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How the Most Tech-Savvy Geo Approaches Brand Experience Technology

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Ian Terry
Ian Terry

Managing Director

FreemanXP APAC

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Counterintuitively, Asia focuses on the message, not the mechanism

In our recent brand experience study, one of the interesting findings was that Asia is by far an early adopter of technology for deeper personalization and immersion. When it comes to tapping into sensory interaction as a way to personalize brand experience, 42 percent of Asian marketers use these interactive technologies compared to 28 percent in North America and 13 percent in Western Europe. 

The finding was interesting, but not surprising to me. As the managing director and APAC finance director, I see this all the time.

Since the publication of our study, the questions and attention have been on the technology: how to do it, how to sell the idea, etc. I’ll address that, but before we look at the value of technology, we have to look at the value of brand experiences. 

The power of brand experience as a marketing channel

Very few marketers want to be transactional. Even for those whose goal IS to make transactions, having long-term relationships with their customers will better facilitate sales. 

You can’t have a relationship without a connection. And the best way to form a connection is with a powerful experience.

That’s why we see more companies leveraging brand experience — certainly in Asia but also around the world. The whole purpose is to create a lasting and meaningful relationship between the brand and individual with a sensory experience. This medium blows past the transactional nature, through the senses, into the heart.

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It’s not “brand experience” without connecting to the brand

Brand experience is more than something sensational. 

A thrill is great. A memory is great. It’s more than most marketers create. But to make a true connection, you have to ensure your client’s brand story is communicated through the experience. 

As a brand experience company, our job is to communicate people’s stories in a connected way. We’re facilitators for the brands we work with. We achieve their goals through story-related experiences.

If you don’t embed your story in the experience, you’re still creating transactions. One-off experiences. So you have to approach the problem or the goal strategically, operating from the brand’s point of view.

How does technology fit?

Once you understand the power of brand experience, it’s time to bring the story to life. 

But don’t dive in. Stand back. Ask yourself this question: “What’s the most effective way to communicate the message?” 

This is a crucial question because without understanding the needs of a client and what it's trying to communicate, the effectiveness of any tactic is a roll of the dice. 

The most effective way to communicate could be with technology, but it might not. We never use technology for its own sake. Sometimes using something physical and analogue is the most appropriate approach. If that’s the case, that’s what we use. 

But technology is powerful. It opens up more avenues for connection than we’ve ever had. 

Virtual reality (VR) allows us to take people inside a place or a machine or an experience like never before. LED screens capture attention and display messages beautifully in a way that resonates with the brand. Second screen technology puts an audience into the message and onto the stage. Beacons allow for more targeted, specific communication. Gamification brings the audience into the experience and makes it the hero, fighting for a brand. Certainly, in this corner of the world, there is some new tech getting ready to make its debut. 

So yes, having and using technology is amazing. But what’s most important is understanding what the client is trying to communicate and asking how to add to that experience in a powerful way. 

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The three biggest challenges to an engaging brand experience

This approach is simple, but it’s far from easy. Here’s what I typically find to be the hurdles.

1. Getting people to think differently

Especially among people who’ve created events for a long time, you’ll see marketers who have creative ideas for a campaign, but those ideas aren’t intimately connected with the goals they have for the event. It’s easy to confuse flashiness for effectiveness.

2. Seeing the larger picture and connecting the different pieces

Related to the previous problem is connecting the touchpoints to the overarching goal. Parties and gala dinners can be good ideas or bad ideas. It depends on the goals. Every single touchpoint is a fantastic opportunity to relate back to the story, relate back to the brand, and relate to the bigger picture. Keep that big picture squarely in the forefront of your mind for everything you do. That way everything is tied together to form a unified message.

3. Incorporating the message into the experience

Whereas the previous points are about making sure that activations are goal-oriented (the first point) and that they all tie together to create a unified message (the second point), this is about embedding a message into every touchpoint. 

How does your brand want people to feel? How can you make that happen with each touchpoint? What’s the story that people need to experience at every step of the way? Whatever the answers are, incorporate them everywhere

To get the most value, you must measure your results

Everything starts with the brand’s goal for communicating a message. That’s where everything ends, too. 

If you can show results, you’ll get more buy-in for goal-oriented ideas that have a higher cost and less time to prove themselves — namely, new technologies. 

Budgets are limited and hard-won. Reputation doesn’t like risk. Why should someone stake both those precious resources on something that’s innovative and, by definition, unproven? 

Results. 

If you can prove that you only use the most appropriate methods and that you’re laser-focused on the client’s objectives, you’ll make decision makers more comfortable about investing in you. 

Advantages of working in Asia

I’m grateful for where I’m located. The geography is ripe for brand experiences. 

I’m based in Singapore. The country is incredibly forward-looking and has an atmosphere of innovation. The government believes in it and promotes it, stimulating the businesses and tourism. You’ll find lots of headquarters here, and technology businesses coming together. The focus on the future allows for a nimbleness I haven’t seen anywhere else. 

Beyond Singapore, all of Asia seems to have a sense of optimism right now. It’s an exciting time. You have so many people with so many connected devices. It feels like anything is possible. 

All these factors contribute to amazing brand experiences. 

And the best is yet to come.

To learn more about what brand experience brings to marketers all over the world, download the stat pack: The Value of Brand Experience.

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