Category Archives: Consumer Experience

Cannes Lions 2017: From stories to experiences

Movies like Terminator, iRobot or Minority Report didn’t predict the future, the creators just opened up a new way of thinking within the realms of their scripting.

Similarly, as an industry, we advertisers pride ourselves on creativity and storytelling. We strive to create new ideas and worlds every day and communicate these through stories. Our stories get seeded online and then evolve amongst communities online and offline. They’re influenced globally by opinions and cultures, evolving and developing as multiple varieties from that one original core. The best stories transcend through the industry as ways of inspiring others.

But we must move beyond just stories. In today’s ‘post cinematic’ world we have so many new and exciting ways of creating, telling and sharing experiences; immersive mediums, alternate realities, cognitive and predictive data, connected and intuitive ecosystems. All of these things push the boundaries of storytelling, so why then, when for years we have successfully told linear stories, do we suddenly get ‘tech fear’ and limit ourselves at the hands of technology stressing over whether it’s been done?

This year I was honoured to be invited to judge the Cannes Lions mobile category and it was clear to me that when creativity and technology meet there are a few key trends emerging across the globe:

  1. Tech for tech’s sake is taking a back seat, FINALLY! The pioneers of converging an idea with the pace of life today are really doing their research to nail the killer insight at the heart of an idea, and you can see how this helps the idea evolve but not stray.
  2. That said, few are brave enough to state they don’t quite know what they’re doing (which is OK by the way as long as you are ‘doing’) and so stick digital and social amplification plasters over the cracks in an idea and talk about reach (I’m rolling my eyes now).
  3. Too many brands are quick to experiment but slow to adopt and scale, they come with an award in mind but lose sight of their audience in doing so.
  4. Very few have really, truly wrapped their minds around how to move from telling a story to putting their user at the centre of it to create an experience.
  5. Those brave enough to explore new terrain are doing so with a cause at the heart of it, which is empowering, I salut you.
  6. Ethics and morals aside for a moment, there’s still a ton of opportunity to just do really cool shit that leaves your brand emblazoned on the minds of those you want to buy your product.

Two words in most of the case studies and two that I hear every day are; Disruptive and Innovative. For me, true disruption emerges at the convergence of technologies, ideas and of course stories.

I was excited to see the bar is inching up, however there is a whole new world we can create through the next generation of stories and experiences that is currently untapped.

Whilst I love a good story, it’s definitely left me fuelled to continue to push for experiences, ones that make hairs stand on end, screeches escape mouths and eyes to well up, all of which happened in the jury room #justsaying.

Cannes Lions 2017

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Personalisation with a side of ease

As someone who travels a lot there’s nothing worse than stepping off a long flight, red-eye kicking in, knowing you’ve still got to claim your luggage, find your transfer, get across town, find your hotel, complete an arduous check in process and get up to your room before you can finally collapse on the bed.

So imagine my excitement when I spent a day with the top tech bods in the travel and hospitality industry reinventing the entire future-scape for the upgrade needed to cater for Gen X & Y travellers.

We talked a lot about the automation of the journey. How we could put in place a centralised data approach with intelligence systems connected to smartphones and robots aiding the various staff throughout. Whilst I find that really exciting, I’m sure you won’t want to be bored with the tech stack, so to let you in on how it might feel in 2025 I’ll summarise a brief walk through of a typical business trip, we’ll start with stepping off that plane again…

The second you switch from flight mode a signal is sent to your smart suitcase where the built-in tracker connects to your phone as you make your way through customs, you time getting to the conveyor belt perfectly. You pick up your case and activate the next signal, which is sent to your driver who now knows to get to the pick up bay within a three-minute window, avoiding parking fees, congestion and more importantly you being irritated by him not being there.

Your GPS switches to your driver who you find with equal ease. You collapse in the back of the car, whatever music you want is synced automatically, the temperature adjusted and an update sent to your hotel with your live eta feed updating your awaiting concierge.

On arrival your check-in is confirmed through facial recognition, you’re then greeted personally and swiftly shown to your room whereupon your climate is again synced, your drink and snack of choice is freshly prepared and your smart TV pre-loaded with your favourite channels. You can even activate a holographic in-room personal trainer should you so wish…

Your dinner table is reserved at the time you would normally eat and on arrival you see that the menu is based on your culinary preferences with wine recommendations to match. Not only that but the seasonal info and the history of the restaurant Chef are sent to your mobile because they know you like to read the background to what you eat and how it’s prepared.

After dinner, you retire to the lounge and login to a guest screen which is loaded with your business itinerary, options to tailor your travel and where to take your clients, plus recommendations on what to do with your spare time.

You relax, confident that every detail has been taken care of.

In this future-scape our aim is to democratise an executive level of assistance so that everyone can have his or her own ‘Parker’ rather than having to rely on ‘Manwell’.

do not disturb

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OMMMMMM G

We’re living in an omnichannel world, but what does that actually mean?

I’m getting a lot of questions around this at the moment, whilst the concept is fairly easy to understand, the minutiae of what it means to a brand is not quite so simple to grasp, so here’s a quick digest…

The word itself is derived from the word Omnis which can mean all or universal. And rather than linear use of channels, most of us are used to cross channel planning so really, omnichannel is the evolution of cross channel planning, done really well. 

To take that one step further, I would summarise it as; the true continuity of a brand or content experience that extends beyond a single place and crosses through multiple channels.  

Consumers are exposed to brands at multiple touchpoints, often at once, they could be looking at something on a mobile whilst in a physical store for example. As a brand therefore, planning for both the mobile experience and the physical store experience to be consistent would be part of omnichannel planning, it should be woven together with an invisible thread.

Essentially those brands that connect the components of an experience and the data around them; research of product, purchase, price, customer service and so on, will be the ones that shape a new dimension of customer decision.

It is indeed an intricate web we must weave.

Spider_Web_by_Autar

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The future belongs to connectivity

I spend a lot of my working life developing strategies for brands that need to move from broadcast, through audience engagement, to immersive connectivity, thinking three years into the future as a minimum, then I leave work and step into a broadcast heavy advertising bombardment and it saddens me.

That’s not to take anything away from the clever ads out there, but just imagine a future where advertising is intelligently informed, rewarding at just the right moment rather than randomly broadcast in a vain attempt to get your attention. 

Imagine that subtle product placement is integrated into how you live your life; your fridge is able to provide branded recipes based on it’s contents, your car can recommend a restaurant based on the time of day and your preferred driving routes, that restaurant then has your cocktail waiting on arrival with your preferred gin of choice.

It might sound mildly creepy to some but to me this everyday surprise and delight is an ease of living I am waiting to embrace.

I want brands to enable me to accomplish more, more seamlessly. We’re a few steps away from living in a truly connected world so every exchange between me and any brand should be streamlined at the very least. 

All we’re missing is the common language that connects all our smart devices but this will arrive soon and brands that adopt this thinking now, will be the ones that write the first chapter. 

Brands need to understand that they should be replacing my behaviours, not reinventing them; my ask is simple really, get to know me, then make my life better. 

gin cocktail

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It’s Hard to be a Diamond in a Rhinestone World

Meet ‘The Millennial’; a sophisticated and digitally savvy shopper, looking to be excited as much by the product as by the experience of researching it and flaunting it.

For today’s time poor, money flirtatious audience this is no longer just about Tiffany earrings Dahling; it’s also about the ‘to die for’ set of champagne flutes, the ‘totes in’ beach bag and even the simply ‘must have’ centre piece for the dining table.

The make up of luxury is getting a make over, and if it’s not pixel perfect then brands will need to prepare to be considered mainstream. 

Not only do consumers want to be enveloped in a beautiful, seamlessly immersive experience, they expect it, so when working with premium brands, I have these three key points as my guide:

  1. Are we sparkling: To be a cut above the rest, we must have the edge when it comes to going from design diamond in the rough, to top quality grade. If we can’t cut through and achieve stand out, we’ll quickly become mediocre. 
  2. Size matters, but not in the traditional way where whoever shouts loudest wins. Today consumers can access content wherever they are and will do so with whatever they have to hand, so our diamond needs to make the most of every screen size out there. I aim to be creating for 5 screen optimization at least, and an extra little tip; think mobile first, and mobile last. 
  3. Less is more. If we haven’t got something interesting to say, then I encourage not to say anything. With the rise of social continuing to grow it doesn’t mean copy and paste everywhere, we don’t have to be ‘always on’. We should be authentic, inspiring, but most of all we must be relevant, be always there, when our consumers want us to be. 

Getting it right takes research, time, dedication and constant evaluation. We must know and understand our audience in order to take our brand to their space in a meaningful way. 

No pressure, no diamonds.

pixie dust

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Technology enables, trust endures

I’ve been handed an influx of briefs recently from brands wanting to adopt copycat approaches, spending their budgets on stepping into their competitive space with ambitions to shout louder and ‘become the authoritative voice’, it’s sadly reminiscent of the work I was doing ten years ago.

Every brief looks the same; ‘we want to drive traffic to our website’, ‘we want to increase our share of voice’, we want consumers to buy our products and love us for it.

Technology has given us access to anything we want, whenever and wherever we want it, which should be exciting. Yet in this increasingly cluttered space, brands have reverted to vanity exercises based on the assumption that their consumers have the time to seek out their content and care enough to do so.

Technology needs to be respected as a powerful enabler, it means so much more to consumers to have a personalised and useful experience in our immersive Internet of Things, so the focus for brands has to go beyond content.

Leading brands to understand that content and functionality must work together to reflect what consumers are trying to achieve is a key part of my everyday, yet convincing key stakeholders to put the needs of their audiences first in order to serve them is hard.

I truly believe that the brands who don’t make consumers the focus of their decisions will continue to drown amongst those who do. Those that succeed will command attention through engaging and value adding experiences.

In today’s omni-channel world great consumer experience is both necessary and advantageous, the bar is set high, it’s no longer about developing loyalty schemes, today an engaged consumer is worth more than a loyal one.

An engaged customer is one that has had an expectation met, which for a brand means, being relevant and adding value.

Less noise and more cut through is called for.

image courtesy of http://zeteo.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/silence-conserve.jpg

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