Is there a backlash brewing to the digital world? Author and journalist David Sax, whose book The Revenge of Analog chronicles the shifts between digital and analog experiences, wouldn’t frame it exactly that way. But something is happening here.

In his keynote at the 2018 Email Evolution Conference, Sax shared the story converting his massive CD collection to digital files, where his songs would be available at the touch of his fingers. It was a huge undertaking, and he was filled with intense pride after completing the conversion. “And a funny thing happened after we did this – we stopped listening to music,” Sax said. “It was out of sight and out of mind. Music became just another set of files.”

Something completely different happened after Sax received an old turntable, amplifier and collection of vinyl records. There was no quest to convert these records to digital. “We realized it was more about the experience, the touch and the feel of the record.”

With the recent boom in record sales, along with new print publications and retail locations, Sax argues this represents a “growth in a real way of tangible products and experiences.” What is motivating this shift back from the digital to the tangible? Sax points to both the head and the heart.

The head represents “the logical, practical, type-A, data-driven reasons why analog is growing again.” Sax says this is productivity and trust. Digital tech originally came with the promise of productivity. “But every new technology that comes along to make us more productive probably makes us less productive,” Sax quipped.

Endless spreadsheets, PowerPoints and digital distractions keep us unfocused and unproductive. But in meetings at Amazon, according to Sax, there are no slides or digital presentations. Instead, participants spend the opening minutes in silence, reading the meeting background on paper. “Paper has the ability to force people to focus.”

When it comes to trust, digital services are still vulnerable to takeover. “Analog is safe and reliable.” Nobody is going to hack your notebook and you don’t need an internet connection to read your printed materials. “Short of fire, flood or theft, the notebook is secure.”

That may be the head, but what about the heart? That’s all about the pleasure of analog. “We take pleasure in things,” said Sax. “The digital revolution said we could get rid of things and we’d be happier without these things. But we enjoy getting things.”

These pleasures also bring us closer to each other. “It’s the pleasure in things that bring us the pleasure in people. I could buy a book on Amazon, but I try to go to a bookstore or a record store in my neighborhood.” These are the relationships and interactions that humans need to survive. And the analog world provides an avenue for those interactions.

As for email marketers, Sax urged them to remember the physical, analog connections they bring to people. “In the end, the only world that matters is the world that we live in.”

Sax predicts that more digital-oriented companies will be moving into the offline world. “Who could have predicted that Amazon would become a leader in brick and mortar retail?” And he advises that marketers “reach people wherever they can be reached, whether that’s in an email or in the physical world.”

Want more expertise from the top email marketers in the game? Stay tuned to this blog or follow the hashtag #EEC2018!