Time for brands to get physical

Two interesting articles showed how physical experiences are still important in today's digital age. The first concerned the rapid growth in vinyl records; the second was about the success of books "written" by YouTubers. The words of Olivia Newton John's classic 80's hit "Let's get physical" come to mind (retro video including lycra and leg warmers here)

The vinyl revival

For the benefit of some of our younger readers, vinyl records were how people listened to music before CDs, which were what we used before digital music. Many people expected that by now vinyl records would be well and truly extinct. After all, digital music can be played on your phone without the need for a "record player" and you can stream it for free on Spotify if your ready to put up with adverts.

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And yet vinyl is enjoying a real revival. Vinyl sales in the were up a whopping 38% last year in the US alone. And one million vinyl records were sold in the UK, the highest level since 1996, according to this article. Of course, vinyl is still a niche counting for only c. 2% of music sold. But the growth numbers are impressive. And physical records as a whole, including CDs, still account for 1/2 of all music sold. 

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Vloggers help flogging books

For the benefit of some of our older readers, vloggers or "YouTubers" are a new form of media star. They create YouTube videos about their everyday lives and loves (music, make-up, clothes etc.) and have audiences in the many millions. One of the biggest stars is Zoe Sugg, known as Zoella.

One of the surprising effects that Zoella has had on her predominately teen and tween audience is a growth in books. Her novel, Girl Online, was the fastest selling debut novel of all time, with sales of 320,000. Now, you may expect that most of these were digital books read on Kindles or iPhones, right? Wrong. 95% of the copies sold were in physical form. And total sales of kids' books were up 8% last year, according to Tom Wheldon, CEO of Penguin UK, in this article.

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So, what can we learn from these examples?

1. Take the digital physical

Despite the world being ever more digital, we have not lost the desire to interact physically with objects. And this applies not just to old farts like me, but also to the younger generation. Buying a vinyl album allows you to somehow interact physically with the star who recorded it, in contrast to invisible bits and bytes streaming onto your phone. This gives opportunities for digital brands to create physical products to make themselves more tactile and tangible. Look at the growing trend for online insurance companies like Compare the Market to use toys of the characters in their TV ads as promotional tools.

2. Amplify the physical with digital

Physical brands can harness the power of digital media to rejuvenate themselves. I love the story that Zoella's video of her book being printed at Clays, the printer, got 2 million YouTube views! Here is a digital media star we might expect to be helping kill physical books celebrating the act of printing them. Another example is the Matteson's Fridge Raiders brand developing a gaming helmet with automatic Fridge Raider feeding, in partnership with gaming youtuber The Syndicate Project, as I posted on here.

3. Tap into nostalgia

The growth in both vinyl and physical books is also partly down to nostalgia, I suggest. People are re-discovering the pleasure of owning, using and displaying a physical product. "People will buy a Kindle for convenience, but still want to have a bookshelf in their home," comments Jon Lloyd of Juno Records, in this article. What opportunities could you brand have to tap into nostalgia for physical objects that enhance the user experience? 

In conclusion, the revival of vinyl and growth in books for teenagers both highlight opportunities for brands to exploit the synergy between the physical and the digital domains.