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Why Brand Experience Is the Future of Marketing — Part Two

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Chris Cavanaugh
Chris Cavanaugh

Chief Marketing Officer

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How brands are reinventing themselves through design thinking and live engagement

A three-part series in which I explore what changes are in store for marketers 

The world of business has become almost entirely consumer-centric. The brands of the future will be hyper-connected to their audiences in a variety of ways, whether it’s through their empathy or their values or simply the way they make connections with their audience.

The challenge for brands today is figuring out how to connect with people in the way they want to be connected with. Audiences are demanding deeper relationships with the brands they use, and many brands have turned to design thinking to help them find the right solutions. Design thinking is an established methodology and point of view for creating innovation and driving real change. It’s the ability to imagine a better future and systematically execute the vision toward a specific outcome.

Some people see brand experience as the culmination of a marketing campaign, but nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is that brand experience is actually part of an ongoing process of reinvention, data gathering, and design. Brand experience is another step in the holistic design thinking that drives a brand to define itself. 

Here’s how.

It’s not about data. It’s about empathy.

The hard truth about audiences is that they don’t always know what they want, and besides, it’s not their job to tell you. They’re too busy dealing with the rest of their lives to sit down and think about new ways that your brand can benefit them.

There is currently a glut of data in the marketplace, but very few brands seem to know how to use it to improve their offerings. Design thinking tells us that merely observing your target market and collecting data isn’t enough; you have to formulate real, usable insights from that data. Insights are where you gain empathy with your customer, and that is the first step to a true connection.

A brand experience puts your brand and your audience in a room together, with a chance to have a real conversation. It’s an opportunity you don’t have in other venues or channels, and instead of staring at a set of data points, you are engaging with an actual human being, right in front of you. 

Why Brand Experience Is the Future of Marketing — Part One


Why Brand Experience Is the Future of Marketing — Part One

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You can engage all five senses

Audiences today crave a deeper, more relevant connection with brands. It’s not enough for a brand to just fill an everyday need. To succeed, a brand has to be a part of a larger story within a consumer’s life. How can we engage taste, hearing, smell, sight, and sound to stir memories or create new ones?

This is about creating moments that cannot be captured by the internet or video or photos. You literally have to be there to experience it, and therein lies the real value of face-to-face, live events. It’s about creating an environment that can’t be recreated or imitated anywhere else.

Inspiration from unexpected places

Design thinking tells us that a diversified approach is key to unlocking hidden potential. Why should marketers be the only ones capable of telling a brand’s story? Why not invite filmmakers, technologists, futurists, and musicians to participate in your strategic thinking? Shouldn’t we invite diversity into our strategic planning process? You may be surprised – some of the best ideas come from unexpected places.

Some of my favorite examples of brand experience success do not resemble your typical show or live engagement. 

Speed of innovation

One of the great things about design thinking is that it gives brands permission to fail, and failure is as important to the design process as success. To enact change on a massive scale, you have to be agile, and design thinking lets us fail fast and learn quickly. As a part of the process, debriefing allows us to take a step back, gather feedback, learn from our mistakes, and turn them into positive opportunities for the future.

The amazing thing about brand experience is that it may be the only marketing channel where you can iterate in real time. In most cases, your audience is literally standing right there, so you can get your feedback immediately and course-correct on the fly. It can take a traditional marketing channel months to gather that kind of feedback, much less implement and iterate it. That’s powerful stuff.

Design-driven outcomes

Brand experience is one of the best ways to infuse your brand strategy with design thinking. No other marketing channel offers quite the same combination of elements – empathy, multisensory engagement, diversity of inspiration, and iteration on the fly – that lead to desired outcomes for your clients.

These are the tools that help a brand truly understand its audience, and forge deeper, more meaningful connections. And in the end, it’s not about how a person fits into your brand – it’s about how your brand fits into a person’s life, filling a need they didn’t even know they had. That’s the power of design thinking and brand experience.  

For more on our global outlook, download the insights paper: Tomorrow, Today: The Future of Brand Experience

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