The Great Switch Off


It’s been on the cards for a while, and now a recent study from Ofcom of 2,025 adults and 500 teenagers, strongly indicates how the on-line lifestyle is adversely affecting our personal and working lives. Internet addiction, sleep deprivation, anxiety levels at an all-time high - technology is finally taking its toll.

Disconnect to reconnect

A growing number of consumers are now seeking moments to disconnect, in an effort to reconnect with the real world. Mintel speaks at length of several trends in the area, bloggers are writing good articles, and over 49 million people have viewed this powerful and all too real video on You Tube. Further anecdotal evidence suggests that consumers including Gen Z are taking heed and beginning to tune out. Most recently, ITV took the lead, switching off all of its channels for one hour on Saturday 27 August 2016 in an effort to inspire UK citizens to get out and get active.

The Right to Disconnect: In May 2016, the French government introduced legislation giving its workers the 'right to disconnect'. Employers are now required to set formal procedures to ensure an adequate work-life balance for employees. Examples already introduced include Volkswagen’s policy of shutting down its e-mail servers after hours, and Daimler employees being free to delete all the messages they receive while on holidays.

Internet-free cafes and pubs: Free Wi-Fi being replaced by Wi-Fi Free may not become the norm in our cafes and pubs, but its visibility is increasing. If not banning smart phones outright, owners are at least encouraging customers to simply enjoy their food and their co-diners’ company. Even Beijing airport is adopting a similar policy!(photograph Roz O’Shaughnessy).

Digital detox holidays are growing in popularity in the UK where 30% of consumers surveyed say they have taken such a break (source Mintel / Ofcom). An Irish company specialising in luxury retreats, has now introduced Unplug4Kids which develops fun events for children that celebrate the unplugged real world.

Opportunities for food companies

Bord Bia’s Consumer Lifestyle Trends advise that “there is a growing appetite for user-friendly solutions that help manage mood and facilitate headspace”. See Creating Headspace a sub-trend of Health and Wellness.

Kit-Kat Wi-Fi free zones: Using ambient outdoor advertising in Amsterdam, Kit Kat created Wi-Fi free zones to provide locals with an escape from the on-line world. City dwellers were encouraged to slow down and take a break.

Brazilian beer brand Polar has created a Cell Phone Nullifier—a beer holder that stops any phone and internet connection within a 1.5-meter radius. The brand hopes that by preventing people from checking their phones they will pay more attention to their friends when out drinking (Source: Mintel)

Innocent Smoothies has backed the Unplugged Festival since 2015, reminding us that “life is a bit too connected these days, it's good to switch off once in a while”.

It would be naïve and incorrect to think that our dependence or desire for technology is going to wane. But it is becoming evident that we need to adapt to the realities of our tech-saturated, always-on society. Brands can help and encourage consumers to disconnect, while still ensuring they stay engaged. Let’s just hope we don’t have to resort to the magic pepper grinder!

For more information please contact Jimmy.Corr@BordBia.ie

Source: Bord Bia - The Great Switch Off

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