If brands want to create technology for the sake of fame, they need to create it for the sake of their consumers

Members of the IPA's Brand Technology Group provide an industry view on the impact technology is having on brands, consumers and agencies.

Brand tech in action at Audi City

The Q4 2014 Forrester Wave Report highlighted the increasingly important role agencies are playing in digital business transformation: helping CMOs ‘to move quickly, access deeper market insight and take measured risks’ in order to best use technology to drive value for their customers.

So, to provide value to clients, agencies need not only to have innovative technology skills, but also the ability to operate faster than their clients’ organisations and to make sense of the data those organisations are sitting on.

It’s this latter skill that is pivotal, in my view. Too often, 'innovation' seems to be an excuse to play with new technologies somewhat randomly. “Do something no one else has done before and it’ll make us famous,” seems to be the rationale.

Now, I’m all in favour of helping brands achieve fame, but I disagree with this premise. I believe you can only achieve fame if you innovate for and on behalf of your customers.

I also believe that it is helpful to have identified how that innovation might create commercial value for your business in the process.

So the ability to harness data both to identify human insight and quantify commercial opportunities is vital. It’s what gives us the licence to innovate.

All the best examples of how brand technology has been used to creative innovation are testament to this.

Take Disney’s MagicBand: a wearable, in the form of a wristband, designed to solve a problem that customer feedback was highlighting to the business, namely: frustration at the length of the queues.

The MagicBand enables visitors to get quicker access to rides, as well as order food and merchandise. Every aspect is designed first and foremost to make the visit as engaging and enjoyable as possible. But, equally, the data gathered has a value to Disney as it seeks both to improve the experience and to mine opportunities to do further business with the customer in question.

This is a true data value exchange, rewarding both the brand and consumer and allowing for informed constant improvement.

Another good example is Audi City in Mayfair (top picture), a digital car showroom that uses cutting-edge technology to create a truly industry defining experience for potential customers.

In a nutshell, it allows people working in urban centres to visit a car showroom on a weekday and, using interactive touchscreen stations and large video walls, to get as close to taking a test drive as is possible without a physical car. For the customer, it means access to a car showroom in a place and at a time when it would have been impossible hitherto. And for Audi, it opens up a new sales channel.

But successful brand technology doesn’t have to involve such high levels of investment. We’ve seen smart and simple wins coming from brands utilising existing day-to-day consumer technology – such as ideas that integrate with existing social media functionality.

Ikea’s Instagram based catalogue is a great example of this, while Domino’s Pizza in the States devised a way to order via a single tweet of the pizza icon. Now these ideas may sound gimmicky, but if they work seamlessly, then they offer another route for customers to get what they want, the way they want it.

On a much bigger scale, ‘The Net Set’ a new online shopping platform from Net-a-Porter is an example of innovative brand technology that has recently impressed.

Based on the online habits of its four-million strong social media fan base, The Net Set has been built as a bespoke e-commerce platform that enables its users to share their preferences and purchases with the rest of the 'set' – creating desire as well as helpful peer guidance in the process.

In all of these examples, there is a win-win at play. But the benefit to the brand and the business would be impossible to achieve if the innovation was not able to solve a problem for the customer, or bring a new and relevant opportunity their way. It may seem obvious, but it’s a point I hope more brands pay heed to as they seek to build famous innovations in 2015 and beyond.

Mark Bell is strategy partner at Dare and co-chair of the IPA Brand Technology Group

The IPA Brand Technology Group is exploring the impact technology has on the consumer experience. It aims to bring together the best agencies and brands to provide a single point of view and leadership on key challenges for the communications industry and the wider technology community

Join the group on the 15 June at The Trampery for the launch of London Tech Week where a panel of industry leaders and members of the start up community will debate how great products become great brands.

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