Branded Experiences: An Introduction

A coffee can of post-its sits on my desk, and it fills as fast as my current can empties. To be creative, one must listen. Lines at the bar, young lads on the dance floor getting shot down like fighter planes and taking back off again for a shot at another target. It wasn’t their fault; the dance floor was too large, and the ladies felt isolated and out of their comfort-zone. The environment was not conducive to that physical contact and close-conversation intimacy for the guys to last longer than a few lines of small talk.

When asked at a leadership conference how best to lead productive conversation, one college senior said ‘smaller tables.’ “He gets it,” I thought. Not that I get it. Not all of it, anyway. But smaller tables create more intimate conversations and a feeling of togetherness. Baristas and bartenders face their customers during their mixology at every chance they get in hopes to foster a relationship, a “customer experience.” A similar effect can be found in the mood of a meeting can be determined not by its content, but by whether the constituents sit side by side or across from each other. We share coffee across small tables, yet we eat meals across tables that feel like the Grand Canyon. Who knew six inches could be the difference between your conversation’s life and death?

We share beers side by side while sitting at the bar. Maybe that’s why drinkers make friends at bars so quick. Maybe.

I think we can all be a listener of sound, of structure, of human interaction if we choose to. Why not turn what you hear to solve problems. The sole purpose of a brand, of business, is to solve a problem. To provide a solution. How you solve the problem is the fun part.

The problem I think most brands have is most of them stop solving their customers’ problems after the first problem is solved. They create a product that solves a problem, the problem, and they stop. But these same customers continue to have problems. They wake up and their jeans don’t fit. They get stuck in traffic. They get dumped. They get lonely. They feel useless, they feel the same as everyone else, they feel left out. They die. And they fear dying.

So why stop with just creating a windshield wiper that cleans the windshield when there’s road rage, unforgiving parking meters, and inconveniencing weather? Why stop inside a gym’s four walls when there’s twenty times more people wasting away outside them? Why stop with bike locks when there’s nowhere for cyclists to stash all their stuff before a night on the town? And why stop with jackets and gloves when people still freeze their faces off outside?

Branded experiences can reiterate the feeling you receive from using a brand’s product more times than when the product is used. A Thule bike lock gives the parked rider peace of mind. So does a bike pod storage bin. Not only is it additional brand recognition, but that brand helped their target audience in an additional way. The brand did them a favor. And usually, people return favors.

Especially ever-green favors. I understand event-marketing. Sometimes I love it. The Indy 500, the Final Four convention center, the Budweiser Made In America Tour, the Outside Lands concert festival booths all were a blast and I willingly participated in their experience (I can’t say some of it wasn’t for research, but they were worth it). But while the memories remain, most of those five and six figure experiences last a few days, and they provide sometimes a much needed form of excitement. I think brands need to create experiences with a longer lifespan that are woven into society. Similar to Leo Burnett’s community art museum or the Duracell bus stop. Longer lasting, more meaningful branded experiences that solve an audience & community problem.

In the days of social media and digital interaction, we crave physical communication. Branded experiences offer the opportunity to create grounds for human-to-human connection. They address those psychological needs like fitting in and being appreciated for who you are. And with enough experiences, they create a snowball effect that eventually births social change.

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