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83% of US & UK consumers say brand experiences build trust

Some 83% of consumers in the US and UK believe that the best way to build trust in a brand is to experience it firsthand, according to a new study.

The Value of Experience report by Set Creative, for which 1,000 consumers were surveyed, also reveals brand experience drives sales, with nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of people saying they are more likely to purchase a product if they’ve participated in one.

The growing popularity of events among consumers was also revealed, with almost half of those surveyed (44%) admitting to increasing their time spent at live events over the past two years. Some 40% also said they’ve upped their spend on new experiences over the same period, with this figure rising to 62% among affluent milllennials.  

Read more about the survey…

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Hidden talents: Inside Sense’s Production Team

Although very much acting behind the scenes, the contribution Sense’s Production Team makes to campaign success cannot be underestimated. Production Director Ben Quarrell and his team’s influence permeates throughout each project.

“We’re involved from the very beginning to check that initial experiential concepts are feasible, affordable and environmentally sound, working closely with the creative team to make sure whatever we’re proposing can be practically executed in the real world and will engage with the target consumer,” Ben explains. “We then continually liaise with the account management team to ensure what is finally delivered is of the requisite standard, does the creative concept justice, and meets the demands of the client’s marketing strategy.”

This involves specifying and sourcing the most appropriate, sustainable, highest quality, best value materials and products for each campaign from a raft of carefully chosen preferred suppliers. “All our suppliers adhere to our own stringent quality and sustainability standards. Each also has their own idiosyncrasies and strengths, and it’s important to ensure the right ones are selected to create the most engaging campaign possible,” says Ben.

From the creative team’s designs, which develop from initial black-and-white sketches through to coloured drawings and, frequently these days, 3D renders, the Production Department works with its suppliers to create the necessary detailed technical plans. These need to be highly accurate with no room for error to avoid problems during the build phase and ensure each brand experience performs as agreed with the client.

The live nature of experiential campaigns means stringent health and safety is paramount to protect the general public and Sense’s team on the ground, and this comes under the production remit. “We write all the health and safety documentation for our projects and ensure that our campaigns adhere to all relevant regulations,” says Ben.

There is no typical day for the Sense Production Team, with variety being the norm. “That’s why I love the job,” says Ben. “On any one day we can be working across numerous campaigns. We could be in a campaign kick-off meeting working out deadlines, finalising budgets, etc. On the same day we could be costing up a pitch, making the final preparations before a campaign goes live, sharing technical details of another that need to be signed off, or working with the creative team on a concept.”

The Production Team also needs to be on the ground when a campaign launches to monitor the brand experience insights and ensure every technical element functions as it should. “This is really exciting,” says Ben. “It’s great when something you’ve been working on for weeks or sometimes months comes to life and you see just how much people are enjoying the interaction. Exactly how many of us are there depends on the size of the campaign. We often have several running at once, and I’ll be managing some projects myself as well as guiding the team on others. There’s certainly never a dull moment.”

So what are the most exciting campaigns Ben’s worked on recently?

“With experiential increasingly becoming a key component of campaigns and our constant push to create more engaging experiences, our activations are becoming increasingly complex and sophisticated taking the Production Team to new heights,” he answers. “Two campaigns spring to mind that have really pushed the boundaries.   

“First is the Coors Light Ice Cave campaign, where we brought the TV ad featuring Jean Claude Van Damme to life in the real world. We had to chill down and modify a touring structure to zero degrees and make it look like and feel like an ice cave with a night club inside, then tour it across five locations over two years. It was essentially a standalone live event. Everything from licensing with the council through to managing the technical immersive elements of the ice cave experience needed to be taken care of.”

Ben’s second choice is the current SEA LIFE interactive brand activation campaign that Sense designed and is running globally for the aquarium brand.

“The complexity of this lies not just in the interactive technology that’s being used, but in the detailed product design required to create a standalone attraction that isn’t manned and that children need to engage with,” he explains. “This could be getting them to test their strength as a crab or sucking up food like a seahorse. So there are the complexities of the various games, but also the technical and language issues of creating something that would work across every site in the world.”

In some instances Ben’s team were working across 12 languages, and he says it’s certainly been one of the most challenging projects he’s ever worked on.

“The great news is that it’s going well,” he says. “Thanks in no small part to the in-depth planning process that we worked with the whole Sense team to deliver. We’ve had some great feedback about how interactive it is, how much visitors are enjoying the experience, and how well it’s working for the client. It’s so rewarding when you put smiles on both clients’ and visitors’ faces!”

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Pop-ups: How brands can turn one-night stands into long-term relationships using brand activation

Pop-ups, your opportunity to have a one-night stand with a brand. Walk around the dark, twisting streets of Soho and you’re bound to bump into one. Brand activations are everywhere nowadays, each one promising something immersive, something memorable, and something shareable. The challenge for brands is how to turn those one-night stands into long-term relationships. How to get people to text back in the morning and not just disappear forevermore.

With investment in experiential marketing campaigns growing rapidly in recent years, pop-ups have become an increasingly popular activation for brands looking to attract new people to their brand or tell a new story. Pop-ups don’t just appear in city centres. You can find them everywhere. Festivals, expos, markets, county fairs. North Face even built one up a mountain. The challenge for brands is making sure a pop-up delivers more than just press coverage and a pretty picture. Do they drive commercial results? Do they result in online sharing and word-of-mouth fame? Do people hang around the morning after the night before?

There’s no magic bullet solution for making a successful experiential pop-up. A long-lasting and meaningful impact is achieved through a combination of factors:

Experiential strategy

For most brands, integrating different channels under one overarching brand strategy is usually a good idea. Integration helps drive saliency which ultimately leads to sales. Pop-ups are no different to any other channel. A good pop-up should take a key brand proposition and brand activation strategy, and bring it to life in a live environment. This doesn’t mean literally building a physical version of your latest TV ad. It’s got to work as an experience first and foremost.

Take the classic Lidl pop-up from a few years ago. The supermarket chain built a five-star restaurant in Stockholm called Dill, which provided a fine dining experience and was a huge success, selling out for weeks. The twist was that every ingredient used at Dill was sourced from Lidl. Dill was a physical manifestation of a brand proposition: “Budget food doesn’t mean a compromise on quality.” Experience and strategic thinking came together to produce something that worked underneath an overarching brand strategy. 

Immediacy

Many brands invest time and money ensuring their pop-ups tell a full and immersive story. For super-keen brand fans, this level of detail is important. However, for the majority of visitors, the message a pop-up is trying to communicate needs to be more immediate. Take Lidl and Dill as an example. If visitors took only one thing from Dill it was quality (which is later associated with Lidl).

A message doesn’t have to be communicated literally. It can be signalled through more subtle, sensory means, such as atmosphere. The lighting level, the smells, the sounds. Everything about a pop-up comes together to produce an experience. A good pop-up should convey a brand message in two seconds as well as it does in two hours.

Take Benefit’s Roller Liner Diner (RLD) in LA. Through it’s wonderful pinkness, the RLD was immediately feminine and fun, with additional nods to the worlds of fashion and art. With several experiences available as part of the pop-up, Benefit managed to instantly communicate the essence of its brand while leaving more for people to discover.

Production

In order to deliver the most impactful pop-up experience possible, production should never be compromised. Brands are never so closely scrutinised as at their own pop-up. People judge brands much more rationally in a live environment and it’s not just the sexy details that matter. The quality of the seats, the number of toilets, the queue for the bar, everything comes together to deliver an impression. Always try to avoid a production budget ruining the quality of your experience.

An American pop-up that’s gone above and beyond with production value in the last few years is Refinery29’s 29Rooms, a celebration of culture, style and creativity to promote Refinery29’s various media channels. The production team didn’t miss a trick which created stunning social content. Nothing was left to chance in their mission to create a great impression.

Brands don’t need a production budget the size of Refinery29’s to create an amazing pop-up experience. The devil is often in the detail when it comes to creating something truly memorable.

Social

Another reason why production value is so important is the increasing pressure on pop-ups to be amplified online. Social reach is not a bolt-on. It needs to be built into the fabric of a pop-up from day one. It’s almost impossible to control people’s behaviour in a pop-up space. Brands can’t direct people towards the social areas of their pop-up. Everything needs to be photogenic. The quote on the wall. The way the products are laid out. The brand ambassador’s uniform. It all adds up.

Take method’s slow fashion store from last year. The space ran for two days in October 2018 and generated excellent social results. Rather than relying on anything too sophisticated, the slow fashion store was simply a beautiful space. Social media sharers are more creative than brands sometimes realise. Give people nice surroundings and they’ll do the hard work.

method also used influencers in the form of Millie Mackintosh and Jasmine Hemsley to promote the pop-up on their social profiles. Influencers are a great way of reaching a specific audience through the buzz they generate on their own accounts and in the press.

Location

Finally, brands should never underestimate the importance of a pop-up’s location, whether their immediate surroundings or the town they activate in. A pop-up in a church conveys a different message to a pop-up in a small unit in Shoreditch. The space a pop-up occurs in is another way of immediately conveying a message about a brand. It’s why festival-based pop-ups remain so popular. Nothing communicates fun and escapism as well as an amazing festival experience. Outside of festivals, in order to reach the right audience, the correct city or town should also be chosen. Not all pop-ups have to take place in Soho or Shoreditch!

There’s no one thing that makes a pop-up better at delivering long-term results for a brand. Great results come from several disciplines crossing, such as a strategic and creative thinking and production that doesn’t compromise. When everything is on point, brands can experience the full benefits of building brand experiences that make people want to stick around more than just one-night.

Vaughan Edmonds is Planner at global brand experience agency Sense, which has offices in London and New York.

This article first appeared in Chief Marketer magazine.

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Playing the game: 10 tips for a successful toy brand experience

FAO Schwarz reopened its doors to experiential last year with a theatrical retail experience, Carton Network is due to launch a hotel hosted by its adored characters this summer, and a fully immersive Toy Story-themed hotel will open its doors in 2021. Take note: the big players in the toy industry are maximizing brand experience like never before, reimagining what’s possible with technology and leveraging a tribe of ‘kidfluencers.’

In part, this is due to the rise of toy brands as entertainment franchises – companies such as Hasbro Inc., Mattel Inc. and The LEGO Group have shifted from being ‘just’ toymakers to becoming licensees, studios and fashion houses.

Toy brands today encompass a world of entertainment that is better sampled through real-life interaction, play and technology, in order to capture the attention of Generation Alpha – whose influence in big household purchases is set to outrank previous generations.

So, what should you keep in mind when planning an experience for toy brands?

1)   Think like a kid. Your creative should be led from a child’s perspective. Ask yourself, what role can you play in their ever-evolving and enchanted world?

2)   Never allow a dull moment. If an activation includes a wait, it should be a joyous part of the experience, not a chore. Disney World encourages guests to download a new app whilst waiting in line, to access quizzes and interactive family games – ‘turning wait time into play time.’

3)   Enhance character connection through technology. There’s something quite magical about seeing your favorite characters appear in the real world, and AR provides the gateway experience to facilitate this. Disney Animation, in partnership with National Cinemedia, recently invited children to play ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ to reward them for be patient.

4)   Consider a voiceover screen. Google Assistant has rolled out a new skill that allows kids to talk to the Wiggles via voice commands, taking them on all sorts of adventures. A recent MIT Media Lab study discovered that children find autonomous technologies such as Google Assistant friendly, trustworthy and smart. Ask yourself, could this level of direct engagement with characters be incorporated into the experience?

5)   Embrace the rise of ‘kidfluencers.’ After all, 22% of U.S. kids get their toy envy from online influencers, accordingly to a Hotwire study.

6)   Learn from in-store toy brand experiences. The American Girl Rockefeller Plaza store engages guests during multiple touchpoints throughout their visit – via an American Girl Salon featured inside the space. Dolls can be ordered online for collection, created in-store via a virtual interface or sent for a full pamper treatment at the in-store “spa.”

7)   Don’t forget, parents play a role. The Toys that Made Us Netflix series is testament to the power of adult nostalgia. Don’t underestimate the opportunity for kids and adults to play together – rather than just observe.

8)   Allow no barriers to play. Data capture can be key to a big brand toy experience, but try to diminish obstacles to hands-on play. Walmart launched a website called Toy Lab, also dubbed “America’s Best Toy Store” to help children learn about products through video demonstrations, allowing them to select their favorite toy for their holiday wish list – an excellent data play.

9)   Appoint an all-star front line. Parents love it when someone else entertains their kids. Be sure your staff has experience working with children and that they can embody the values of a toy brand.

10)    Boring will result in brand failure! There is no worse sin for a toy or game brand than to fail to be entertaining. If you can infuse your work with a childlike sense of joy and wonder, then you will not only entertain the kids but inspire their parents. A perfect example is Fatherly’s The Playroom, which meets both needs via a packed entertainment activity schedule and creative spaces.

Kateland Turner is senior account manager at the New York branch of our sense experiential marketing agencies.

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My favourite funny women ad campaign

It’s not that easy to find campaigns featuring women comedians, let alone choosing my favourite. The opposite is true for male comedians, which sadly I don’t find surprising. However, one campaign that stands out for me was aired in the late 1990s. It’s the Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc’s Kingsmill series of adverts. It has a quality that’s increasingly being seen as key today – authenticity.

Authentic Ad Campaigns Always Win

Having seen Sue Perkins live at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, I feel that the comedy duo were being true to their own personalities in this ad; female creative forces. They come across as real rather than acting, which is so often the case. Take John Cleese, for example, who has arguably flogged his Basil Fawlty character more than is strictly necessary.

What’s more, they made me laugh – mainly because in addition to the above, you can see the real friendship and bond they have, which meant the ad didn’t feel forced. These were two real women, bouncing off each other and not, one feels and hopes, following a tight script. This to me is crucial if women comedians want to be perceived as credible in advertising, and retain their current reputations in comedy circles, not to mention those of the brands they are representing.

For me, the best comedians are great improvisers and spontaneous. Yes, they develop scripts and jokes that they follow, but these are created by them. Factor in ad writers, and you’re potentially building a barrier to people finding them funny, because they are not being real. Add this to people’s scepticism about how much they’re being paid, and it’s not great a recipe for ad campaign success.

If women comedians are true to themselves and come across as real people, they’re far more likely to resonate with the real people their campaigns are targeting for the benefit of themselves and, of course, the brand.

Jess is Account Director at real world marketing agency Sense.

Read the full article in The Drum.