Brand experience isn’t a new term, but as I mentioned in my first article, it’s one that requires a clear-cut definition. The beauty of this medium is that it is fluid — advances in technology, strategy, and creative translate into new concepts that can be applied to brand experiences in a number of interesting ways.
And now, more than ever, marketers are seeing the value and potential of brand experience. Companies are earmarking larger budgets and allocating more resources to devote to the experiences audiences have with their brand. What’s more, audiences are more likely than ever to seek them out.
Because of the growing popularity of this channel, I think we’re going to start seeing some very interesting interpretations of what a brand experience is and what it can do. Here are four ways that I feel the medium is going to evolve over the next 10 years.
Rethinking the physical space where brand experiences happen
The brand experience of the future will transcend walls and floorplans, and adopt a much looser interpretation of where engagement can happen. You can meticulously plan a brand experience for months, but the truth is that the second members of your audience begin to interact with the brand in that context, they’re already having an experience. I think brands will begin to use that to their advantage.
Why not reexamine the very architecture of your brand experience? Have you considered that you have three dimensions to work with? Forget linear pathways and touchpoints. Why not offer an experience that has multiple customer journeys, each with its own unique set of rewards and layers of emotional engagement? Some of the most cutting edge brand experiences simply provided common spaces for people to experience an enjoyable, relaxing, or stimulating environment.
An enhanced focus on world-building and storytelling
Every brand has a story — even the ones that don’t seem like they have a story. There’s always a place where the benefit of a product or service overlaps with an audience’s emotional need to solve a problem or fill a need. A brand experience is a fantastic opportunity to take your audience on a journey that immerses them in that story and makes them feel an emotional connection to it.
At present, there is storytelling and world-building in brand experience, but the ever-evolving nature of technology and strategy will open some very interesting doors. In addition to new channels and media to stimulate the senses, there will be much more emphasis on making the individual attendee the center of the experience and designing the story out from there. Rather than tell the same story for everyone, the brand experiences of the near future will be designed for each individual guest in a way that is personalized and intimate.
Build a world for them to explore, invite them in, let them wander, touch, smell, hear, investigate. Give them the opportunity to immerse themselves in your brand at their leisure, and give them plenty of touchpoints to engage with.
Most forms of marketing communication engage two senses — sight and sound. On the other hand, a brand experience is capable of engaging all five. By creating richer, more textural environments, brands can effectively create entire worlds of experience and unlock authentic emotional responses.
Currently, very few of us seem to be taking full advantage of this incredible opportunity. Only 28 percent of marketers in North America (and just 13 percent in Western Europe) are harnessing the power of all five senses to engage audiences. Compare that to marketers in Asia, where 42 percent of marketers tap into sensory interaction as a way to add a layer of personalization. I think the scales will begin to tip as more and more North American brands begin to realize the potential of multi-sensory brand experiences.
Quantitative and qualitative
Our research shows us that we are going to see more brand experiences, and that they will continue to improve. However, it’s imperative that the data we collect from the digital integrations is stored more efficiently and used more effectively. As an industry, we have to be better about how we treat our data and how we use it. Only then can we unlock its true potential.
We all know that data has value, or else there wouldn’t be so much of it being collected. The challenge for today’s marketers is figuring out how to monetize it. The level of sophistication of human behavior metrics for events is going to evolve. Tracking an attendee’s journey through an event won’t be enough — we will have to understand what they need. What they’re feeling. What their values are. This is the information that will allow you to tailor customer journeys that fit a wide range of audiences. And this level of personalization will be the norm in future brand experiences.
The value of brand experience
The world is changing at an accelerated rate. Emerging global trends are going to impact our industry — and our lives — in ways we haven’t even predicted yet. In the future, successful brands will be the ones that can to embrace the change and adapt to it.
This is why brand experience is the medium of the future. We’ve seen it evolve and grow, and with more brands embracing its potential, we are going to continue to see innovation. Advances in technology and data strategy are already opening up channels for engagement and interaction, giving brands a chance to engage their audiences more strategically.
At the end of the day, nothing can quite engage all the senses and emotions like brand experience — it’s the combination of high tech and high touch that no other medium can offer. Because of this, top marketers will be willing to pay a premium to bring their brands to life. And therein lies its value, now and for the foreseeable future.