Experience is Everything
/ The importance of brand experience and it’s place in the future of Advertising.
As advertising and content continues to evolve to the changing demands and expectations of the modern consumer, brand experience is revealing itself to be one of the most powerful and important marketing techniques to capture attention and ensure customer loyalty.
Recently, Campaign Magazine put together a report on the indispensability of brand experience in the current climate and the future one. They concluded that increasingly “ad agencies are moving into the experience space” and discussed “what experiential specialists are doing to become the agencies of the future”. Live experiences are now championed to be ‘essential’ elements of modern content strategies and campaigns. In other words, brand activation and experience will be critical for the success of agencies of the future.
According to the report, successful brand experiences “create loyalty, increases sales, support and lead generations, builds brand advocacy and makes customers feel valued”. And these findings are not wholly surprising; in a society which is accelerated, driven and essentially lived through social media, the content and in this case the “experience” is everything. Increasingly it seems that consumers are no longer interested in just emulating another’s experience. Individuals want to share their own experience in the world, with friends and strangers alike. And experience is not made up of just the immediate present moment. It is a continuum that connects the past and the future, exchanged, re-lived and passed on as digital content through likes and comments. It is this process through social media which so successfully keeps the experiential alive into the future. And for the brands involved, it becomes an unrestricted and continuous chain of exposure that carries their brand, identity and message through to a larger audience and in a genuine way. In direct contrast to the old “sell and forget method”, brands increasingly look for a continuous engagement with their audiences, often labelled the “360 degree experience”.
Innovators of this experiential marketing are seeking engagement with and connection to their customers through embracing multi-sensory approaches. According to research carried out by HeyHuma, it is sensory approaches which play on taste, smell and touch, that are the best way to get consumers “immersed in brand experiences”. Their managing partner Liz Richardson has said that a sensory approach can help to build “deeper relationships” and to create a connection that goes “beyond the surface”. Getting beyond the surface is essentially the ultimate aim of all advertising, wanting to encourage customers to invest in the brand, not just economically, but personally and emotionally. This results in building more profound relationships between brand and consumer, characterized by more stability and loyalty than relationships built using more traditional methods.
Activations and experiences themselves can take on many different forms, lending huge creative scope and potential for brands.
Aperol Spritz’s recent ‘Big Birthday Social’ is a great example of a more traditional approach. The drinks brand organized a 9-day residence in Shoreditch celebrating 100 years of the brand. The ticketed venue came fully equipped with everything you would expect to see in an Aperol fairground – a vespa carousel, a ball pit, a bright orange toe dipping pool and waterfall, and to top it all off, hot tubs made from old style fiat 500s. Guests were of course heavily encouraged to upload images, videos and live stream the event to their social media accounts. As Jessica Hargreaves from PrettyGreen put it this demonstrated very well ‘the brand benefits from creating an asset that lives beyond a one-off campaign’. The result of Aperol’s event saw a major increase in their outreach as well as enhancing their own brand image. They successfully reinforced their playful, fun, quirky and quintessentially ‘Italian’ image and brand identity.
A great example of a more risky but innovative approach is Heinz and Cadbury’s joint creative collaboration this year, in April 2019. During the Easter Period, the campaign saw the release of a limited version of crème egg mayonnaise that could be tried by daring fans at London’s Old Truman Brewery over 2 days. The product itself was made using Heinz free-range egg-based mayonnaise which was then mixed with the “white” and “yolk” fondant used in the Crème Eggs and chunks of its chocolate shell. Martina Davis, the brand manager of Heinz Good Mayonnaise said that this limited edition was ‘unlike anything you’ve ever tasted before; a true taste sensation’. Building up the hype by sending out samples to a range of journalists in the preceding weeks, Cadbury and Heinz were able to stoke intrigue in the general population at this unique combination. It was tried and tested on well-known press sources such as The Guardian, Metro the Independent and Vice, all giving their verdicts on this bizarre combination in the weeks leading up to the public activation. Davis had said that ‘if everyone loves it as much as we do, then who knows, we might have to roll it out nationwide’. Judging by the responses of the press and most of the general public, who seemed to think that the two products were best enjoyed as originally intended – separately – the activation was a fun and creative approach to brand experience that undoubtedly increased the publicity of the two products and brands around the Easter period.
Campaign’s research has argued that it is essential that brand experience is recognised not as a medium like an advertising campaign or a website, but it is planned and implemented as a strategy which is “set in place to keep customers engaged with your brand through meaningful interactions”.
Here at Wonderhatch, we are all about producing content that works. So, it will come as no surprise that we hear this message loud and clear and had it in the forefront of our minds when we were creating our brand film campaign that combined a video promotion of Hyatt’s Hotel Martinez in Cannes with the International Luxury Travel Market (ILTM) event last December. With this film production, we saw the opportunity for an immersive and engaging brand activation that could beautifully tie together our earlier film campaign promoting the hotel with our coverage of the ILTM event held at the same hotel later that year; whilst including Hyatt’s 285 attendees in the process. Offering Hyatt’s guests the unique experience of being filmed and edited into the previous video set at the Hotel Martinez, Wonderhatch promoted engagement between the guests, the hotel space and the event through a meaningful interaction with the original actors both on and off screen, who were also invited to the event themselves. Momentarily attendees were transformed into the central stars of their own personalised film, promoting the brand, the hotel, the event and themselves to their followers, and allowing them to take home some content far more original, exciting and immersive than a still photograph in-front of a ‘step and repeat’ board.
65 personalised videos were filmed and delivered in minutes to the guests over the space of 2 hours. With over 35 different nationalities present at the event and 100,000 views on Instagram following the delivery of these videos, the international outreach, immediacy and intimacy of the experience was incomparable to the initial outreach of the film alone. The success of the campaign was helped by the brand activation being closely related to Hotel Martinez and ILTM’s own identities. In other words, the experience encouraged the guests to feel glamorous, luxurious and renowned as they became the stars of their own movie – emulating the actors of the original campaign and filming it in the home of one of the world’s most illustrious film events: the Cannes Film Festival.
Chris Gallery, partner at Mother has said in regards to brand experience, the ‘industry is more relevant than ever’. Brand experience and activation is fast becoming an integral part of campaign and content strategies, occupying time and resource in all agencies; places such as Adam&Eve/DDB are making long-term plans to create in-house capability and a dedicated brand experience team.
Thanks to social media, the business side of things has now come of age, and it is easier than ever to encourage clients to buy into experiential and brand experience as a winning marketing strategy. Most big voices in the industry predict with confidence that that the agencies who view brand experience as fundamental to their campaigns and marketing strategies, will be well positioned for the future.
Wonderhatch are fully on-board, looking forward to making further waves in this space. There is enormous scope for creativity, innovation, and more importantly, connection between consumer and brand. Today, it is becoming increasingly clear that experience is everything – and if brands can offer their customers something worth experiencing, they are on to a winner.