The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” L. P. Hartley

This quote could very easily apply to branded experiences of the past a nice looking booth at a trade event, a yearly day out at the races for your existing customers, a newsletter.

These did have value in their time but they are from the past and we have now moved on.

Good branded experiences today are live events, virtual and augmented reality exhibitions, and social media envelops them.

Your brand is not just on the freebie pen that people end up leaving behind anyway; it is in the walls, it is in the photos that are shared, it is in the DNA. We’re not sitting at a table in the reception with some stickers in a box, asking people if they would like to enter our prize draw for a T-shirt.

We have to submerge our audience into our brand, and show them how we can make them feel and respond in a positive way to our brand. 

Multisensory, cross-discipline, and unforgettable

Chris Cavanaugh, CMO at brand experience company Freeman, says: “When they are well-crafted, brand experiences inspire new thinking, connect people in meaningful ways, move audiences to take action like no other medium and, as a result, they deliver results. At the end of the day, the measure of any medium is its ability to move your audience farther and faster, and brand experiences do that in a really compelling way.”

Rather than give people a corporate gift, or a gimmick, marketers should now focus on bringing people into a community that will connect them in ways that only their brand can.

It may be by connecting with like-minded people or creating trust and comfort around a brand. On top of this, each consumer should be made to feel like the centre of the virtual universe that has been built just for them. Create a situation in which you delight a customer and then give them the impetus to share their experience with others who will, by existing in the same brand ecosystem, feel real empathy towards your brand.

Recently, rap artist Travis Scott took part in what has since been labelled as the live music event of the year. Incredibly, it was a ten-minute set which took place in the online video game Fortnite. It was watched by millions of people.

“Honestly today was one of the most inspiring days. Love every single one of u guys. And I know times are weird for us. But for one moment to be able to have the ragers to rage wherever you are is amazing,” said an evidently enthused Travis.

We can only assume what the “ragers” are, but the point is the artist was clearly inspired, excited and delighted to have been able to instantly reach out and touch so many people. 

From the audience’s side, unaffected by the global lockdown, 12 million people were watching in-game whilst millions of others were streaming from platforms such as YouTube and Twitch. To say that they all felt like one in a million doesn’t even come close; it was their concert, on their screens, for them; each and every one of them.

Go the extra mile

Fortnite developer Epic Games went that extra mile, in terms of creativity, hard work, and genuine passion for their players. Fans were encouraged to enter with plenty of time, and millions then congregated around a virtual stage waiting for the kickoff.

After two songs the virtual stage exploded, and Travis Scott became a giant, striding over the game’s landscape, with millions following him. An incredible spectacle brought to each individual and gamers were even given virtual “microphones” that could be waved in the air.

The only people who did not benefit from this are those that were not involved as it had everything you would expect from the music event of the year. In fact, it was such a strong and memorable brand experience that some have said that it could have been the marketing event of a generation.

Of course, something like this won’t apply to every sector, but that only enhances its value. Players of Fortnite shared something unique and spectacular, something that they will not forget and that most definitely beats getting a branded freebie pen.

Embrace the epic

Marketers must embrace technology, creativity, data and diversity to keep users happy; if not, they will be left behind. The technology must be the best so that creative teams can use their talents to the maximum potential (such as creating a giant rap star striding through your virtual landscape in front of up to 20 million people).

Tech should be thought of as a storytelling medium, and your stories must touch your users and hit a chord with them. Data that comes from such experiences can be more valuable than we’ve ever seen. Light the way for participants to move on to the next stage, show them that you know what they want and need and create the comfort and trust that they deserve. 

Be diverse; don’t miss a trick by alienating anyone or anything – think of the number of backgrounds, age groups, ethnicity, really whatever demographic parameter you can think of, that Epic Games and Travis Scott brought together during those ten minutes.

We can’t promise you global rap stars, nor can we guarantee to take you from a global rap star to a universal one, but we do understand technology, creativity, customers, and we listen.

Jenny Stanley is MD at Appetite Creative.