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Beaming – the next frontier

Duane Holland, founder and creative strategy director at DH Ready, discusses what ‘beaming’ actually is and why event profs need to know about it.

Picture this scene. A man in a tight yellow top talking into his wristwatch to another man with extremely pointed ears, a half frown and an equally tight top, this time in blue. You then hear the infamous words “Beam me up Scotty”. I’m sure we all know this to be from cult TV series Star Trek.

Now picture yourself in 15 years’ time doing exactly the same thing, but in your own living room. This was the vision of a pioneering project appropriately called Beaming, where a number of world-class R+D institutions and universities came together to explore the idea of ‘telepresence’ and test the waters for how this could become a future reality.

The topic was discussed as part of an academic study called Agency 2030 in collaboration between UCL and DH Ready, a cross-discipline creative consultancy. One of the speakers was Professor Anthony Steed (Virtual Environments and Computer Graphics at UCL) who provided a background on the beaming project and provoked new conversations about how this could reinvent brand experiences as we know it.

What is beaming?

Beaming was a four-year European Commission funded collaborative project ending in 2014. Undertaken to research the area of teleportation, the project was successful in transporting individuals from Barcelona to London, by combining a number of cutting-edge emerging technologies and scientific methods including robotics, haptics, VR, AR, neuroscience, depth-sensing technologies, 360-degree cameras and computer graphics.

In beaming, unlike the virtual worlds of advanced video conferencing, shared virtual environments and gaming such as Second Life, the robot or avatar interacts with real people in a real place in real-time. Steed said: “For the first time beaming will give people a real sense of physically being in a remote location with other people, and vice versa – without actually travelling.”

Changing the face of brand experiences

Interactive, immersive and sensory experiences aren’t anything new in branded events, but beaming offers a revolution to take this to a higher level with brands and products being brought to life, sampled and experienced in mixed-reality worlds. Imagine brand ambassadors based in London being able to physically connect with people in New York in real-time.

There are early signs that this is already happening with ‘mini beam’ case examples in the automobile industry with McLaren’s elite VR systems and Mercedes’ ‘virtual showrooms’, to the leisure and entertainment worlds with Marriott Hotels’ ‘Magic of Miles’ teleporter hubs – a 4D virtual travel experience allowing people to leap from one holiday destination to another using Oculus Rift.

Beaming is no longer pure science fiction – it’s next. Is it time your brand became tomorrow ready, today?

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Duane Holland, founder and creative strategy director at DH Ready

CES 2016 – the innovations that will enhance experiential brand activity

Alex Groom, comms specialist at Havas SE Cake reports on the innovations at CES 2016 that are likely to have a positive impact on experiential activity.

By now the bright lights of Las Vegas will just about have stopped flickering from all of the electricity sapped by this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and attendees will be back at their desks, excited minds buzzing with the potential of everything from drones to wireless charging.

But from the wealth of new tech that has been on show, what’s going to influence how we plan and activate experiences for our clients? As brand marketers, we’re not too fussed about the thickness of a laptop or whether you can make the world’s largest TV screen. What we’re looking for are the technologies that will change how consumers interact with the world and how brands that we work with can make the most of them to tell their story.

Here are just a few of the innovations that we think could change and enhance experiential events over the course of the next 12 months.

360 video

Branded video. Currently the staple method of regular and entertaining interaction with people who like your brand. But the same questions remain – “how long will this take to make and how much will it cost me?” Our client Sony Mobile has a solution for this. They were at CES to show off the first 360 video shot on a Sony Xperia smartphone, which we co-created with them just before Christmas. This is proof that you don’t need an advanced camera with a five-figure price tag to create engaging content, just a bit of courage to point, shoot and let the world see what you’ve made.

360 video allows the viewer to move around in 360-degrees, rather than being tied to a fixed shot. Instead of showcasing an upcoming event or experience with a standard promo video tour, why not let the viewer explore the event space on their own terms? Something we’re going to be working on later this year.

Virtual becomes a reality

There’s much talk of virtual reality and once again it had a big presence at CES, with the first pre-ordered Oculus Rift devices set to arrive in homes in the next couple of months. While VR first came to the fore with a big gaming focus, there are now endless possible applications across industries from retail and travel to sports and entertainment.

Last year, FC Porto was the first football club to broadcast a match in virtual reality, Alton Towers has this week announced the world’s first virtual reality rollercoaster (due this year), and there are companies streaming concerts in VR. These events tend to be one-offs and feel like test runs, but the virtual space could be about to change on a mass scale.

vTime is the first virtual reality social network where friends and family will be able to gather in virtual spaces no matter where they are in the world; all you need is a mobile and a headset.

Naturally, users are going to want to keep brands at arm’s length in these spaces at first, but what if branded environments could lead to offline rewards and redemptions in the real world?

This is a concept Universal Music is already exploring via its recently announced partnership with iHeartRadio, with plans afoot to stream four live concerts this year to those lucky soon-to-be Oculus Rift headset owners. For brands, there will be huge opportunities for prominent sponsorship of these virtual events – not to mention the inevitable ad breaks. In what will be such a personal experience, it’s all about the added value a brand can bring, rather than ‘we’re here because we can be/can afford it’.

Get strapped in

The wearables market has rolled along for the last couple of years, with mixed success. We all remember those brave souls who were first to venture out into public with Google Glass strapped to their face; but wearable tech has already come a long way. Watches, wristbands and even bras can now contain a wealth of technology that offers additional functionality as well as a steady stream of consumer data for marketers to use.

Brands should consider how wearable tech can benefit the consumer experience – whether that’s a more useful wristband for festival-goers or better contextual data capture that can be used to enhance and personalise an event. Coin, the mobile payment software is a brand that caught our eye at CES. They’ve partnered with Mastercard to implement their payment functionality into fitness trackers. Gradually, those ever so slightly clunky wrist wearables are becoming a one stop shop for personal health, finances and much more.

2016 will no doubt be another exciting year for brands with a few new technological toys to play with. While it’s easy to get bogged down in gimmicks that fail to genuinely add anything for the end consumer – and there are plenty of those – marketers can use technology to augment experiential campaigns in ways we could only have dreamed about just a few years ago.

Those brands that can strike a balance between exciting, tech-driven experiences and adding real value to consumers’ lives will win out.

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Five favourite brand experiences at CES 2016

Lauren Walder, senior account manager at brand experience agency 2Heads, reveals her favourite brand experiences at CES 2016.

It’s been a fast start to 2016 with a trip to CES in Las Vegas, one of the world’s biggest tech shows attracting a huge audience of 170,000 visitors and many of the world’s top consumer brands. After a busy few days supporting exhibiting clients, I had a chance to explore the show – here are some of my favourite finds:

ZTE

Chinese telecoms giant ZTE attracted huge audiences to its Centre Court Experience – treating visitors to basketball player appearances and a free throw competition running every day. Leveraging their sponsorship of five NBA teams, ZTE had visitors flocking to take selfies with the NBA legends, sharing images via a special ZTE at CES Facebook page as well as other social channels.

As well as launching a series of new handsets, ZTE also used CES to announce its #ZCommunity – an online platform inviting consumers to share their wish-list of features for future devices – making it the first phone company to fan-source next generation design. With the ZTE Experience Truck parked outside the Las Vegas Convention Centre as part of a nationwide promotional tour, ZTE has clearly made a substantial investment in the event.

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Nikon

Nikon prides itself on educating and inspiring photographers of all levels by offering photography classes and workshops in many locations, so not surprisingly its CES visitor experience was the Nikon School Theatre. Here, Nikon Ambassadors – leading experts in a range of photographic fields – shared valuable techniques while demonstrating the benefits of the latest cameras. This educational experience tied in beautifully with the company’s ‘I Am Nikon’ slogan.

One of my favourite sessions saw fashion and advertising photographer Dixie Dixon presenting ‘The Art and Soul of Fashion Photography’ – featuring the newly-unveiled Nikon D5. National Geographic photographer Keith Ladzinski also ran a session demonstrating the new D500’s attributes, while adventure and action photographer Corey Rich presented a video, ‘Inspired’, showing images shot exclusively with the Nikon D5. The experience of these professionals putting the new equipment through its paces really seemed to bring their expertise within reach of the rest of us ordinary mortals.

Canon

Visitors were wowed by examples of the latest screen and video technology, and my favourite was the Canon 8K Ride Experience, which harnessed ultra high-resolution video to simulate a physical experience. We were shown a two-minute video projected onto three screens. The main central screen directly facing the audience displayed precision definition, while the screens on either side of it showed a blurred image to give the impression of depth. The video, shot in the Czech Republic using a Canon prototype 8K camera, took the audience into a forest and then through the streets of a big city.

Whilst the need for 8K may be disputed, the content was great. The emotion in the music, the various scenes throughout the film had been given a huge amount of thought. You could feel an inhalation as the train moved along the track towards its oncoming destination. And although the scenes depicted images from everyday life, they had been beautifully shot to show stunning landscapes and architecture at its best.

Canon 8K Ride Experience

Audi

All the major automotive brands  – BMW, Ford, Chevrolet, Toyota and first time exhibitor Kia – showcased innovations at CES but it was Audi that ranked as my favourite. Their experience showed off three big trends – autonomous vehicles, IoT connectivity and virtual reality.

It demonstrated the ‘connected car’ of the future, showing a new version of the computer than runs its impressive self-driving cars. In addition to a virtual reality car configuration system and new lighting tech, visitors saw the Audi Fit Driver – a system that uses wearable technology to monitor how stressed or tired the driver is at any time. The car then adjusts elements such as lighting and heating to enhance the driver experience.

Needless to say, virtual reality experiences abounded at CES – from the Google Cardboard to the Oculus Rift. Queues snaked all around the huge Oculus stand; visitor interest no doubt fuelled by the fact that a consumer version of the Oculus Rift goes on sale this year. VR experiences ranged from underwater vistas to the Toybox, which presented a virtual sandbox. This game allows two players to interact simultaneously with a variety of different toys. Moving beyond entertainment, VR experiences are now being developed for a host of applications: one company, Vivid Vision, has developed a VR game using Oculus Rift to treat people suffering from impaired vision.

Sony had a major presence at the Show, promoting its new VR PlayStation. Another major player, Taiwanese tech firm HTC, premiered the Vive headset, which merges the physical with the virtual by incorporating a front-facing camera allowing the wearer to make out surrounding objects and avoid collision.

Drones

An overhead experience in their own right, drones were everywhere at CES this year. Whilst they have been around for a while, they were so prominent at the event that it’s impossible not to mention them. We saw more sensitive and intelligent models than ever before, appearing in all shapes and sizes; many demonstrating their incredible video and photographic skills.

So, reeling from our exposure to games consoles for pets, flexible OLED screens and headsets designed to stimulate hair growth, we’re suitably primed for the Mobile World Congress, taking place in Barcelona in just six weeks’ time.

2016 – the year the event and tech worlds collide

2016 is set to be the year when the events world fully embraces everything that technology has to offer, says Richard Dodgson, founder & creative director at Timebased Events.

Brands can see the link between the use of technology and engagement with the consumer – from the use of mobile apps and everyday tech we know and love, to multi-sensory experiences and virtual reality. The idea is to improve efficiency, enhance the experience for the guest and engage them, not just to meet their needs but to surpass their expectations like never before.

Additionally, the increased prominence of tech-specific events is revolutionising our industry as we know it, with CES in Las Vegas and TechCrunch Disrupt being two of the most well-respected and popular out there. These events have become well known for showcasing the most innovative startups and attracting big names – everything from the DVD, to Microsoft’s Xbox and 3D TVs were first shown at CES.

Mobile apps

Apps are sure to play a major part in events throughout 2016. They add both another dimension to the user experience (via Periscope, for example) and also allow brands to communicate with their target consumers before, during, and after an event. Fashion and retail brands have been quick to embrace the rise of what’s been dubbed as ‘crowd-streaming’ and have already effectively utilised mobile apps to enhance their events.

H&M, for example, unveiled its new H&M x Balmain collection in New York in October, which was streamed in its entirety on Periscope. A number of designers adopted a similar approach at the most recent London Fashion Week, effectively expanding the reach of premium, exclusive brands and pushing towards something altogether more accessible. We’re sure to see much more of this method this year as more brands jump on board.

Convenience tech

The innovations we rely on every day, without even thinking about it, also have an impact on the quality of a brand’s offering and will continue to revolutionise live events this year. Advances in near field communication and cashless technology – such as Apple Pay and Samsung Pay – via smartphone or wristband, mean that the nightmare of long, winding queues for entry or payment at kiosks, bars, and even in-event merchandise stalls could rapidly become a thing of the past.

Last year we saw festivals like the Electric Daisy Carnival adopting cashless payment systems and we expect more events to exploit this technology, improving the efficiency of their services and creating an enhanced consumer experience.

Multi-sensory experiences

In October 2015 it was reported by CWT Meetings & Events that 78% of event professionals believe events that appeal to multiple senses deliver more memorable and creative experiences. 2016 may be the year that brands finally fully embrace multi-sensory experiences in order to deliver unforgettable events for those in attendance.

In essence, all events are multi-sensory experiences, but those that successfully bring to life all five senses make for truly special occasions. The use of social media during events allows brands to immerse their audience in the experience and create a real buzz. Twitter and Instagram have become the norm, and by providing platforms for hashtags, connections and live streaming, they allow brands to engage their audience on the technology it uses the most.

Virtual Reality

Last year we witnessed the rapid growth of virtual reality and this is set to continue this year. It’s almost as if virtual reality was built specifically for events. The two complement each other perfectly, with the ability to reach a remote audience or take someone to an altogether different world, or attend an event while sitting in their living room. Oculus Rift took the lead last year when they brought an audience closer to the action with a live-streamed Paul McCartney gig – those watching found themselves next to him on stage.

The connection between brands and consumers is more important that ever and the integration of technology in events is offering more and more opportunities to engage and fully immerse an audience. Last year we saw brands embrace the latest technology and adapt to a changing world of innovations, and this is set to continue throughout 2016, thanks to a continuous stream of developments that will revolutionise the industry once more.

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Richard Dodgson is founder and creative director at Timebased Events.

Why experiential events will be a popular choice in 2016

As brands fight it out for a piece of the spotlight the role of experiential is only set to increase, predicts Phil Boas, director of brand engagement at Paragon.

Advertising and branding have become so omnipresent and intrusive in recent years that they have started to turn into background noise and no longer cut through to the consumers they’re intended to reach. Brands are fighting for an increasingly overcrowded spot in an ever more fragmented market place, and that’s just one reason why experiential marketing and events look set to be ever more popular in the next 12 months.

The key to experiential marketing is that it creates individual experiences for consumers or would-be consumers which reach would be well beyond the impact of printed, broadcast or online copy. A recent study done by the Event Marketing Institute and Mosaic showed that respondents were 96% more likely to purchase a product after participating in a live branded event and 74% will have a more positive impression of your brand.

There is also, it should be pointed out, a crossover between experiential marketing and more traditional forms, in as much as a brand can create an experience for a specific group of people, and then use the reaction of said group as the basis for further content. If the content created appears to be, and is regarded as being, genuinely ‘experiential’, then it will impact with viewers in a way which traditional scripted talking heads can’t hope to replicate.

The cost of experiential marketing has been seen as expensive when compared to more traditional marketing. Speaking of spend, the idea that experiential marketing represents the more costly end of the spectrum is one which is only true if the right amount of imagination and thought is not applied.

However, experiential marketing doesn’t have to use high cost/high tech to be successful – sometimes the simplest ideas are the ones that consumers love and engage with the most, as was the case when the Essex branch of Ikea organised a sleepover for 100 people in response to the Facebook group ‘I wanna have a sleepover in Ikea’.

It is also important to mention that even with the surge of augmented and virtual reality, not only will individuals be able to re-live the experience via any digital record, social media will also offer the perfect platform for sharing the excitement and details of the experience, garnering the kind of individual customer advocacy that traditional marketing spend simply can’t buy.

The key to making sure that your experiential marketing works, in fact for any marketing campaign to work, is that you have a fully integrated strategy across all of your marketing channels that are focused on the same core objectives and the same overarching brand strategy. It allows your audience to really engage with and understand your brand.

2015 was a great year for experiential campaigns, and as brands struggle to stand out above the noise companies will continue to look for innovative ways for customers to take notice, and bigger, bolder events will be at the top of the list.

Read Boas’ previous blog on Why experiential marketing will boost your brand engagement‘.

Blog: Taking brands into the realm of the senses

Creating more sensory experiences can give brands stronger personalities and deepen engagement with consumers, says Ian Priestman, head of experiential at Blackjack Promotions.

“Galleries are overwhelmingly visual. But people are not – the brain understands the world by combining what it receives from all five senses. So can taste, touch, smell and sound change the way we ‘see’ art?”

That was the question that prompted the creation and launch of the Tate Sensorium – an award-winning small but beautifully formed installation, carried out by Tate Britain, that has received great reviews and proved so popular that it was extended until October this year.

It featured four famous paintings, but rather than simply letting visitors view them, it built a sensory experience around each one encompassing smell, taste and touch inspired by the art. The result was a far more immersive experience than you would get in any traditional gallery. This enabled people to make a deeper connection with the paintings and get a better understanding of each one.

Marketing and advertising also remains essentially a visual medium. Yet for a profession that places a high value on developing brand personalities to create a key point of difference in the marketplace, many tend to be rather two dimensional. However, taking them out into the real world by developing an experience that reflects the brand’s vision and values, and more importantly doing this through live interaction with consumers, delivers a far more sensory, three-dimensional impact, resulting in greater immersion, just like the Tate Sensorium.

The dare game Jelly Belly Beanboozled, cleverly created by the famous sweet brand, has become a YouTube sensation. The challenge invites customers to try their luck by spinning a spinner and having to eat the jelly bean on which the pointer lands, which could either be a regular version or a gross-tasting bean – kind of sweetie Russian Roulette.

Yet the idea truly came to life through a series of live events developed around the challenge. Being able to taste, smell and touch the sweets, while actually living the fun personality of the brand, created a much more intense experience than simply watching a video. The colourful mass-participation events themselves also made for more interesting video watching through social media, extending the fun far beyond the walls of the event.

What is particularly interesting about the Tate Sensorium from a marketing perspective is the technology used to heighten the art experiences, which brands could potentially borrow.

Visitors were not able to touch the expensive paintings on show, so touchless haptic technology was used to simulate this. Using focused ultrasound from an array of speakers that vibrated on people’s hands, it created the sensation of touch without the need to wear gloves or special equipment.

With respect to taste, an edible product was specially developed that stimulated a haptic taste experience in response to the textural qualities and meaning of the art. Such technology could mean that consumers could literally ‘taste’ a non-edible brand.

Meanwhile, a selection of perfumers created bespoke fragrances to reflect each painting, a technique that could be used to develop specific brand smells to strengthen a brand’s personality.

Finally, wearable devices assessed visitors’ reactions to each art experience. Calculating electrodermal activity (a measure of perspiration), it was possible to tell how calm or excited wearers were. So brands could even measure the direct effects of their live experiences on consumers, without any need for a questionnaire.

There is no substitute for being able to see, touch, feel and generally interact with a product – to ‘try before you buy’. It is precisely this kind of immersion marketing that creates a bond between brand and buyer, builds loyalty and keeps them coming back for more.

By marrying the latest technology with a well crafted live experience, brands can develop stronger personalities and engage more deeply with their customers. So taste, touch, smell and sound can change the way we ‘see’ brands as well as art.

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Ian Priestman is head of experiential at Blackjack Promotions

Embodied brand experiences – the new frontier

Lewis Robbins, senior associate strategist at Jack Morton Worldwide discusses the importance of physical experiences, and how they are deeply bound up with how we think, feel and behave.

Picture the scene… you’re at a party and someone walks up to you, whitened teeth gleaming and extends a hand.

“Hi. My name’s Clive. And my three personality pillars are honesty, integrity, and respect.”

What would you make of Clive? Does he seem like a stand-up guy? Or an unhinged sociopath? Yet weirdly, this is how many brands try to connect with people. By telling us what their values are, instead of making them implicit through how they behave – just one symptom of the gap between marketing and real life.

Effective brand experiences close this gap by empathising with people and understanding their needs by creating unique and memorable experiences, and by facilitating a discussion, rather than a one-way broadcast. This much we know – and it’s why brand experience is so critical to successful marketing today.

But amongst all of this, there’s one element that’s often overlooked. And it’s the reason why brand experience is better placed than any other medium today when it comes to communicating values on an intuitive level. It’s a simple, yet fundamental truth: we don’t just think with our brains, we think with our bodies.

To explain, let’s return to our friend Clive. He’s still standing there, hand outstretched, beginning to feel a little awkward. Let’s give him a second chance. Stretch out your own hand in turn, and imagine what Clive’s handshake is like. Perhaps it’s like a ‘wet fish’, or bone-crunchingly firm…or even surprisingly normal. Whichever it is, this contact carries meaning at an unconscious level. From his handshake, you might make a judgement about his character – whether he’s weak, overbearing, or might actually be OK.

In short, our physical experiences in the world are deeply bound up with how we think, feel and behave. This may seem obvious – but it actually runs counter to thousands of years of Western philosophy (which has traditionally divided the mind and body), and is a driving idea in a relatively new area of cognitive science, called ’embodied cognition’.

This emphasis on the body represents a new frontier for marketing and brand experience is particularly well–positioned to make use of its findings.

Our everyday lives are filled with examples of ‘embodied metaphors’ – physical experiences that act as a vehicle for meaning. They are blindingly obvious, yet often hidden in plain sight. For example an experiment showed that people holding a warm cup of coffee are more likely to use ‘warm’ language to describe another person’s character. Physical warmth primes emotional warmth – a connection that usually begins when we are very small, when we are held by our parents and ‘bind’ their bodily warmth to feelings of comfort, love and security.

Another experiment showed that being primed with rough surfaces can make people perceive ensuing tasks to be more adversarial or difficult (think of ‘I had a rough day’ vs. everything going ‘smoothly’). And if you present people with a CV on a weighted clipboard, they’ll perceive that person as being more competent (they’ll literally give more ‘weight’ to it).

The closer you look, the more these embodied metaphors appear. In many ways, meaning begins with the body. As Guy Claxton puts it in his excellent book ‘Intelligence in the Flesh’, ‘the sensory motor part of the brain provided the original platform for the development of more abstract cognition and comprehension, and continues to do so throughout life…we make sense of the world, even when it is rather abstract, by getting ready to act on it or interact with it’. For brands, this means that if we want to express something emotionally, a good place to start is to think about how an experience ‘feels’ physically.

Many ‘traditional’ mediums are undergoing an immersive, multisensory re-invention that places greater emphasis on an embodied experience. Pioneering work by Punchdrunk has helped make the theatre physical. And exhibitions like Soundscapes (at the National Gallery) and the Tate Sensorium aim to heighten our experience of art through birdsong, ultrasonic projection, ash-flavoured chocolate and more. Beyond that, there are beautiful, eloquent examples of architecture that become spatial metaphors for emotion and meaning. The Jewish Museum in Berlin is one such example, with its uneven floors, void spaces, a heavy door opening into a dark, cold tower with concrete walls, illuminated at its peak by a thin slither of daylight.

All of this adds up to a powerful opportunity for us to communicate with people on a deeper level. But first we have to overcome the perception that multisensory marketing is too daunting, too complex. In the multisensory events survey recently reported in Event, many said they feel unsure how to approach creating sensory-led events or feel restricted by budget and time. But often the devil is in the detail – the smallest of touches (sometimes quite literally) can make the biggest difference, as it’s in these intimate textures and details that the ‘sense’ of a brand can be rooted and conveyed. From the very big, to the very small, we can ‘map’ a brand’s abstract values to physical materials and concrete experiences.

This kind of approach to marketing – bringing people to their senses, creating something they can feel, something they want – is key to closing that gap between marketing (itself a strange and outdated term) and real life.

What a great time to be in it.

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Lewis Robbins is a senior associate strategist at Jack Morton Worldwide.

Building ‘real world’ digital brand experiences

Andrew Stothert from Brand Vista discusses how brands can maximise the positive effect of a ‘real world’ brand experience in a way that’s impossible to match with a purely digital approach.

The most powerful experiences are fundamentally based on a unique and differentiating brand at their core. In the world we live in, consumers see brands as total entities, not separate channel manifestations, therefore it is important that both ‘real world’ and digital experiences are aligned.

What powerful ‘real world’ brand experiences offer a result that is impossible to simulate?

The mantra we chant is that the truth is always in the product. Powerful real world experiences are critical to connecting with customer’s feelings, but they don’t exist in a vacuum – they need to extend into the digital space. Experiences can’t transcend this barrier unless the brand truly understands its customers, what they feel, and what other choices they have.

There is only one Glastonbury, Epsom Derby, or Wimbledon. These brands have grown through reinventing themselves whilst staying true to their core brand. In these cases the brand is the experience, and the experience is the brand, but theproduct is the key to the uniquely differentiating position they own.

We have all seen and no doubt experienced the pop-up world of brand experiences, be they from Mini or Magnum, but often these seem like glorified sampling exercises. In contrast, Lidl’s pop-up restaurant and the ads that surrounded it brilliantly blended their customer journey. It challenged perceptions of quality and drove recruitment to stores. However, if the stores hadn’t delivered the promise, then the whole thing would have been an abject waste of money. Quite clearly it works; it takes only one look at their customer acquisition and financial outcomes to see this.

American Express Unstaged is another brilliant blend of customer insight totally aligned to the needs of the business. Its focus is about retention through adding value way beyond the transactional relationship with its customers. This is very difficult to replicate because it is based on how they make their customer feel.

The discipline of brand experience continues to develop and evolve as brands seek to connect on deeper and richer levels with their consumers, in order to drive loyalty, repeat purchase, recommendation and social media presence. Still, we must not miss the point that each experience sits in an environment where consumers see a whole brand and not just the individual flashes of brilliance.

The truly unique and protected brand experiences focus on the short term hit and the longer prize – how each and every interaction makes their consumers feel. Getting this right means interrupting them in ways that build on an overall feeling about their brand, not just a one-off moment.

How can you maximise the effect of experiential marketing in a way that is overlooked by ‘digital-first’ thinkers?  

Experience is king in today’s world of brand building. The challenge for most companies is not just how to create amazing one-off brand experiences and magic moments but how to deliver the basics brilliantly. We can create the most amazing digital-first experiences that then collapse because they are not aligned to the operational side of the business.

Bringing cross functional teams together to deliver and support the experiential marketing efforts of the brand can turn on-off interruptions into aligned brand building activity.

Having a clear picture of the overall customer journey into which the brand experiences are going to be placed is critical. It allows any activity to be part of the synergistic development of the brand, from the perspective of the customer.

There is a real truth in the value of putting yourself in your customers’ shoes. They don’t see the difference between the various departments within an organisation, nor do they care about them. They simply want an experience that is consistent and appealing wherever and whenever they collide with the brand and everything that sits behind it.

What consumers see is either a seamlessly aligned experience that aligns with everything they know about the brand, even sometimes challenges perceptions, or they see a disparate and dysfunctional series of tactical stunts that will eventually be outdone by someone else.

The upside is that getting this right creates a conversation with the customers they recognise and are excited by.

The key to brilliant brand event experiences is not just creating magic brand moments but also doing the basics brilliantly. If consumers judge brands by what they do, and not what they say, then you can have the best brand ‘wow’ moment in the world – but if the loos don’t work, all your hard work is undone.

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Andrew Stothert is chief executive and a founding partner of Brand Vista.

The creation of emotional advantages

Jaron Wikler, development director at AddingValue discusses how experiential can be used to create emotional advantages.

“Daddy; please read me a long copy advert before bedtime,”….. asked no child ever. That’s because children want a story; stories that allow them to relate, stories that make sense, clarify their confused world and elicit an emotion. The big bad wolf is scary, Cinderella has a rags-to-riches happy ending and the bears in Goldilocks are greedy.

The marketing bubble used to refer to this as the not-so-creatively-named ‘Story-telling’ concept. It was all the rage a few years ago and there are a lot of agencies out there who still sell this concept as the latest trend. But a really good communications agency understands that story-telling by itself is not the destination – it is the vehicle. The real destination is the arousal of emotions in consumers.

Just like the aforementioned children, consumers want to relate to a brand, to get a sense that they will be looked after and that there is always a happy ending. It’s no secret that brands want to sell their products – and by the way, there is nothing wrong with that. We are all selling something, sometimes, and conversely we are all buying something, sometimes.

For a brand, inspiring and engaging consumer emotions are powerful tools because when engaged properly, emotions will turn non-users into users, light users into heavy users, heavy users into brand advocates and brand advocates will influence non-users, thereby starting the cycle all over again; and that’s even more powerful.

Emotions have to be created credibly

However, it’s not just enough to want to create emotions, it has to be done credibly, wrapped up in a story that will resonate, be attractive but with a purpose for the brand and a positive take-out for the consumer. Which media platform can deliver all that? Only experiential marketing.

However people get bogged down with trying to define the term ‘experiential’ too often and at worst they think its grubby, immeasurable, not ‘sexy’ – the dirty end of the industry. The truth is that it doesn’t really matter how you describe it; the only thing that really matters are the results it can achieve and that it can be accurately measured – if done correctly.  

Experiential marketing directly engages consumers and encourages them to participate with the brand, product or service; to touch it, to feel it, to sense it and to play with it. If done well then the consumer will walk away with a positive view of that brand, product or service, and they will tell their friends about it too.

Rather than looking at consumers as passive receivers of messages, engagement marketers believe that consumers should be actively involved in developing a relationship with the brand, a relationship that is built on a positive experience, or to put it another way: creating emotional advantages.

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Jaron Wikler is development director at AddingValue.

A view from the Middle East

Adrian Bell, executive director of Dubai-based brand experience and event agency Action Impact discusses the latest experiential brand marketing trends in the Middle East.

It’s no secret that the ripples of industry trends, here in the Middle East, can lag a little behind those of more mature markets in Europe. Much of what was the latest and greatest thinking at the end of last year is only just hitting the shores here. But importantly, that adoption gap is ever-reducing as the momentum and sheer speed that places like Dubai move at is breathtaking.

Here are a few important shifts that we’re seeing:

Measure the experience

With ever-intelligent sales analysis techniques, Middle East marketing budgets are being scrutinised by the bean-counters more than ever before. Activations are under pressure to extend the dialogue with consumers beyond just the event and wherever possible (and relevant) culminate in a real driver to the point of sale. If the objective is not to directly increase sales, then tangible metrics need to be considered from the outset so that a return can be clearly conveyed to the client.

It’s got to go viral

A growing trend in late 2014/early 2015 in the Middle East is the demand from brands to ‘go viral’ online. And yes, that all-too-familiar response from local agencies of “Er, yup, it doesn’t quite work like that…” can be found everywhere.

That said, as more and more brands achieve incredible view rates around the world on sites like YouTube, we are seeing a pattern for what it takes to go viral – and at the core is more often than not an original (and genuinely authentic) experiential idea.

Digital not for digital’s sake

We’re starting to hear the expression “if you didn’t post anything on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram, it didn’t happen” more than ever before. Increasingly in 2015, if your experiential campaign isn’t also generating conversation on social networks then you have simply failed to make a memorable impression on the consumer.

Adding the mechanics that drive social media may be a bolt on to campaigns – this is better than nothing at all. However, the best campaigns will be those that consider the power of social media from the outset and allow it to shape the concept.

Mobile event apps are becoming the norm

Once regarded as gimmicks of questionable value, mobile event apps are starting to come of age. The evolution is supported by the Middle East’s high rates of smartphone penetration, coupled with its outstanding mobile data speeds, where 4G is completely normal. Event planners are finally beginning to understand how a well-designed event app can be integrated into the event experience to significantly improve audience engagement.

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Adrian Bell is executive director at Action Impact.