, a new business lunch, IRL company party, and a board meeting trip to L.A.

I’m rebuilding my stamina and starting to feel the psychological benefits of doing off-screen things with others again. In fact, I’m writing this on a plane to NYC traveling with six (6!) coworkers, knowing I have a lot of email to get through and Microsoft Teams meetings to attend that I won’t make while we’re in cabs and meetings and dinner and more. It’s an adjustment.

Doing things with others is messy and inefficient, but it is okay to feel both stress and emotional fulfillment in those experiences at the same time. In fact, that used to be the norm.

It took a ton of mental and emotional bandwidth to lock ourselves down. So we should expect an equal or greater amount of effort to open ourselves back up.

With that said, a lot of folks are going to struggle coming out of this. Many of our relationships and routines we counted on before have fractured. Not everyone had the privilege or support networks my peers and I had in this latest season of life.

So check on your people. Give each other an extra measure of grace. Let your coworkers miss an email or meeting or two while they adjust. And look for opportunities to step away from the screen and revel in the inefficient, messy nature of being with others.

From a marketing perspective, we need to be considerate of how our audiences are coming back into in-person environments and to consider how to create opportunities for collective effervescence (damn it, I used the word) or at least not hamper them. Depending on your brand’s voice and mission, perhaps there are appropriate opportunities to help facilitate some of these restart and re-engagement moments. But let’s not be advantageous. It’s a pretty dynamic situation and it’s going to take some time to level out.

For now, I’m going to quickly skim this email for typos and broken links, hit send on this email and head off to an in-person meeting where I try not to look at my phone. I may not succeed, but honestly, I’m kind of messy. -G.

Here’s what else I’m tracking this week…

The Buzz About Space Tourism Hasn’t Even Gotten Started: Going to “space” is now officially a marketing gimmick, complete with brand partner vehicles, uniform fashion brands you can buy to wear at home, and even a space-inspired single release from Khalid. First Virgin Galactic and now Blue Origin are making space tourism a thing, even though it’s intangible for most, contentious for many, and arguable that these “astronauts” haven’t even reached “space” yet. However, SpaceX will send a crew of private citizens on a multi-day journey around the Earth as soon as next month and – assuming there isn’t a disaster at home or above – this news cycle and the marketing stunts around them are here to stay.  

Olympics Are Trending: Adweek has a great roundup of what brands are doing for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics here. Ad spend for the Games surpassed spend for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, and the streaming boom of the past year means that there are now several ways to stream the Olympics. But if your brand isn’t an Olympic sponsor, be sure to abide by Rule 40, which says only approved sponsors may reference “Olympic-related terms.” New for this year, athletes are limited to seven statements or social media posts gratifying their (non-Olympics) sponsors and those sponsors will still not be permitted to include pictures or words regarding the Olympics. Fun!

Social Infomercials Growing in PopularityShoppertainment is a term used to describe the convergence of livestreaming, entertainment, and commercials. The format is already popular in Asia and starting to gain traction in the West. You can tune into Amazon Live right now to see an example. PopShop Live is an app modeled after Asia’s livestream shopping habit. ShopShops livestreams from stores in the US to customers in Asia. And look to Facebook, TikTok, Snapchat, and other major platforms to continue to help advance this trend.

NFTs Are Not a Fad That’s Going Away: This week a top-tier VC Andreessen Horowitz led a huge $100 million funding round for the largest of the NFT trading marketplaces, OpenSea. It’s now valued at $1.5 billion.

NFTs (non-fungible tokens) are a cryptocurrency token that is connected to the blockchain and represents a digital good while permanently and traceably marking its ownership and uniqueness. And although you may have heard about absurd prices for NFT art, they have a lot more value than one-off promotions.

Fast Company writes, “a $100 million investment in the largest NFT marketplace led by a top-tier VC like Andreessen Horowitz makes a statement. The investors believe that NFTs have real and lasting utility and are not a passing fad. Indeed, the VC sees NFTs as a distribution vehicle for digital content that lets the content creator better control and profit from their work.”

Discord For More Than Gaming, and Growing: Discord is now six years old and growing like crazy. If this growth keeps up, some think they may go public. The Discord platform is a VoIP, instant messaging and digital distribution platform designed for creating communities. Users communicate with voice calls, video calls, text messaging, media and files in private chats or as part of communities called “servers”. The Discord of today has more than 150 million monthly active users, and 19 million active servers each week. Here are some tips for creating a discord server for you and your friends.

Key quote: “With its growing scale, a platform might try to drive revenue through advertising. But Discord has so far refused. “We have intentionally pursued a business model that does not rely on monetizing our users’ data,” Vishnevskiy says. While there are opportunities for some brands to engage with loyal customers—Chipotle held a virtual job fair on the app, and fashion retailer All Saints held a fan Q&A on Discord’s Clubhouse-like audio feature—the most successful ones seem to treat their servers like a fan club.”

Quick Hits:

See you on the internet!