The organisers told us that the Brand Experience and Activation category celebrated “creative, comprehensive brand building” through next level use of experience design, activation, immersive, retail and 360 customer engagements. To me, it’s experience that goes way beyond the product or service itself.
I look at the category’s diverse forms be it a brand event, a launch, a stunt, an immersive virtual experience, or a customer journey. And that customer journey, experience of the brand and optimisation of every touch point leads to increased brand affinity and commercial success.
So what trends did I notice while judging this category?
The understanding of what brand experience is
Immersive experience is in its renaissance with the fatigue of our digital lives. Yet there was only 1 Grand Prix, no Titanium and 11 Gold awards out of 2316 entries. There were too many submissions which diluted the great works; a cap on number of submissions should have been implemented as the category seeks to define itself. To me a live, physical, one-of-a-kind experience is neither a new product design or a commercial ad played on social media. To win, the live component MUST be part of the journey somewhere.
Business imperatives across campaigns
Entries were mainly about making consumers care about their products and services, cutting through the noise by way of provocation or humour, educating consumers about current innovations of products and services. This all reflected re-imagined retail, more personalisation, more AI, and deeper societal listening. Recruitment or employees were a part of the submissions as well as the odd B2B submissions.
The winners are from…
7% of wins were from India, Thailand, Australia and NZ versus 68% from US and Europe followed closely by South America at 14%. The winners were reflected the representation of entries although I also judged a few works from China and Japan.
Direct or indirect?
There were two extremes: the experience for many (Apple Today, German Supermarket, etc) and the physical experience for one person – with interaction and emotions shot on camera, repackaged and replayed for the masses though social media. Even the fascinating artist Raghava KK provoked us to think during the event about how “there is no anymore direct experience of reality”.
We can do better
The most effective creative campaigns moved the brand beyond. The best work was not “nearly-there” or necessarily reinventing the medium. It was a simple left-field conceptual idea that spoke universally, executed flawlessly, and broke silos amongst our industry crafts. To me, it can contribute to trust and a meaningful collaboration between agencies and clients. It also matters that visionary CMOs are able to discern a quality idea and build a business cases to defend them.