Story-living – why brands need to move beyond narrative into drama

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The experience economy is growing. We’re spending more on doing things than buying things. Consumers also know and expect more than ever and are getting more demanding. As a result, brands are having to work harder to engage people on a deeper level to foster long-term loyalty.

This shift in consumer behavior set up our latest thought leadership event, The Tap. With the theme of 'story-living', we set out to explore what experience marketing means and why it’s going to become increasingly important in the future.

Our panelists for the evening included Luke James, founder of Sports Innovation Network and Dr Jane Leighton, director of consumer neuroscience at Nielson. Also packed into the Vault Bar at Soho’s Milroys were a select group of senior marketers from major brands including Aston Martin, Reebok, New Look, Fortnum and Mason, Ministry of Sound and Ted Baker.

The key takeaway for the night was that experiential takes marketing far beyond the effects of traditional media. Allowing consumers to physically experience a brand, make a meaningful emotional connection and share the experience across their wider network of influence. It’s why brands need to go past narrative and think about drama.

For Leighton, experiential presents an opportunity to engage consumers in a different way, adding that the more touch-points the better in terms of building connections in consumers’ minds. She also noted that brands are now focusing more on emotional engagement than simply delivering key messages. So instead of asking ‘what is my brand saying?’, businesses should be thinking about what their brands are doing to future-proof their communications.

Focusing on our desire to do more and buy less, James noted that people are increasingly spending in a social way – and sharing that experience socially. It’s the reason sports stadiums are some of the most tagged locations in the world. Savvy brands are already tapping into our narcissism, exploiting the fame potential of what one audience member dubbed the Likeonomy.

The conversation then moved on to the question of ROI, or ROX (return on experience). The panel agreed that there currently isn’t a golden rule for measuring return on experiential activity in the traditional sense. But with brand experiences becoming essential, there’s a need to focus more on incremental impact and less on attribution. In today’s customer-centric world, it’s invaluable to build loyalty and advocacy through the new social currency of ROX.

This need to do what’s right for the customer was a recurring theme on the night. Whether it’s using instant messaging to manage customer interactions (turning negative experiences into positives) or introducing new tech because of a genuine customer desire, a picture emerged of experiential becoming the new CRM. A more personal, living experience that’s based on everything the brand knows about each individual customer. As one audience member noted, if you’re not delivering relevant content, you’re not part of the consideration process.

When asked what the future holds, the panel broadly agreed that the evolution of VR and AR will be critical to the intersection of digital and real world experiences. Again, it needs to be right for both brand and consumer. As Leighton said, go deeper by asking what kind of experience do you want to create?

Live broadcasting was also tipped for future growth. As it enables participation and sharing. More than that, it helps to build communities – with Go Pro and Red Bull cited as doing it particularly well – and makes those experiences available to far larger audiences. The opportunity lies in leveraging that commercially.

It’s worth noting that when it comes to story-living, Facebook and other online platforms are facilitators in bringing brands closer to consumers. They might be giants, but in this context tech brands are the servants, not the masters. Start with an authentic brand story that can be brought to life through a living narrative which resonates emotionally. It has to be personal and real. You can’t Photoshop an experience.

After all, in the curated world of the Likeonomy, live experiences are the most effective way to kick start love affairs between consumers and brands, and turn them into lasting relationships.

Adam Reynolds is senior copywriter at Intermarketing Agency

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Adam Reynolds

Adam Reynolds is senior copywriter at Intermarketing Agency.

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