Evolving Beyond The Experience: How Brands Are Connecting With Today’s Consumers

Posted by Taylor Haney on Tue, Oct 21, 2014

We have a few posts from our friends at SapientNitro to share with you this week! The first one is written by Katarina Loughlin, Experience Designer at SapientNitro. Katarina give a fantastic recap of her experience at FutureM and how various session discussed the relationships people have with brands.

describe the imageKatarina Loughlin (@katarina) is an experience designer at SapientNitro. In a past life, she was a product designer for Skype and the enterprise level unified communication client, Lync. She believes in crafting experiences that deliver the most information to people with the least amount of obstacles.

I attended FutureM 2014 as an Experience Designer. However, my job is more than providing a better web experience for customers.

Experience Design looks at the relationship people have with brands both on and off screen. As marketing evolves beyond metrics and banner ads, the experience becomes more important. The real differentiator among brands is the bond they create between themselves and their customer.

Think about some of your favorite “experience” brands.

“Timeless” is one word that Raja Rahamanner, CMO of MasterCard and keynote speaker, used to describe the 17-year-old “Priceless” campaign. MasterCard, after all, is a credit card company but “Priceless” isn’t about the credit card. It’s about the personal experiences that are enabled by the card. Whether it’s enjoying the perfect cup of coffee at your favorite coffee shop, or taking your kids to baseball’s Opening Day, MasterCard is there. Then MasterCard launched “Priceless” surprises, which add just a little bit of excitement to that perfect moment. MasterCard is now giving their cardholders unbelievable experiences – like meeting Justin Timberlake. Imagine how your teen would feel when she opens the door to find her favorite musician on the other side.

Priceless is evocative; everyone can identify a priceless moment in their life. It’s a general, but personal message. By not relying on card features and benefits, and instead focusing on feeling, MasterCard demonstrates the power of forming a connection over a shared experience.

But there’s more to the experience than just being at the forefront of the experience. The second piece of the experience – the take away – is just as important, as noted by Evan Green, CMO of The Recording Academy, in his keynote speech.

Just look at how television has evolved with the advent of social media. Today, you’re watching The Grammy’s with 29 million new friends. One of the challenges The Academy had was achieving a consistent message in the fragmented digital space. The multitude of social media channels gives brands immense opportunity to talk with customers as individuals, but it also forces brands to define a single voice and personality.

From an active Twitter account with 1.6M followers, to Facebook and Instagram, The Grammy’s maintains consistent personality and content. This year, The Grammy’s delighted viewers by creating live GIFs of Grammy moments that were shared in real time. Suddenly, Taylor Swift’s dance moves were posted on a personal Facebook timeline within seconds. A two-way conversation isn’t the only way to form that relationship. By giving viewers something they can take and make their own, a brand becomes an embedded part of people’s lives.

I particularly connected to the point made in the panel The Right Audience. The Right Time. The Right @#*!?. We are marketing to people, not robots, yet some advertising methods like banner ads and pop-ups, do not make that differentiation. People don’t form relationships by jumping around and interrupting, so why do we advertise that way? If brands start advertising to people the same way that people relate to other people, much like the “Priceless” campaign, we might see more meaningful returns.

Strengthening a brand is not just about having the product with the most features or the biggest advertising expenditure. It’s easy for customers to ignore messages when they feel indifferent. By leveraging the power of personal connections, and bridging the gap between advertising and experience, brands can start to become apart of the lives of their customers beyond the products they sell.