Act like a human, think like a brand - Musa Kalenga impresses at #findaba17

Technology should be enslaved to humanity – and not the other way around. Here’s how to make sure that happens.

Speaking at the Finance Indaba Africa 2017 on 13 October, Musa Kalenga, the co-founder and CEO at Bridge Labs, spoke about the intersection between humanity and technology. "One can't live without the other, but one has to be slave to the other," he said.

He said that society is going through five major shifts when it comes to interacting with technology. These shifts are:

  1. Desktop to mobile. Most emerging markets have leapfrogged to the desktop, and businesses have to understand their behaviour by being "mobile first".
  2. Big screens to small screens. There is huge discipline required in selling things in a small amount of screen "real estate". "We need to understand how to sell in that space."
  3. Single device to multi-device. People may start a search on a tablet at home, switch to a phone while they are in a car, then change over to their laptop at the office. Businesses need to see these as one unified interaction rather than logging them as three separate individuals.
  4. Search to discovery. Content discovery - which is showing your audience what they want to see, tailored to their specific interests or needs - is taking up an important part of how people search for information.
  5. Text to visual. Instead of relying on an audience to read through text at their leisure, businesses are now focusing on creating three-second commercials and "thumb-stopping content" to use the three-second window in which to catch a consumer's attention and get them to buy a brand.

"The biggest signal of our generation in our lifetime is the signal of mobile," Musa said. "Some businesses have seen it, some haven't and those are going to get hit in the night like a ship with rudderless direction."

Another "signal" he highlighted was that of simultaneous use of multiple screens. He showed how things that happen on television are posted almost simultaneously on Facebook and Twitter, as testimony to the fact that people don't just pay attention to one device anymore.

However, all these shifts aside, and there is one thing that stands out. "Technology has to serve humanity. If we have it in that order, then we're winning. Impactful marketing starts with empathy at its core. The persuasion is so much stronger if you've taken the time to put yourself in someone else's shoes. If you get that right, you think like a human before you think like a brand."

As an example, he mentioned how Airbnb and Uber, in times of crisis, can provide an uncharacteristically human response (Uber has been known to remove surge pricing and Airbnb has opened available rooms to refugees). "They don't have to change their core business to do it."