James Wright
Jul 27, 2016

Welcome to the experience age

James Wright, CEO of Red Agency Australia and Havas PR APAC, explains why he watched a livestream of cows on a farm.

Welcome to the experience age

James Wright, CEO of Red Agency Australia and Havas PR APAC, explains why he watched a livestream of cows on a farm.

I came across a campaign recently that involved the live-streaming of cows from a farm. At first I thought that would be about as interesting as watching the film Lincoln backwards and the thought of losing another two-and-a-half hours of my life was too much to bear. But after I heard a few people talk about it I was intrigued and I looked a little closer.

‘Live from the farm’ is a campaign from British supermarket Waitrose; it's a simple idea and mighty clever. They believe they have a great story to tell around sourcing, and so are using technology to say, 'Hey, we are proud of our sourcing, see for yourself.' With a simple click, you can watch their cows in a beautiful English countryside. It supports their message that they are the only supermarket able to guarantee that all the cows that provide its milk and cream have access to grazing. The footage that is recorded is then being turned into TV ads for airing that day.

This taps into a trend that has been building for a number of years now: our growing interest in the provenance of our food and how it is made or, more to the point, transparency. How many restaurants now have a window to let you look at how your dinner is being prepared and to see the people who are making it? It is a powerful message from a brand when they don't just 'say' but they 'show' that they have 'nothing to hide'. It’s about making how you operate and how you make your product part of the customer’s buying experience. If you do it well it can be engaging, compelling and shareable.

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The Waitrose example shows we are moving towards even more extreme transparency, and where this gets really interesting for marketers is where we can bring in technology to open up that experience in an even greater way. I believe we are moving from the digital age to the experience age, where we better understand how we use digital technology in a smarter, more tangible way to bring the brand experience to life.

When I say brand experience, I am not just talking about using virtual, immersive and augmented realities—albeit these platforms will play an important role in how we bring the experience age to the fore—but in a more straightforward and philosophical way. If we think about it, our job at its most simple is to make somebody feel something: to provoke an emotional connection for a brand with its customer, and to do so in a relevant and meaningful way.

Let's start from the premise that people don't buy for logical reasons. They buy for emotional reasons. They may then quite often use logic and reason to justify it, but it is an emotional decision nonetheless. And more and more we marketers understand the potential of this. Our work should make someone want to laugh or cry, be inspired or provide hope, or even make someone angry or upset. And if we are doing our job properly, in a way that is strategically directed.

The global Havas Meaningful Brands Report shows us that there is a huge disconnect between people and brand. Most people would not care if 74 percent of all brands disappeared for good. That's pretty scary news for a CMO and us agencies alike. Yet brands that focus on improving society, and on making our lives easier and healthier, gain a greater share of our existence and receive higher levels of engagement and trust in return.

Think about the brands that have been good at this in recent years. Brands like Nike, Apple, Dove, Red Bull and Doritos spring to mind. They understand their audience and align their meaning and emotional values with that of their consumer. They have brought the consumer into their universe. It isn't about focusing on the product but rather its experience—how it will make you feel. Another great example was Leo Burnett's campaign ‘#LikeAGirl’ for Always.

When you open up your brand to genuine emotional connections then this is where you start to engender long-term relationships. This is much more sustainable for your business—read better for business—than focusing on short-term sales. Add to that our digital technology know-how and the incredible data we now have, and you have an armoury to create a very powerful piece of marketing that can really move the needle.

A current campaign that is using all of these techniques is the latest work from Tourism Australia to promote its aquatic and coastal regions. The organisation has created a series of beautiful films all shot in immersive 360 that bring viewers closer to the unique experiences that they can only get on a visit to Australia—helping people feel like they are there swimming with sea lions, chasing dolphins on a boat or floating over lakes in a balloon. As the line goes, "Australia isn't just a place you see, it's a place you feel."

It isn't all plain sailing, though. The issue when you use these channels to sell your experience becomes one of scale. You need the right technology to get the full power of the films. Similarly with VR, until we all have access to it through our smart phones, for example, in a way that provides a brilliant experience, the scale will always be an issue. But it's important we have brands like Tourism Australia leading the charge.

'Ages' don't come in over night, they take time—but it is starting to happen. I would encourage all CMOs to think about how they can embrace transparency and innovation to bring their brand experience to life. If you do, trust me, you will be onto a winner.

Watch this from Expedia, Dream Adventures, and tell me I am wrong: 

James Wright is CEO of Red Agency Australia and Havas PR APAC


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