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What is Experience Strategy?


There is a real snobbery around experiences. It plays out both client and agency side in key discussions about budget allocations and in where creatives and planners desire to work. And yet experiences have power like no other media to create real engagement via a powerful combination of emotion and dwell time. And they provide an exciting challenge – because the best experiences  deliver concepts and approaches that cohere whilst allowing for multiple brand engagements in one space.

But is there anything that distinguishes strategy for experiences from creative strategy for say a print ad, or a radio placement? I have had planners tell me that if you can deliver strategy for either one of these you can easily do strategy for experiences.

Of course you can. But can you do it well?

There are 2 key factors that are additive to traditional approaches which are essential to making experience strategies work

1) understanding multi-layered communications in physical space and

2) a deep knowledge of human behavior in a physical space.
Let me give you an example – you would think that you could take a tv ad and show it on screen inside a physical experience.  However, a busy physical space does not allow for the same levels of attention which means key messages are lost. There is too much noise, no one is going to sit and follow your train of thought, they have very different priorities in the space, which may well include seeing other brands.

Almost all experiences now include physical, digital, media and social elements. Understanding how each one communicates and engages, what people will actually do and how creatives can push at boundaries is essential for briefing and target setting.

Or as another example, take wear and tear. You might think your behavioral economics course has given you everything you need to devise effective experiences. But even as an experienced strategist you may misjudge human interactions with physical objects in a marketing space. For instance, if you direct creatives towards delicate public engagements you need to be 100% clear that your audience is the kind that won’t destroy them by picking at them, knocking against them or deliberately trying to break them. Or steal bits of them. Which is basically no audience I have ever encountered. So you then have to be clear with creatives on protection that is brand appropriate.

So there are disciplines here that don’t cross over when devising strategies for other platforms, but are essential in devising experience strategies that are of any use to creatives. If brand  planners are “voice of the consumer” in the creative process working out what communications need to message on to reach the right  consumers and comms planner give the strategic rigor to the implementation of the idea within media, experiential  strategists do both. But they also need a deep understanding of what that means in a digital context and a physical context from creative to UX.

Approaching experience strategy without understanding these nuances results in ineffective, sloppy experiences that frustrate, or worse, bore the consumer. And no one wants that.

Exploring an experience planner’s  skillset 

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Best Use of Social Media at the Experience Design and Technology Awards


screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-5-19-14-pmWell, the title says it all. We are very pleased to have won with Social Square for Ford. It represents a different approach to social that Imagination explored in Europe with Ford but were fully able to implement at the Detroit autoshow 2106 and in subsequent autoshows. While most social media at events focuses on a short burst of high profile activity from some very high profiles influencers to drive reach and attention we take a different tack.

Our focus is always the visitor to the stand. Across a year about 35 million people attend autoshows big and small. And they buy cars. High numbers are 3 month intenders, it’s a highly concentrated bundle of good for any brand. We focus on the visitors’ needs and how they behave as social interactors. Because of this we construct moments and conversations to appeal to them as they navigate the show and share their experiences with their own audiences, large and small. For them the day they attend is Day 1. They may not even pick up on the big ticket PR social media that happens at press day, because they aren’t the target market for that vehicle. But they are still influential. We then pair that focus on visitors with audience appropriate influencers who are also presenters. Their focus is what happens at show, encouraging people on stand to interact and giving them the reward of social attention and engagement.

It’s a strategy that works, garnering Ford a reach of 13,500,000 across the 10 day period of the Detroit autoshow across all channels and with 30,686 Engaged minutes on YouTube.

Social used to be more about conversation, I feel it’s moving towards the same old shouting we used to see from traditional media. Yes that has its place, but experiential social is just as effective and focused on the buying public. And it’s their interaction which drove our reach and engagement, so I’m doubly proud of this award.

detroit digital summit 2016 – things i noted


screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-10-46-33-amThis is my first year at Detroit Digital Summit and I thought it would be useful to jot down some of the more interesting or relevant moments from the conference. (Mainly because Detroit is not yet a bucket list type of place).

Firstly a note about food. Ok it’s a little bit irrelevant, but having lots of coffee and things to eat is essential at a conference because (and I always find this wierd) it’s really tiring sitting about learning stuff.

The food was ok – check out the fruit for breakfast on the second day – but there wasn’t enough coffee!

Anyway, to the meat of the discussion. You can read my selection of the top 4 presentations from the summit here.

Full prezi on the Digital Summit here

Workshopping and shopping


shanghaiCurrently I’m in Shanghai. I’m here to workshop with the Imagination team in the Shanghai office. We are working on the first stage of an Asian expression of one of our key experiences.

Workshopping is tiring. I think it’s because you have to concentrate so hard consistently often for longer hours than one would normally be working.

I’ve also been shopping in the local markets, which is far from work!

But I think there are principles from shopping in Shanghai’s markets that are incredibly important when you are running a workshop.

  1. Don’t go in there if you don’t know what you want – You want to spend unfeasible amounts of money on ‘bargains’? The quickest way is to have little idea what you want. It means you get attracted by the shiny shiny eye-candy and end up spending far more than you really meant to, or come away with fr more ‘stuff’ than you really wanted.In a workshop, not knowing what your final objectives are is also a recipe for spending unfeasible amounts of money and time. It’s so easy to follow ideas dowm rabbit holes and realise to late that you have missed fundamental outcomes.Make up your mind what you want – construct the experience to get it.
  2. IMG_1394Stick to your budget – Bargaining for some chinese pyjamas in the local market the most valuable tool I had was that I knew how much I wanted to spend. And how much I ought to be paying. Without a budget in mind when you try and bargain in China you are likely to end up paying far more than you really need, or paying a price you aren’t happy with. And there’s nothing worse than paying over the odds in a bargaining situation.The same is true for running a workshop. There is a time budget. It’s tempting to go over on it, to allow the creatives to keep ideating, just because they want to. But the end result is that you get poorer ideas (boundaries drive better creative) and that you run out of time to do all the work you need to do. That results in late nights and panic.
  3. Don’t be too rigid – After I bought my chinese pyjamas (at a very attractive price of course) the slightly scary booth owner grabbed my arm and manhandled me towards her scarves. I didn’t really need a new scarf but I did already have what I wanted, at the price I wanted and so what the hell?Ladies and gentleman, I am the proud owner of 2 lovely, soft scarves I intend to use as presents for my family at such a good price that the booth owner was practically crying ( I kid you not) as she insisted I pay double their real value. Don’t worry, I caught the flash of her smile when I handed over the money. She knew I’d paid that little bit over the odds so she was happy, and I really liked the scarves.And workshops? Sometimes they take  strange and wonderful turn and you owe it to the team to break with your carefully planned structure and follow that rabbit. You never know what fantastic creative ideas you might unearth.

 

 

Generation X – Help us with research


The Imagination Insight team have a regular cadence of releasing reports, but to deliver those reports we need to do some research!

We are well into a set of research into Generation X, those people between the ages of 37 and 51 who are often considered by marketers as Parents or Singles, Working Women,  but not often considered as a generation. What does that mean? It means that fundamental drivers of Generation X’s thoughts and opinions are lost in the scramble to get their money. It also means that products and services that might be genuinely useful to Gen X are never even dreamed up – because the focus is on their functions more than their identities.

This doesn’t happen for Millennials, Gen Z or Boomers by the way. Marketers are all over them and their motivations. If you are a Gen X (like me) you are probably shrugging your shoulders or laughing cynically. It’s always been like this for us, right?

So I would like to invite you to share some of your opinions and experiences. It might be fun for you and would be incredibly useful to us in creating new experiences that really work for Generation X.

Visit Survey on Survey Monkey – click here

 

Winner Telly Awards 2016


The Detroit Imagination team has won two Telly Awards for films we created for Ford’s giant LED (130ft x 15ft). The Escape Urban Adventures film for which the team won the Silver is below (the Silver is the highest award in the Tellys – go figure)  They also won a Bronze award for a film about the Ford Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid

It’s always nice to win awards and particularly when you are proud of the work. I think the team did a great job making work that really conveys the identity of the products and speaks to the audience. I didn’t work on them myself so I’m allowed to big them up!

 

Non-planning books for planners 4 – Invisible Romans


19241863Another in the series of books I think are useful for planners to read that appear to have nothing to do with planning/strategy. This book is, as the title suggests, about the Romans who never appear in the works of the great writers – prostitutes, slaves, merchants, people like you and me.

Culture is consumed by the average person but we get fixated on the super stars, the rich, the famous, the extraordinary. This is particularly true when we think about history. It’s not surprising and may not even be wrong, but it’s not helpful if you are trying to create interesting experiences today. To do that you need to focus on the average Jo because they are the ones who are likely to engage with and be influenced by what you’ve created.

So don’t go looking for the extreme, look for the common, shared experience of the nobodys and you will find that you create communications that actually mean something.

This book is also a great reality check on local states of privilege in history as compared with our own state of privilege. Are we the senatorial class of the modern Roman empire? That’s a different blog post.