Designing brands for the experience era

Exploring ways for brands to participate in new customer experience ecosystems

The landscape in which brands operate has shifted dramatically in the past decade. With access to digital tools and vastly more data, brands have been able to impact audiences in unprecedented ways. Almost every month brings a new innovation. For brands to remain relevant in this dynamic era of experience and technology, simply keeping up won’t be enough.

A willingness to embrace consumer expectations – to blur the lines between selling and being of service, and to offer value – will define successful modern brands. Understanding and acting on this shift will differentiate the experiences that ultimately drive awareness and retention.

Embracing change and finding ways to participate in new ecosystems will set the tone for years to come. As an agency, VMLY&R is preparing for these changes by innovating and experimenting in several different areas.

Voice is coming into its own

When Amazon released its Alexa platform in 2014, adoption of virtual assistants was slow. Fast-forward to today, when hundreds of millions of these devices are to be found in homes, cars and public spaces.

Although the ROI on voice commerce is still uncertain, there is no doubt voice capabilities are here to stay. We can expect to see brands increasing their engagement with customers through voice experiences on smartphones, in the home or through chat experiences.

Unconventional thinking and repeated usage will be key for brands to stand out in voice technology. Natural language processing (NLP) has developed to a point where user frustration is greatly diminished, leaving an opportunity for brands to engage with people on a personal, conversational level.

Ordering online from kiosks and finding restaurant recommendations on a phone are now not only familiar actions – they have become expectations. Focusing on small details like tone and persona will win over consumers and have them coming back for more.

Augmenting reality

Brands have been experimenting with augmented reality (AR) for years, usually in campaigns and limited gaming experiences. But the time has come to fully put AR to use.

Phones and tablets are capable of driving meaningful and tactical ways of augmenting physical spaces. Brands should take notice and leverage these technologies to engage a new generation of consumers.

Features like measuring, locating, and identifying objects and places will not only drive technology adoption, but also allow users to gain confidence in the digital tools they have at hand. Brands should explore how consumers can generate ongoing benefits from these experiences.

It won’t be too long before AR headsets designed to be worn daily hit the market and finally transform what was once a silly parlour trick into a much-wanted tool. Just as the Apple Watch changed (and saved) lives, so too will AR devices.

Partnering in new frontiers

Gaming has always driven tech innovation, and platforms like Twitch and YouTube have turned the spotlight on the gaming audience – which, it turns out, is huge.

For instance, despite having built one of the largest consumer audiences in the sports world, esports are still flying under the radar of traditional sports advertising.

Brands that appeal to this diverse demographic should consider ways to engage with esports audiences across the marketing spectrum, from traditional sponsorships at events all the way to in-game activations, such as the recent Star Wars characters hitting Fortnite.

Esports athletes, teams, leagues and tournaments operate all over the world. By connecting with them, your brand can have an identity and activation that reach a critical audience while still meeting goals and telling your story.

Consumer Electronics Show

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) features hundreds of companies and startups every year that are pushing the envelope of what is possible. It’s a key indicator of the type of technologies that will be embraced by and define the next generation of users.

Exposure to the type of products and emerging tech coming out of CES can help brands anticipate future challenges and opportunities and identify ways to evaluate and explore leading-edge experiences. Successfully implementing something that has never been tried before could ultimately pay significant dividends.

There are no penalties to having ideation and discovery sessions centred on the next big thing. In many cases, this approach results in award-winning and revenue-generating products and campaigns.

Next steps

Brands looking to stand out should be open to what is possible, what is coming and what is right for their audience.

It’s never too late to think about the future and where you’ll fit in.

Ian Cahill

Futurist & Associate Director of Innovation and Mobility, VMLY&R

published on

06 January 2020



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