New Year’s Resolutions: What Does Apple’s New Screen Time App Mean for Marketers?

| January 02, 2019

Apple’s new Screen Time App made my head explode. I spend way too much time on my phone. I’m planning a phone detox, and I can’t be the only one. What does this mean for the future of marketing? Nobody needs to panic just yet.

Have you checked out the Screen Time app on Apple devices yet?

All I have to say is “oh boy … it’s bad.” And with Vitamin Water’s newest campaign, “Scroll Free,” in which the company is offering $100,000 to participants who can ditch their smartphones for an entire year, it looks like I’m not alone in my thinking.

I’ve been spending up to seven hours a day on my phone, between social media, time spent in my group chat, email, and watching streaming content. I average 15 notifications an hour, and one day before noon I had picked up my phone more than 100 times. Two hours on Instagram, an hour on Facebook, half an hour on Yelp, YouTube for another 45, 20 in my camera app … and to top it off, this doesn’t even include the time I spend in front of my computer screen.

And so my first New Year’s resolution was born.

I turned off notifications. I set time limits with Downtime from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. I set app limits, then separately set another time limit inside Instagram. I deleted Facebook and Messenger from my phone. I deleted Snapchat. I even started leaving my phone in the car during work hours.

Naturally, cutting off everything seemed like the way to go. I’ll be spending my time in a much more productive way now.

But then, I started to think about what this means for marketers – and marketing strategies that revolve around mobile. My first instinct was to think that this is bad, but, I like to find positives in everything. Here are the positives, and the lessons from Screen Time detox I’m taking with me into 2019.

It’s always good to scrub your lists. I’ve said so in previous blog posts, as scrubbing your subscriber lists, when it comes to email marketing, can actually save you money.

However, I applied this tactic to my Instagram account. I cut down the number of people I follow on Instagram (my worst app offender) from 1,500 to 1,200 (as I said, it’s bad). I got rid of spam accounts, people I don’t know personally, accounts that haven’t been updated in years, and accounts that I can’t remember why I followed them in the first place.

As a marketer, that tells me to make sure content stays fresh, relevant, engaging, and is a reminder that you don’t want a bigger list of fans/subscribers/prospects, you want a better list of fans/subscribers/prospects. Quality, not quantity.

Facebook use is on the decline, and that’s ok. I admit that Facebook and Messenger were the first and second apps to get the ax. CNBC notes that “44 percent of [Facebook] users ages 18 to 29 have deleted the app from their phones in the past year,” so that means I’m not alone.

As a marketer, this tells me it’s time to shift resources. I’m cutting off my phone screen, but my TV is still on and tuned into the local news when I go home. BUT, with my screen time opening back up at 5 p.m., I’m totally guilty of being a two-screener, so it’s important for a brand to be on both screens regardless.

Write shorter, and more effective copy. As a writer, I could write pages upon pages of copy. But then, a scene from my favorite movie “Baseketball” reminds me that “people today have attention spans that can only be measured in nanoseconds.”

While I’m decreasing my phone screen time, I have to assume others are doing the same. With even less time to get my message across, the need for shorter, more effective copy, visuals, and video increases.  

I’m more loyal to Apple than ever. As a consumer, I’m more likely to buy products from charitable and environmentally-conscious companies, over companies who aren’t. That said, I view screen time as an app that’s contributing to my “digital wellbeing” and is bringing people back to a world before everyone had their noses buried in phones while they walk into lakes and glass doors.

Now, I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t already a loyal Apple customer. However, I am very grateful to Apple for pointing out my WORST addiction and providing me with tools to put down my phone and spend more time in a healthier way.

New challenges are fun. Decreased screen time presents new challenges, and I for one, love a good challenge. Shorter attention spans and less time to capture consumers means it’s only going to get harder to reach them. So, the new challenge has become trying to figure out how to stand out and make a more meaningful impression with limited time. To that, I say #ChallengeAccepted.


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