Balancing Bite-Size with Fully Immersive: The New Brand Challenge

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In today’s world, experiences are a form of social currency. The more diverse and varied our experiences, the culturally wealthier we become. Whether it’s being the first to see a trending Snapchat, shop the latest pop-up or attend an exclusive underground event, curating these experiences and sharing them defines who they are in today’s world.

The challenge then becomes selecting which experiences will enrich our cultural banks. In this constantly switched on age, time is not on our side. We are constantly confronted with a barrage of content and then saddled with the pressure to consume as much as possible. If we don’t, then we feel culturally out of the loop. This fear of missing out is the ever present anxiety of the modern-day consumer.

A remedy for this increasing anxiety is finding tantalizing tidbits that can be quickly absorbed and shared. For brands this means tapping into micro-moments – the hundreds of varied, quick, increasingly mobile experiences that now make up the average consumer journey – and building bite-sized content that can engage us in around ten seconds or less, before we are distracted by the next piece of information.

However, as new apps like Pokémon Go illustrate, consumers are also on the hunt for fully-immersive experiences; ones so engaging that they focus our attention and hold it. This is the antidote to the information overload  – an experience so entrancing that it renders distractions ineffective. Not only does Pokémon Go showcase the power of an immersive brand experience to capture consumer attention for hours, days and even weeks, but it also shows its ability to become a cultural phenomenon on a global scale. With consumers able to have direct impact on shaping the brand experience as they participate, the excitement is more than a fleeting emotion as an observer – it’s the thrill of being part of a movement.

So how can brands respond to consumer needs at these two extremes – offering both the remedy to time-starved lives in the form of bite-sized experiences, while also attempting to invent the antidote with engaging, fully immersive experiences?  This is the challenge many brands must face or risk becoming irrelevant.

The solution is rethinking traditional brand activation. Brands are also time-poor, with an overwhelming number of platforms and touch points to manage. It starts with recognizing that the traditional approach to brand building needs to be overhauled. Getting it right no longer involves a checklist of touch points to cover, but is instead about focusing on what platforms are relevant for a target audience and framing a unique and compelling experience around that.

On the one hand, identifying micro-moments in a consumer’s life will help brands develop content and experiences that have real impact in just mere seconds. The quick wins are in these bite-sized engagements, making efficient use of the consumers’ time and opening up more room for brands to experiment.

A prime example of this is MTV’s plans to pilot a new format for its programming by reviving popular series ‘Cribs’ exclusively on Snapchat.  Artists and celebrities guide people through their homes as they once did, but in short form, quickly digestible clips. Coca Cola and Dunkin Donuts have also had success by using video sharing platform Vine, reaching consumers through impactful content in 6 seconds or less.  These are just a few of the many brands experimenting and as the numbers increase the more powerful bite-sized content becomes.

On the other hand, developing successful immersive brand experiences have the opportunity to be extremely impactful, but this takes more planning, more time and more investment. The key to translating a brand into an immersive experience is in understanding when, where and how it exists in a consumer’s life. Again, it takes a keen understanding of the target audience to create something relevant and captivating.  While it is certainly the more complex and intensive exercise to develop an immersive experience, the payoff can be game changing.

A few brands have taken the immersive lens successfully to retail. The flagship store of Sonos, maker of the smart speaker system by the same name, encourages consumers to explore different rooms and enjoy music that’s been carefully curated for each space. Consumers in turn have a place to kick back and relax, take a moment of respite in their day, while seeing how the speakers will look and feel in their home.

Technology is obviously a key enabler of many of these immersive experiences. Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality allow consumers to feel like a part of the narrative. In addition to Pokémon Go, there are any number of uses of this technology including Google’s Tilt Brush, an app that allows the user wearing the HTC Vive headset to paint in a virtual world.

So how can brands achieve a happy medium of bite-sized to immersive? Quite simply, they need to shatter the mold of a traditional brand building approach. They need to throw out the old checklist to become more targeted and strategic, choosing the right platforms and creating content and experiences that respond to the juxtaposition of consumers’ needs. Brands have the unique opportunity to be both the remedy and the antidote to increasingly time-starved lives, and those brands that successfully navigate the balance will provide consumers with what they want most – to be part of the cultural conversation and accumulate a wealth of social currency.

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