As marketers, we’re in the business of communicating. Ideas, opportunity, solutions, feelings. Every day we’re working hard to apply insights about customers and the broader marketplace in just the right configuration so that we can craft messages that resonate with real human beings and ultimately drive action. In the good ol’ Mad Men days the focus was on using mass media to compel customers through emotionally oriented advertisements. Very much a one-way message from brand to consumer. More recently strategies have evolved to turn the fragmented media landscape into an opportunity by using a collection of narrower tactics – such as a varied paid media plan, PR, online marketing, social media, etc. – to engage customers in two-way conversation.
I believe that the marketing paradigm is continuing to shift and that we’re now entering a stage of shared brand experience. Its not a radical idea, really. Lots of ink has been spilled over the years on the idea of creating brand experiences – as is evidenced by trade shows, promotional tours, “buzz” events and even retail floor plans (Apple Store, anyone?). However I believe that what we’re moving into now is different. Indulge me for a minute…
For the last several decades the technology industry has been promising convergence with media. This is most visible in the mobile device space where you now have your phone that is also a web browser, email client, music player, television, book, video game machine and pretty much anything else you can imagine. But this trend is also clearly seen as computers infiltrate our living rooms, kitchens, bedrooms and cars. From the perspective of marketing this turns the old adage of “the medium is the message” on its head. With consumers frequently interacting with such a wide range of mediums its incredibly easy for a brand’s message to get lost in the noise. I mean, as much as I believe in the value of content marketing – and the idea of exchange of valuable content for attention – consumer information overload is undoubtedly rampant.
While I don’t believe that content marketing, paid advertisements or public relations are going away I do think that this concept of shared brand experience is making them become less of a strategic opportunity than a tactical option. A great example of this is the new Forever 21 Augmented Reality billboard in Times Square. For those of you who haven’t seen it – or don’t have time to read the linked article – its a digital billboard that uses cameras and spy technology to allow a model to pick up and interact with digital versions of consumers who walk by. It can even pick out consumers who are carrying a Forever 21 bag and makes them more likely to be “noticed” by the model.
What I find interesting about the billboard – and indicative of the shared brand experience paradigm – is three features:
1. It blends increasing advance technologies to create a new way for customers to experience the brand.
2. The billboard is socially oriented and leverages the community nature of Times Square – and the masses who walk by – as a foundational aspect of the message.
3. Its all about interaction and uses that notion to compel customer action.
You can see a similar shared brand experience in how Apple has integrated their iDevices, iTunes, App Store and retail stores into a presence that transcends user experience but is about breathing life into all aspects of their brand in an effort to develop a loyal community of customers.
The challenge marketers now face is not which tactic or channel to leverage but how do you take your brand positioning and associated creative/messaging and apply it in such a way that encourages consumers to interact with the brand through converging technologies and peer reinforcement. Whether you’re Forever 21, Apple or the next Zappos.com if you want to succeed in marketing and advertising start tackling this question now.