December 17th, 2018 By Joe Panepinto PhD
If our recent global Experience Brand Index reveals one thing that should send a chill up the spine of every brand marketer, it’s this: The vast majority of brand experiences simply aren’t worth talking about.
That, and the fact that only 1 in 4 brands stands out to consumers.
At Jack Morton, we’ve long said the most powerful brand experiences deliver proof of your brand’s promise in a simple, moving, original and effective way. Take our client, L.L.Bean, for example, whose brand promise focuses on the shared joy of the outdoors. To help their employees, and consumers overall, “Be an Outsider” (Be an Outsider at Work), we created a movement. We built the first-ever outdoor co-working experience that appeared in urban parks around the country, and published a research study showcasing the benefits of getting outside – all of which perfectly epitomized the brand’s promise.
The reason? We know that by proving their brand promise through memorable and shareworthy experiences, L.L.Bean was able to both establish and reinforce what makes their brand different.
Technology: an opportunity to shine
Today’s technologies present us with tons of opportunities to reinforce brand promises. But be forewarned – it’s easy to go off-track and leverage technology for technology’s sake…which says something not so flattering about your brand. That’s why we recommend starting with the brand characteristic or value you want to emphasize, then moving to the technology only after you’ve established that.
So how do you think about the best way to leverage experiential technologies? From Augmented Reality (AR) to Virtual Reality (VR), Artificial Intelligence, location-awareness, chat bots, gesture and more? At the risk of over-simplifying things, you and your team should start by asking why you’re leveraging experiential technology to enhance your experiences. Meaning – do you want them to be more immersive, responsive, curated or connected?
And remember: Your job as a brand marketer is not to know the technologies themselves – it’s to clearly articulate what characteristic of your brand you want the experience to demonstrate, or prove.
Let’s break down these characteristics one at a time.
- Immersive. Immersive technologies have been all the rage for a couple of years now, and there’s no sign of slowing down. Whether it’s AR, VR or Mixed Reality, the ability to create a more immersive experience is getting easier, cheaper…and at the same time, more challenging.
We’re happy to see brands asking themselves more serious questions about how to use the technology to reinforce their brand promise (we’re getting fewer requests for “something VR!” from clients these days). For example, our digital arm, Genuine, created an AR experience for athenahealth at HIMSS that allowed the audience to actually see the mountain of paperwork generated in healthcare. For a company that’s committed to freeing the healthcare industry from burdensome busywork and communication issues holding it back, the experience perfectly shined a light on reality.
And in a recent press and influencer event for Royal Caribbean, we used AR, VR and environmental technologies to actually transport people to the cruise of the future and help them SeaBeyond.
- Responsive. Experiences are exciting because they draw a crowd. And with today’s technologies, we can use the unique energy of the crowd to actually tailor the event to the whims (and heart rates) of the attendees. Biometric bands, location / motion sensors and other inexpensive techs can be married to machine learning programs to build reactive environments that respond to passive input from attendees. For example, at the Panorama Music Festival in NY, we created a 30-foot-tall wall of LEDs that reacted to the time of day, music preferences of guests, and breaking news (the death of David Bowie). Our Nike Unlimited Stadium in Singapore was the world’s largest LED track, recording the runner’s first lap then creating an avatar for them to run against on subsequent laps.
- Curated. To a former newspaper editor like me, curated is just a fancy way of saying personalized or tailored to fit (how about we stick with “edited”?). In any case, some of the most sophisticated technologies – AI for instance – are the simplest to understand in their application.
AI and other machine-learning simply allows marketers ways of matching attendee interest with content they’d be interested in. For example, simple RFID tags in ID badges or wristbands can be combined with a wide variety of inexpensive sensors that can serve up content automatically, whether it’s video, audio, or simple text-on-screen. Cheap voice-recognition technologies also allow another very human way of providing personalized content based on increasingly sophisticated queries.
- Connected. We’re moving pretty rapidly from the era of big data, to the era of connection and understanding. It’s safe to assume that if data is in digital form and available, you’ll be able to connect it to other data through APIs and other methods of tying data sources together.
So when you’re planning your experience, start by asking yourself these three questions:
- Do we want to prove that we offer a unique or dramatic point of view? (If so, consider AR, VR or mixed reality.)
- Do we want to show that we anticipate and respond to customer needs? (Yes? Consider environmental technologies like motion/location sensors.)
- Do we want to demonstrate our ability to tailor solutions or show that we make connections? (Absolutely. Consider personalization methods like voice-recognition or RFID.)
Simple? Maybe. But like we always say: Simple is the hardest thing we do.