Event Says

3 brand experience trends for 2015

With behaviours to the fore and post-millennials demanding authenticity and relevance, experiential will be central to market strategy this year, says guest blogger Alex Smith, planning director at agency Sense. 

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There has been a shift in marketing recently. No longer can we work by identifying the latest hot platforms (Facebook, Twitter, viral videos, etc) and crafting creative to fit them – we’re now in an era where brands need to decide what they’re going to do, what behaviours are appropriate to their message, and then be confident that there will be an appropriate platform for amplifying that action. This has made brand experience central to marketing strategy – a behaviour is an action is a brand experience, and thus so much contemporary marketing has brand experience at its heart.

With that in mind, here are three brand experience trends we expect to see become more prevalent in 2015.  Think about which chime with your brand’s purpose, and how interesting your marketing could become…

1. Product launches as campaigns

So many great leaps currently occurring in marketing stem from the realisation that everything has a communications value. If a brand hires a new CEO or relocates, it says something about the brand. A new product says a hell of a lot.

Product launches aren’t usually done with a brand communication in mind, as they have a more direct business imperative. But who says you can’t start with your marketing communication – what you want to say – and launch a product with the primary purpose of saying just that?

This is exactly what CANALPLAY, the video on demand service of Canal+ did. It wanted people to think there was so much great stuff to watch on its service that the only way you could possibly do it justice would be to forgo sleep altogether. So it launched an ultra high caffeine coffee. 

This approach has the potential to expand businesses into entirely new – but strategically legitimate – markets. These new products don’t have to be just stunts, in fact they’re more effective if they aren’t. They should be taken seriously, up to the point, dare we say, of paying for themselves. The less a campaign looks like marketing, the more people will pay attention to it, and the more authenticity it will have.

Brands with rich existing customer architecture have an advantage in this space, as for them it’s as easy as tweaking their existing product experience. Pizza Hut’s unconscious menu, which “reads your mind” to select you a pizza, is one such example.

In either case, product innovations occupy a much less crowded market than traditional marketing. This imbalance is there for you to exploit.

Ask yourself this: What other things could enhance the effectiveness or enjoyment of your core product?

2. Marketing eats CSR

It’s bizarre, but marketing and CSR have always tended to sit apart. CSR being the more the intentionally less interesting cousin, devoid of marketing’s neat strategy and snazzy creative. Yet both share the goal of showing the brand in a good light. And when you consider that most brands claim to have a purpose that has a generally positive effect on the world, it shouldn’t be hard to come up with marketing initiatives that simultaneously talk about the brand in an interesting way (marketing), while also doing something worthwhile (CSR).

A famous example of the sweet spot between brand purpose and good deed is the Dulux Let’s Colour programme, where the paint giants proved its belief that a splash of colour can transform a dingy environment by engaging in charity public painting projects around the world. From favelas to sink estates, a few buckets of paint did a lot of good while making a pretty compelling point.

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Thinking beyond the campaign and marketing can take a leaf out of traditional CSR’s book by adopting an always-on operational approach, through building altruistic functionality into the heart of your brand.

Ultimately, if you’re spending all this money anyway, you might as well do something worthwhile with it – from the brand’s point of view, as well as the world’s.

Ask yourself this: What does your brand bring to the table that is genuinely good for the world?

3. Brand Piggybacking

This could also be called brand collaborations of course, but piggy backing is often more appropriate as it tends to feature one party riding on the expansive infrastructure of another.Uber have led the charge as “the pig” with a constant stream of collaborations, such as their Uberlibre promotion in association with Bacardi. It was pretty much as simple as using its app to request delivery of a mixologist in one of its cars to whip you up a Cuba Libre wherever you happened to be. Simple, but bizarre enough to warrant great exposure for both companies.

Uber is archetypal of a growing number of “real world platform” brands, that facilitate massive, but tangible communities. This marks a giant leap forward for brand experience, because formerly such giant platforms were only intangible, online entities such as Facebook, with fundamentally limited possibilities. But now through the likes of Uber, Airbnb and the new economy they’re spearheading, brands have the opportunity to collaborate in very specific, tactile and helpful ways.

What might have once been called “product placement” is now becoming more subtle and sophisticated. Instead of just trying to get products in front of people, more care is being taken to identify the ideal contexts that allow people to experience brands in just the right way.

The result is the perfect brand fulfilling the perfect role, for the benefits of all parties concerned – it makes you wonder why almost everything around isn’t the product of a crafty brand partnership.

Ask yourself this: Where does your product really belong, and who owns that space?