The Age of Experience
Will Halliday – Head of Strategy
Today’s CMO knows that brands are not just built upon what they say or how they look, but on how they behave and what they do. The consumer is firmly in control and the traditional advertising ‘push’ is much less effective. Consumers will choose to spend time with brands that provide them with great experiences.
So if brand experience is the most powerful tool in the marketer’s toolkit, what is the difference between brand experience, event marketing and experiential activations?
Brand experience is more like an umbrella term that covers the amalgam of all the different touchpoints where a consumer gets to interact with the brand.
The power of brand experience comes from the opportunity to see, touch, feel, taste and provide a sensorial or inspiring experience first-hand. Some of the best examples come at the intersection of commerce and creativity. This month’s VIVID, Pause Fest and SXSW showcase the possibilities.
There is a wide-range of activities that fall under the umbrella of brand experiences. These include; experiential stunts, corporate events, activations, employee programs, interactions in-store, ecommerce and more pervasively the use of a brand’s app or online channels, with social increasingly important. That’s because each of these things offers a meaningful experience that can either increase or reduce a person’s brand affinity.
In a world of ever-expanding tactics and possibilities, it is more useful to define and describe brand experience—by what it delivers rather than by the shape the activity takes.
Specifically, if advertising (in all media channels) is intended to create awareness of a brand promise, successful brand experiences deliver proof of a brand’s promise or the benefits of a product or service. Meaning, effective brand experiences are designed to create specific, valuable interactions between brands and/or products and services and the people that matter most to them.
Done well, these interactions result in deeper emotional connections and greater brand affinity. Done poorly, they can destroy a brand’s reputation.
We define events as brand experiences that are targeted toward specific audiences. These can include meetings, trade shows and conferences for participants (often invited) with common interests that determine the theme and content of the event.
Why do marketers and organisations run, sponsor or activate at events? Most events offer prolonged interaction with a brand, its people, products and/or services. Typically, the brand is better able to curate and control the experience at their event. As such, they are a valuable tool to build brand affinity by deepening people’s exposure to—and relationship with—the brand.
We think of experiential activations as more consumer-oriented experiences, often promotional in nature and geared toward more general audiences. Examples would include branded stunts like Google Play’s “Music Block” or activations like Dark Mofo.
Why do marketers do experiential activations?
Like events, experiential activations—often integrated with digital and social—offer prolonged, meaningful interactions with a brand that can help build brand affinity. And, also like events and other brand experiences, the quality of the experience itself will determine the amount of engagement, earned media or brand affinity it produces.
The Holy Grail for marketers and brands is to get the most value from creating extraordinary experiences that transcend popular culture. Something memorable and outside the range of normal experience. Why? Because brands are built on feeling and memory.
As such, we often encourage our clients to offer people bold sensorial experiences—of all types—that are simple, fresh and emotionally engaging. We find that those types of extraordinary experiences are much more memorable, and help deliver better return on their investments.
Delivering Proof on Promise
It can be useful to think of brand experience as any interaction between a consumer and a brand. It is when all these interactions are incorporated in a meaningful way to elevate the life of the consumer that we as marketers are doing are jobs well.
Brand experiences are distinct from traditional advertising activities in that beyond creating awareness of a brand promise, these experiences are designed to deliver proof of a brand’s promise.