As featured in Adweek October 2018
We can’t believe everything we hear or read, but we can trust everything we experience. It’s no surprise that brand experience is gaining importance to the world’s most forward-thinking brands.
What was an afterthought to integrated campaigns is now worthy of special attention. Brand experience executions have expanded from sampling into elaborate activations, with strategy playing a vital role. Now that it’s more prominent, it’s important for brands to look at trends and best practices and know how to best implement these into their campaigns.
Experience first, media second
In the past, the foundation of many marketing campaigns was the media plan. But because brand experiences don’t exist “within media,” they were neglected. Today, it’s understood that brand experiences should be pivotal to an integrated campaign, as they provide content and engaging moments that populate the media, rather than merely running alongside it.
For this to happen, brand experiences must be developed before media is purchased. By the unpredictable nature of brand experiences, the way they impact the media will also be unpredictable, so know what you’re doing with the former before planning for the latter.
In order to create the most integrated campaign possible, brand teams should provide non-prescriptive briefs to agencies (with the core challenge at the heart) and ideally communicate to everyone at once.
It’s important to work with your agencies to ensure your experiential activities are built with content in mind, with a clear plan for magnification and measurement.
Traditionally, the biggest drawback with brand experience was its inability to scale. Today, brands are comfortable blending media with experiences to amplify them, meaning that you can do something exciting for a small number of people and reach a larger group.
A lot of brand experiences aren’t necessarily campaign-based (short-lived). Forms of brand experience such as retail can run perpetually, accruing benefits over time.
Improvements in technology and logistics make it easier to scale, even with traditional forms of brand experience such as sampling. Low costs per contact are now highly achievable, making the price of campaigns comparable with other media.
Partnerships between brands are now common, especially with retailers with ample space to create different forms of experience. Media brands also have an advantage because their product is something consumers seek out, which is why they attract advertisers to their platforms.
For publishers, the wider creative potential means that you can integrate brands more so than traditional content, making it less one brand piggy-backing the other and more of a truer partnership.
As a brand, your objectives must be clear from the outset, being sure to only approach brands who share your values and have the same, or similar, customer base.
Purpose for purpose’s sake
There has recently been a focus on brand purpose, with more brands adopting social positions as a way to build affinity, and brand experience has been one of the areas at the forefront. Often, the cause has little connection to its commercial purpose, instead of being authentically baked into the brand. While these activities are helpful, they only serve a simultaneous commercial purpose if the brand genuinely engages with that issue.
Once brands learn this, they can become more thoughtful with purpose-based activities. When brands ignore this lesson, they can appear homogenous or even disingenuous.
When pursuing brand purpose, look another layer deeper and ensure that the cause is core to your business and represents a long-term strategic initiative versus a one-off activity. Assess the dynamics of the media environment and select a suitable channel, guaranteeing tangible support to genuinely benefit the cause.
The purchase funnel
Brand experience was once just a customer acquisition tool. When a purchase was made, the job was done. Today, brands are wising up to the importance of a great experience at every point in the product usage cycle. You must view every customer relationship as a marriage, not a one-night stand.
Many modern briefs don’t end with purchase, so explore what else might be done to make consumer usage memorable and on-brand. For example, there might be a way you can influence how and when it’s used for the optimum experience or maybe introduce additional perks for repeat customers. Depending on the nature of each product and category, there will be something to consider.
Brand experience is now something holistic, not merely a moment of jazz hands in lieu of an advertising campaign. Such a development has wide implications for the whole marketing mix.