Digital channel planning requires learning how people not only interact with others, including brands, on a channel but also how people interact with the channel itself. For example, YouTube doubles as a megaphone for free speech and Instagram functions as the mall of the future where commerce meets merchandising dressed in editorial content. We can easily understand platforms from a place of functionality, but research uncovering how people feel on each platform is harder to come by. In 2017, the Royal Society for Public Health published how British 14-24-year-olds psychologically consume social media platforms: Royal Society for Public Health x The Economist Pronounced trends exist across all four platforms and we can group high-level findings: social media supports and facilitates mental wellness as much as it tears it down. This is true for offline social interactions, too: cliques, clubs, work, etc. all come with wellness pros and cons.

Social media is simply a virtual extension of space where interactions continue as they are in the real world, albeit in hyper form.

In the quick concentrates of culture that prevail on social media, where should a brand’s communication fall? Surprisingly, even in today’s x-positive culture, brands still cling to the behavioral economics of loss aversion, putting them well into burnt orange/red in the chart where FoMO exists. Loss aversion, of course, triggers unwanted feelings of anxiety and depression that attach themselves to the brand transmitting these messages — Pavlov’s dog should have an Instagram account. Brands even employ social influencers to amplify these messages through “flex culture”. One of the more controversial versions of this type of amplification is with luxury brands sponsoring YouTubers with young audiences. These legacy brands are rooting themselves in younger audiences to stay relevant and develop the next generation of luxury consumers (not your mother’s brand). The darker side is that these brands plant the idea that a $10,000 purse should be something children should strive to achieve as they age.

Aspirational marketing is FoMO dolled-up as spirituality.

Imagine if these fashion companies, a vertical dedicated to identity, empowered and educated young audiences on how to use fashion as a vehicle for self-expression, sponsoring videos that teach younger generations how to dress for expression rather than telling them what to buy to feel successful (à la unattainable haul posts.)
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Fear-based marketing works, yes, but it is unethical. It comes in many forms including aspirational communication, the wolf in sheep’s clothing. Use the Royal Society for Public Health report and when you think you might be functioning in the warm tones of the graph, try to find the blue counterpart for what you want to achieve. The blue part is what builds the goodwill of your company. The blue part is where customers have loyalty and will work to preserve the companies that have treated them well. The blue part is where your company can provide more than a product or service, but actual meaning. Feel free to reach out if you need someone to bounce blue ideas off-of. □