As digital media and AI become more sophisticated and ROI expectations
on the marketing mix greater than ever, just what is the future of brands in
the ‘experience economy’?
These questions were explored on Thursday morning by our panel,
- Jess Hargreaves, Managing Director, Pretty Green
and Chair of the IPM’s Experiential Council
- Simon Levitt, Global Creative Technology
- Bonnie Richardson, Head of Product, Foresight
- Dan Chapman, Managing Director, Products –
Solutions, Havas Media Group
The panellists explored the how online and live experiences can work
harmoniously together, as well as considering whether digital-led activation
signals the decline of brand experience campaigns. Our panellists provided some
thought-provoking insights from a number of differing perspectives.
The notes below presents an overview of the discussion from four
different points of view – those of our expert panellists.
Jess Hargreaves’ argument centred on the fact that experiences should
be all about a personal, face-to-face interaction with a brand. Technology
shouldn’t be the focus as this can take away the human element that people are
Jess argued that it’s important for brands to place their focus in
delivering a deep experience and creating a memorable moment – these are the
things people are the most interested in. We want to travel, we want to go to
yoga classes and we will keep talking about these kind of valuable, human
experiences long after they’ve finished. People are far less likely, however,
to talk about particular piece of technology, especially if the reason for it
being there is unclear.
felt that brands should see themselves as ‘servants’ to consumers, aiming to
serve them up something they really want. Brands should consider what they are
going to deliver their consumers and how it will improve their lives. Jess
argued that emotion is fundamental to successful experiential campaigns and has
been proven to drive sales, even in times of recession. Brand experiences tend
to work well because they are highly emotional due to the face-to-face element
and the added value they offer consumers.
Jess believes that ultimately, people are really open to brand
experience – we will continue to live in an ‘experience economy’. A lot of the
time, brands want to include the latest technology, without putting proper
thought into whether it will fit with the brand content and style and suggested
that sometimes it makes sense for a digital element in an experience, but it
needs to be right for the particular brand. For example, to deliver greater
Jess stated that digital can definitely boost the power of experiential by
amplifying the word-of-mouth element. Whereas 1% of people will attend the
experience and 9% will actively engage with content from the experience, 90%
will see the experience & hear about it online.
Bonnie argued that seamlessness between the digital realm and live brand
experiences can be achieved, yet it is incredibly hard to do with the current
technology available to us. In the future, technology will be built into the
experiences themselves in a less obvious or intrusive way; people won’t have
screens in front of them but the tech will be there, working in the background,
Bonnie stated current trends suggest that consumers expect ‘warmth’ and
a human element in brand experiences. Even when technology is used, there needs
to be a hand-off with a person so that they can be there if the technology
isn’t working or is frustrating the consumer.
She said that an example of a brand that successfully merges digital
with experience is Glossier, which uses digital in social communities. It
exists primarily in the digital world through their origins on Instagram, yet
as soon as they had enough money to do so, the brand opened up a physical
experience store – highlighting the importance of physically connecting with
also talked about influencers and how much power they have with young
consumers. If an influencer attends a brand event, their audience will be able
to ‘experience’ it themselves in a digital, but authentic and genuine way.
the next 5 years, Bonnie believes that the brands that engage with youth
audiences in the most credible and seamless way will be successful in this
space, mostly because these audiences are much more in touch with the concept
of digital fluency. An example is New York Fashion Week, which hosted an entire
runway show on Snapchat instead of having it take place in a physical space.
Dan began by arguing that digital-led
activations and brand experiences are more competitors than collaborators, claiming
that technology can often interrupt experiences. Phones and screens can be very
distracting, interrupting the rhythm of our daily lives and getting in the way
of our enjoyment of experiences. All this distraction actually interrupts natural
consumer behaviour and the plethora of technology now means that brands have
become less of the focus. For example, Amazon’s algorithms mean that we are
presented with products we are programmed to like, without having as much
choice between brands.
also argued that people often want to experience the ‘newest’ thing there is in
regards to technology, and digital (of course!) enables brands to meet this
demand. Digital experiences tap into one-upmanship amongst consumers who each
wish to have the next best story to ‘out do’ each other.
went to on to claim that there is often a rejection of experiences from big
brands and that consumers are more open to experiences from smaller brands.
Ultimately, they know that the experience is designed to sell them a product
and that often turns them away when delivered in an impersonal way by a
conceded that digital can work alongside brand experience in that it can allow
for sufficient measurement models to demonstrate ROI. With digital advancements
in how brand experiences are measured, Dan believes the brand experience space
could even challenge the likes of television advertising in regards to
believes that the fashion industry are currently at the forefront of digital
experiences and are the ones to watch in the next 5 years.
Simon explored the benefits of incorporating technology into
experiences, arguing that it can take people to alternative, digital worlds.
Moreover, technology can also allow for more personalised moments and engage
individuals more deeply.
terms of the measurement of experiential, Simon explained that technology also
allows brands to identify consumers on an individual level and see how they’ve engaged
with something, for how long and to what effect. This can provide a great
opportunity for tracking how effective a particular brand experience is.
Ultimately, technology can be extremely valuable for brand experiences because
it allows effective and in-depth measurement.
maintained that the flow between the physical and digital worlds should be
harmonious, highlighting the importance of creativity. In order to blend the
two seamlessly, Simon stated that brands should think carefully and creatively
about how they can build a story. Through storytelling, technology can be
effectively integrated, complimenting and enhancing the experience without
5 years, Simon predicted that we will see some really big changes in retail,
including a lot more micro-experiences within retail that technology will help
come into fruition.
This debate topic sparked many interesting arguments and predictions
for the future of the relationship between digital-led activations and brand
experiences. The debate is over but the conversation certainly isn’t. If you’ve
got any interesting opinions, feel free to share them with us on Twitter or