CES Trends 2018 – Tech and Experiential


It’s a busy time of year at Imagination. We cover SEMA, LA Autoshow, CES and Detroit in 3 short months. The good thing about that is there is a lot to digest and explore and some interesting things to bend your mind around from what the B2B experiential landscape looks like to where technology trends are going in the next 12 months.

Here’s my report from CES  which picks up on some of the trends we were seeing in our Experiential Trends report and identifies a couple of themes from the tech world that we will definitely be using in our future autoshow program.

You can download the paper here…

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Experiential Trends for 2018


The Imagination strategists on the Ford account from both USA and Europe have pulled together the experiential trends they are seeing take hold in 2018. We visit a lot of shows and experiences and we always have our eyes and ears open to other brilliant trend reports.

This is a very experiential focused piece because Imagination is focused on creating connected and connecting experiences so though we do examine some high level mega trends we are looking more closely at design, architecture, technology and behavior in physical space.

Here’s hoping you have a peaceful and happy New Year.

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Best Use of AR – Event Tech Gold Award


I’ve said before I love working with the creatives in Imagination, nothing is impossible to them. Plus we get to work with incredible partners such as Unreal, Kitestring and NCAM. And here’s another example – a world first use of AR at the Detroit autoshow to tell stories about Ford’s cars when people can’t actually see inside them.

We just won a Gold award for this work in the Event Tech awards.

Back to Books – Holiday marketing


Do you remember the Sears Wishbook? (You should they only stopped publishing them in 2011!) Filled with dreams and visions of wonderful gifts, holiday home furnishings, fashions and treats to buy, you could pore over it for hours. And dream.

As digital took over the Sears Wishbook took a rest. But now it’s  back! Why?

It’s a tough time for traditional retailers and Sears is no different. In the past ten years, it has closed nearly 60% of its U.S. stores and its stock has fallen 50% year to date. If you want to cut through the cut price, cut and run efficiency of Amazon you have to offer something more, something Amazon can’t or won’t offer.

Books still communicate something special, representing a moment to yourself which is always attractive in these days of FOMO and LOMO. There’s a particularly aspirational dreaming  around wonderful Christmas you’re going to have which lends itself to a slower more contemplative read than scanning the bright yellow and white pages of Amazon.

Then there’s nostalgia. Refreshing people’s memory about they way they used to buy is a classic and classy play that digs deep into our dreams of Christmas past.

And finally, it’s authentic. The first Wishbook was published in 1934. Sears has history with this so why not tap into that authenticity to remind visitors that the brand is still there, ready to sell them everything?

But what if you don’t have that kind of  history to draw on, yet face many of the same problems? Enter the Toys R Us Christmas catalog.

Like the Sears catalog, it isn’t long, but with less  history to draw on Toys’R’Us has come up with a charming way to tug on the heart strings. Throughout the book are micro-stories written by children as a response to the catalogue montages and they are charming. They create an emotional response, a connection that reminds us of the incredible creativity kids bring to the toys they play with.

And that tangible moment combined with our love of dreaming might make a difference between visiting Toys R Us and sitting glumly in front of your computer this holiday season.

AI and experiential


A shot of drawings from Quick,Draw!AI has made it’s way into our lives without us really noticing.

The ads that recommend products you might like? Machine learning.

Siri, Alexa? They use AI to develop ever better wake-word detection (the words that wake them up and start them listening) and speech recognition.

And of course the ever popular Quick, Draw!

But working out how AI might impact on our own work lives is of course way more interesting. For instance, what will AI do to the world of experiential design?

Threats
The demise of the middle classes is the very latest apocalpyse promised by technology. But the threat is real. AIs work faster and can be more accurate than us, picking up nuances that humans miss. Examples?

  • We know that AI can plan moves to outwit a GO! master. So AI could plan the optimum path or paths through experiences. That would do away with the need for architectural design experts.
  • AI can analyze big data and derive insights in such a way that there may be no perceived need for strategists, particularly if the strategists have focused their attention solely on data and measurement rather than emotional connection and behavioral economics
  • AI can assess creative outputs and recommend universally appealing stories or interactions that deliver much of the work of human creatives, faster and more efficiently, and possibly even more effectively. IBM Watson was asked to make recommendations for a film trailer of the film Morgan. Check out the rather unsettling results. 

But as with every threat the flip side is the opportunity.

Opportunities
From the research I am currently reading and the pilot projects we are working on at Imagination I can see some interesting opportunities for experiential design agencies that hinge on doing at a more intricate level what we should always be doing – making more effective, emotionally affective experiences for our audiences.

  • AI can deliver a new way of measuring volume and behavior inside experiences that gives new levels of detail. Instead of self-reported research responses which are always biased we can map experiential user journeys more accurately. As one example, we can look at whether people really ended up where we wanted them because they were attracted there, or driven there.
  • Facial mapping technology can help us determine high and low value experiences much faster than we have been able to do previously. This opens the possibility of more adaptive experiential spaces – screens that change content responsively, according to what most people in the space want, or to create shock and excitement with content that no one is expecting?
  • Speech enabled environments that can deliver personally crafted stories from a huge data set, via your mobile, on the fly. Imagine that for museums.
  • Identifying the places and moments inside an experience that require more human interaction.

Currently AI needs human input to be of value. Maybe it will reach a point where it doesn’t need human input.

But one interesting observation from game 4 of the 5 game match between AlphaGol and Lee Sedol.

The moment where the program made it’s fateful mistake in that match was the moment that Lee Sedol made an unexpected and unpredictable move.  We love to believe that humans are rational, predictable and definable. But if behavioral economics has taught us anything it’s that we are more emotional or ‘irrational’ than we like to believe. That’s where AI has problems. But that’s where experiences truly bring value to the marketing mix.

We are, after all, animals that thrive off emotional connection, so much so that it actually creates health in us.  So experiential designers should consider ways to work with AI as a way of generating more of that irrationality that seems to be a characteristic of humans to deliver emotions that drive brand energy.

Brainstorming – doing it right


There’s a conversation going on at the moment about the value of brainstorming. I think it has arisen because there are a lot of people who are doing it wrong.

Brainstorming is like any other discipline. If you don’t know what you are doing, don’t take it seriously, don’t have the right people running it and don’t plan, then you will fail. Doing it right is not rocket science nor is it revolutionary, contrary to many of the articles circulating right now. Going back to basics will ensure that you get useful and creative ideas to build out.

What are the 10 most important things to remember?

  1. Set a realistic intention – you aren’t going to solve global poverty in a brainstorm. But you can come up with some ideas to get you started. Work out how long you have and prioritize what you want to do in the time. Make sure everyone knows.
  2. Create stimulus material – After you have briefed the team they will need some way of remembering what they were supposed to be solving/creating/doing! Posters, images, quotes anything that reminds people should be put in the room.
  3. Get a mixed group – there is zero point having a group comprised of senior management in a brainstorm. There is also zero point having a group comprised of juniors. The whole point of brainstorming is to open possibilities by creating unusual ‘thinking’ environments. You also need to get different disciplines in the room, UX professionals and 2d designers will approach a problem from different angles. You want that.
  4. Appoint and empower an effective moderator – you need someone who will have the authority to stop the room talking, control an opinionated creative director and empower the quietest person to speak up without scaring them half to death. Make sure everyone knows that they have to listen to everyone else! Make sure everyone knows they have to contribute!
  5. All ideas are good ideas – don’t let anyone close down the ideas that are emerging up. Critiquing can come later. If you find it difficult tell everyone they have to use the phrase ‘Yes, and…’ make them repeat it back to you.
  6. Use an icebreaker – Yes they are cheesy. You hate them. I hate them. We all hate them….until we do them. The point of them is to break us out of our everyday lives and signal that we are in a different space. Don’t skip this.
  7. Set specific exercises – If you simply ask people to solve a problem by spewing out their brains at you, you won’t get effective responses. You have to create exercises of different kinds that allow people’s communication styles to emerge. Some should be verbal, some written, some physical. Need inspiration?There’s a great source  over here at the Game Storming website.
  8. Time it – limited time creates pressure. Pressure is very helpful in stopping people thinking too critically and instead just getting on with it.
  9. Wisdom of crowds – have some way of getting the group to vote on the ideas that are generated. It doesn’t mean that these are the ideas that go forward (see Number 10 below) but it can help to narrow down effective ideas and prevent CD dictatorship. To some extent…
  10. Write everything up – you never know what idea might be useful going forward.

If you approach a brainstorm without going through these steps it won’t work.

That’s why at Imagination we have developed a brainstorming product that uses exactly the techniques I just described (and some more, of course) with clients like Ford, Lincoln, The Body Shop, Canon to name a few.

things I've noted in the world around.