We're living in an era of space-time compression. But while technology drives the way in which brands connect with their audience, people are still at centre stage.
The current speed of change in technology calls for brand experience makers’ attention to some big questions. Whom are we talking to? How do our consumers articulate their identities around emotions, causes, and communities? Why would they engage with brands, and what do they expect from them?
Within this dense emotional economy, and with consumption growing even amidst a deepening energy crisis and exploding inflation, brands need to cherish opportunities and make deep connections with their consumers, inspiring loyalty and giving their audience real reasons to engage.
From an agency perspective, it is time to acknowledge the death of the classical globalised marketing brief. We are now faced with fluid consumer identities that require us to take a localised but long-term approach. The goal is to empower our client’s brands to take an active role in consumers’ lives, habits and journeys. This is why we’d like to take you through some of the key factors influencing global trends, identify and explore the key personas to watch, and share some inspiring cases by brands that are capturing the spirit of these exciting times.
The push and pull factors.
We understand we have changed, but what are the main factors that shift our cultures, mindsets and our daily habits?
Factor 1 / Fear / Uncertainty.
The truth is simple. We don’t know what the future will hold for us all. But the signs are clear. The environment and the financial sector have data and science proving that these two parts of our lives are deeply impacting consumer behaviour.
A research study on emotional contagion and online virality found that the most-emailed New York Times articles in a three-month period were ones that evoked what are called ‘high-arousal’ emotions such as awe, anger and fear.
Factor 2 / New rhythms / Crave for stability.
We as a society have been destabilised and desynchronised. New convenience products or service offerings have boomed globally due to consumer routines changing almost on a daily basis. From 24hr food delivery, same-day shipping, luxury items and new entertainment on demand, we are constantly accelerating and desynchronising.
The realisation that consumers have a new ownership of their own time is fundamental to experiential band timing in society. Brands need to meet them when it suits them.
Factor 3 / Absorb, recover, adapt / Coach me.
Resilience tests and the need to overcome global challenges have not left society feeling pessimistic. In fact quite the opposite. Consumers are looking for emotional acceptance and being allowed to dedicate time to their feelings. This is driving a global coaching movement in personal and professional spheres.
Being confronted with challenges has resulted in a society that meets a challenge, not only to overcome but to grow from it proactively in preparation for the next challenge right around the corner. Brands should actively work to build empathy and appeal to consumers’ emotions.
Factor 4 / Brave / Search for silver-linings.
Being rebellious with one’s thoughts is the new cool. Consumers realise the gravity of the global situation but are actively seeking out the stories and facts that humans have created in helping our world. The feelings of joy and elation are pushing through the constant never-ending social and news feeds of doom and gloom. Why? Because progress is being made. We are aware of it and creating awareness around it.
Focusing on positivity is becoming more important than the product factors or USPs that make the sale.
Personas to watch.
As collective mindsets and habits change, so does the way consumers behave and seek new experiences that add value to their lives.
Persona 1 / Who: stability seekers / Gens: millenials & gen X.
The need to upgrade, self-motivate, or self-improve, has drained this persona to realise that they do not require further optimisation but rather a balance of what the have versus what they need. Self-improvement pollution has led to low self-esteem and a comparison culture. Allocating time for their requirements is a priority, and not how and where brands tell them to improve.
Being the calm eye of the storm of the yoga-like retreat in Bali for these consumers is a way to win the balance they so desire in their hearts. Through calming experiences, even in-store, a brand needs to bring them down to their balanced feet, rather than tell them why they are falling over.
Persona to watch 2 / Who: new community builders / Gens: millenials & gen X.
Rooted in their communities and building new community belief structures, this persona is all about “us”, “we” and “our”. Local is the only way they see sustainable and meaningful growth, and without their neighbours, this is impossible for a fulfilled life. Time together creates more productivity than time alone. Fiercely protective and supportive, they strive to build localised utopias and sustainable lives that matter to us all.
Customer experiences are created by supporting localised commerce, and markets, resulting in the community benefitting from micro-investing. Helping build connections without an obligation will let brands set up wholesome experiences proactively nurtured by the community.
Persona to watch 3 / Who: connected, joy bringers / Gens: all ages.
Despite the uncertainty of the world, this new persona is embracing ‘celebrationism’. This notion of constant joy and happiness is driving a hyper-connected pack of well-doers and well-wishers, participating in new customer experiences such as experiential dining, pop-up museums, festival culture and traditional amusement and entertainment.
Celebrating achievement is the focus, no matter how big or small. Customer experiences focused on pure emotions will float their dreams.
Brand case studies.
Research, benchmarking and tracking brand developments give us the relevance and differentiating factors to steer brand narratives through strategically positioning customer experiences.
This Girl Can. #FITGOTREAL / Goal: Inclusive Experiences.
As increased digital pressures elevate issues such as
loneliness and ‘selfie esteem’ into high-priority concerns, holistic wellness becomes increasingly important for all GENs. They crave moments of calm, and actively seek out brands that go out of their way to offer support in an emotionally complex world.
Sport England has shown this with its ‘This Girl Can’
campaign using advertising and marketing to push the right emotional triggers resulting actual drive in change of behaviour and routines. Beyond the digital they have pioneered female only sporting experience centres and hubs, where girls, moms and grandmothers can interact exchange and get moving toward a healthier life.
NIKELAND / Goal: Immersive Experiences.
Nike’s WHQ has transformed into “NIKELAND,” a place where competition and creativity are abundant for all. It is enhanced by real-life movement, encouraging visitors to get more active.
The digital showroom allows you to outfit your Nikeland avatar with special Nike products. It is free for anyone to visit and experience on Roblox, breaking down one of the biggest barriers to sport — access.
With a special Snapchat lens. The lens allows people visiting the kids’ floor to see the space transformed into an augmented-reality version of Nikeland, including its signature avatars, fun games to play, and Easter eggs to find.
So, in light of all this, what is there to learn for brand experience makers?
Start from customer experience and walk your way back to tech.
Technology is at the base of most brand experiences, but don't let it take over. Keep a clear eye on what you want your audience to actually feel upon contact with your brand, then see how the experience can be enhanced through digital interaction.
Leverage intelligent use of data to develop insights and expand your knowledge pool.
While data is the basis of consumer insight, it is often reduced to crunching numbers. Do make sure your insights come from marketing reports as much as from word on the street. Empathy is a key element of successful relations between brands and consumers, and intelligence should always be processed with a human touch.
Think long-term and you'll get long-lasting results.
Younger consumer groups are not looking for one-offs with their favourite brands. They expect commitment not only to great customer service but also to sound principles and fair play. The best experiences are not just memorable, they are replicable, repeatable, and never lose their sparkle.
Should you be interested in finding out more about these or other topics, do get in touch with our editorial team.