Experience Marketing is Social Media of the Deepest Reward

We know about the power of online social media to connect people of mutual interests and passions with each other to exchange ideas, innovate, and celebrate... creating a type of consumer value that, when it's done well, builds communities, brings people closer to brands, and drives sales. Got it. Love it. Use it.

Experience marketing, meaning all early types of face to face engagement from conferences and trade shows to  entertainment and sports marketing, proved the core value of doing this ages before the online version of social was a gleam in anyone's eye. Experience marketing is the original social media, and continues to provide power, especially in the contemporary form which retains the types of the past just mentioned but adds to it types such as Pop Up, user-generated, and virtual/in-person hybrid, to name a few.

Experience marketing then, since by definition a form of communication, is a form of media. Experience is media. But it's a specific type of media. It's media that drives participation and delivers rewards in the deepest ways possible. The act of consuming experience marketing is actually participation. It's participation in the brand. It is satisfying to consumers in that the participants get the opportunity to freely try on aspects of brands emotionally and psychologically. They get to imaginarily experience how their lives can be improved by the brand if it is new to their lives as in the case of demand generation marketing, or how it can be further improved by going deeper with the brand if the participant is already in the fold as in the case of marketing designed for retention and loyalty deepening.

When done really well, experience marketing persuades consumers by offering an experience that brings tantalizingly close a vision of a person's changed self-estimate. As their participation in the brand helps them experience a vision of their improved lives, the brand becomes a part of consumers selves they don't want to live without. When I choose to participate in a brand (its offerings, its community, its values) all at once I'm adding value to my life, but also to my sense of self because the way I measure myself is in many ways the result of how I measure the choices I make and their consequences. Which means it alters my self-esteem, good or bad.

If the brand choice in the aspirational stage seems to be a good one and turns out to be so in reality, it enhances my self-esteem. In some way, either small or large, it makes me a bigger hero in my own story, and we're reluctant to let go of things so fundamentally (psychically) rewarding. 30 second commercials have often attempted to cause this effect but the limitations of time and distance are hard to transcend. Experience marketing, with it's face-to-face, often in-person, multi-sensory, user-directed, and time extended form is the one that puts at the marketer's disposal all the conditions and elements necessary to make this vision of self-enhancement happen most powerfully. Experience marketing is social media of the deepest reward.

5 “i’s of Marketing

Sure the "Ps" of marketing are a great foundation, but when marketing is tasked with driving the creation of the core offering, add 5 I's:

Irresistibility: In order to guarantee the ability to break through the clutter most powerfully and achieve dominate shares of market – especially but not exclusively in high involvement categories -- there has to be something about the product and marketing that is truly irresistible. Without irresistibility, you’re going nowhere. For different segments, what drives that irresistibility will be different. The combination of Apple brand values built into nearly every one of their products has indeed created a high degree of irresistibility in their category: unprecedented capability-extending convenience for every day tasks, elegant design, intuitive operability, high quality, etc. Who wouldn’t want to have a question answering personal assistant built right into a device you can hold in your hand? The advertising for the iPhone has been irresistible too as it focused on the capabilities and personal enjoyment to be gained from them. Irresistibility results in "I want it."

Irreplaceability: This is no small task in a world abundant with options. Still, driving ourselves to create moments of engagement that can’t be easily obtained by any other means provides the differentiation brands so ardently seek. This is the argument for marketers to be central figures in the innovation efforts of companies, not just the leaders of communications. CMO's keeping an eye on how the product, the packaging, the purchasing and on-going usage experience is part of brand management can use their customer centric orientation to help spur development of authentically unique offerings. That then makes the comms task a whole lot easier because then it is about emphasizing truths rather than spinning desirability out of "me to" sameness. (Anyone remember "Zune"?) That said, dimensionalizing the brand values in the marketing is just as important as influence on product development. I give an example below but for now, let's recognize that irreplaceability results in "I want your version of the product and no other substitute will satisfy as powerfully."

Indelibility: Much has been written about ideas that stick and the first two "i's" are critical qualities in the product/service development effort. The requirement is doing that consistently in every single product and aspect of the purchase/use experience. When it comes to the communication of this -- the part of the exercise traditionally thought of as "the marketing" -- the challenge is reflecting the irresistibility and irreplaceability of the brand through a marketing experience that is also unique in itself while putting the brand values into high relief. When this happens, the experience of that outsized satisfaction implants deeply in the psyche of the consumer. It results in the brand equity that allows one to cash in on the efforts behind Irresistibility and irreplaceability at the moment of consumer choice rather than lose out to a competitor over brand confusion.

Example of all three “i’s rolled into one experience? The combination of brand experience communicated in the ad campaign contrasting the Microsoft based technology world vs. the Apple one -- one world in which things never work simply enough compared with a world in which things work intuitively -- supported by the Apple products themselves, the ability to try them in the store easily and with the aid of knowledgeable brand ambassadors pre-purchase,  and the Genius Bar at the stores to take care of us post-purchase. Together, we get an irresistible, irreplaceable, and indelible brand experience. Why? It's irresistible through its answering of a strong "want" with ease. It's irreplaceable until a competitor finds a way to surpass it. And it's indelible due to the powerful integration of brand values built into the product, the service and the advertising. This integration gives the brand its fourth "i", Integrity.

Employing the first three “i’s isn’t easy, especially doing it consistently to the point of achieving the fourth one. It requires an unrelenting pursuit of high standards and the courage to hold out for the achievement of them. That means Job’s actually left us a fifth “i” to consider: “Insistence.”

Spotify: The New Frictionless Experience Champion

I've written before that one of they keys to great experience driven brand engagement is the elimination of friction.

My brand new friction fave is Spotify. (Thanks Padmasree for the invite.) Half asleep this morning I downloaded the app from the invite link. I clicked it open. I chose "get started." I typed in my first artist's name, "Lori McKenna," so I could hear her original version of the stunning Keith Urban cover "Luxury of Knowing." Bam, there it was in an instant! (That's a top of the category user experience.)

Now I'm off and running. I'm headed out to the gym for a quick work out, but I'm going with the anticipation (get it?) that when I get back, I will be able to effortlessly create (sounds like "engagement" doesn't it?) my own "afternoon-out-on-the-deck-doing my-homework" playlist, all built from music I haven't had time to download from iTunes or... remember those days now... go out to my favorite local bricks and mortar music hang, Newbury Comics, and buy as CD's. While on the site, I will be exposed to whatever advertising is there, and I won't mind a bit because I will be getting more value than I'm asked to give. (Sound like a leverage principle?)

Check out Spotify with the idea of understanding how the frictionless engagement creates an irresistible user experience, and hold this up as a benchmark against which you measure the creation of all moments in your brand experience marketing work.

It's going to be a great afternoon of music.

Hail to Spotify. The new "Frictionless Experience" champion.

Let's see, I want some Urban, McKenna, Springsteen, Emmylou and Mark Knopfler...

Success in the 2010's? Try The Power Triad

As the world changes and marketing with it, everyone from CEO's and CMO's on the brand side, to business, creative and strategy execs on the agency side, are left scrambling to figure out what to do

One day you're creating what you think are killer marketing tactics that take 6 months to develop, the next day you wake up to find will.i.am has just lapped you through the TV commercial work he's wedged into his spare time between prepping for the Super Bowl, releasing a new album, touring, and producing tracks for several of the hottest acts in music. It feels like it's no longer enough to be just one person; to succeed you have to be several. That's the point. It's time to be your own best mash up: The Power Triad. Jealous of that certain musician who seems to be doing everything and better than almost everybody? It appears he's leveraging The Power Triad to the max. 

What "The Power Triad"? At base, this isn't a new idea, it's the hyphenate. In Hollywood, the writer-director-producer is almost cliché. In sports, while there's certainly a history of famous specialists like home run hitter Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio was lauded for his excellence in all the major playing skills and became known as "the Greatest Baseball Player Who Ever Lived". And good marketers have always been a combination of social scientist, creators and business people. This is so true that when Frans Johansson came out with his book, "The Medici Effect" a few years ago -- as good and valuable as it is -- why it was being touted as "breakthrough" was a mystery. As he freely admits right in the title, the idea of combining proficiencies from a variety of disciplines has been around since, well at least as far back as the Medici. Still, it's a worthwhile read. 

What's changed though is the absolute need to pursue the approach with unerringly well focused intent, and at every level, from how we approach job role success to single project results. A lot of Johansson's efforts are soundly focused on innovation. I think the application of the multidisciplinary principle is also valuable more broadly. 

I'm calling this hyper cross disciplinary approach "The Power Triad." The idea is that when planning your approach to succeeding, you break your task down into the three most important components. Then, for each of the three components you ask yourself, "what disciplines or professions do this kind of thing really well?". Next you place them into a triad action structure that helps you prioritize your focal points for the greatest results.

Here's an example we used at a recent event marketing conference session: 

If you're creating a virtual marketing experience intended to move people to some specific action, break that task down into its three most essential elements.  
1. Asking yourself who understands motivation best, you select the field of psychology as the first discipline required to tap in order to succeed. 

2. You identify that a virtual experience plays out on media screens, and select movies as a discipline that understands how to keep people engaged over extended periods of time while giving them new perspectives through on screen experiences, and that producers make this happen, on budget. 
3. Given the newness of virtual events, and the inherent political risks in driving that kind of change in an organization --especially in the context of a down economy in which every penny spent needs to yield results -- you identify that the event needs to be measured in a way that's beyond reproach. Since the metrics of the finance team are gospel in most organizations, you choose this as the third discipline in the triad, and the standard bearer of this function, the CFO, as the focal point. 
With your three disciplines chosen, you roll it all up into an articulated Power Triad by marrying one or more verbs with each discipline. In this example we would say that in order to produce a successful virtual event one needs to:
"Think like a psychologist, manage like a movie producer, and measure like a CFO."

Then you follow through by studying what top professionals in those three disciplines do in their work to succeed, and adapt those best practices to the specifics of your situation. In this way The Power Triad helps you focus on the three most powerful things you can do to optimize results. Try it. The more you do it, the faster you'll be able to develop more -- and more powerful -- Power Triads until it becomes your standard operating procedure. Use it for everything from isolated tasks to your approach to job role success. 

Do it now. Will.i.am is gaining on you. What's your Power Triad? 

Paul McCartney and Tim Sanders Are Still Right: Love Is the Killer (Marketing) App

Tim Sanders' insightful, best-selling book, "Love Is The Killer App" is written as helpful guidance for individuals looking to advance their own brand, careers and the companies for whom they work. First published in 2002, it’s even more relevant today and just as useful for organizational brands as it is for personal. 

Hopefully we’ve all already accepted that the marketing clutter is deafening and the challenge in cutting through it is enormous. Turning up the volume in pursuit of effective marketing can be a fool’s errand. There are other means much more effective; love chief among them.

Tim promotes three specific ways of expressing love in the work setting that drive results. For the details, you’ve got to read the book, but to simplify the idea, I can tell you that he promotes the concept that those who give love -- in the various forms appropriate to each situation -- often get it in return. If you want to connect with people, love can be the shortest distance between two points, even when we’re not talking about the romantic kind.

What does this mean for brands? If I may put my own spin on Sanders’ guidance and expand it, it doesn’t mean giving the product away for free. This isn’t a product sampling or “tryvertising” concept, although doing that in the right doses, in the right ways, and at the right times, can sometimes be an effective component of this approach. Rather though, this is all about giving away some kind of other value that’s helpful to the prospect and fits to the brand context. For instance, manufacturers of smart phones with video cameras might offer free online modules about taking, editing and posting videos optimized for the third screen. Want to make it even stronger? Provide a way of interacting while learning, perhaps by allowing the user to post their videos with questions that get expert responses.

Through this interactive love sharing, the prospect gets the sense that the brand cares about them, and the experience of mastery the brand provides fosters a sense of potential for self-accomplishment and maybe even a little self-esteem. It offers consumers a chance to engage with and get to know the brand in a non-obligatory, feel-good setting through which the brand builds credibility. If repeated often enough, a bond can be established. Once bonded people are more likely to purchase. This cuts through the clutter like no slogan or funny commercial ever could, because it goes deep and resides in the hearts and minds of the market.

The trick though for marketers is to remember that, just like romantic love, if this expression of caring is  too infrequent, the bond eventually dies. This means that marketing love has to be constantly worked in order to keep it fresh, or the customer falls prey to the seduction of other suitors.

Paul McCartney said it best when he wrote: “In the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” John Lennon said it was the best lyric Paul ever wrote. Tim Sanders gives us the valuable "how-to" details in his book. I can think of no better gift you can give yourself as a marketer on this Valentine’s Day than a copy of Tim’s “Love Is The Killer App.” Read it and as you do, ask yourself how its concepts can translate towards creating great brands and organizations, and you’ll see that love is in fact still the killer (marketing) app. Thanks Tim, and Paul.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Two Big Lessons from CES 2011: Friction and Inspiration

Every year the hope about CES is that it will be a sea of innovation. It usually is. The only question is whether it will be a sea of big waves of industry changing breakthroughs or small waves of incremental improvements. This year we saw small variations on Apple's iPad (in some 80 tablets), and similar size advances in touch and gesture control, large scale advances in image quality and more strides in changing dimensions; thinner and bigger flat panel TV's, and ever smaller devices that fit in our pockets.

The most prevalent innovation theme that ran through the show this year though might have been "convergence." For instance:

1. AMD introduced Fusion APU which combines the capability of powerful GPU's (graphics processors) with computing capabilities of CPU's for amazing visual and functional results. See AMD Fusion at CES

2. Motorola introduced the Atrix phone, essentially a computer in a phone that converts to a laptop experience and also acts as a media server driving home TV's. (See the video below) It allows us to consume media seamlessly from mobile phone activated outside the home to TV inside the home, to laptop-like device everywhere in between.

3. LG showed off its Touch TV with which you can "draw" on the TV screen with a stylus creating art, interacting with programs and games, and navigating the web. 

These particular forms of convergence draw us like a magnet. Why? Two reasons: Reduction of friction, and increase of Inspiration:

1. Reduction of friction: our lives are full of tasks large and small, with each one having it's own outline or perimeter around it. Erase the lines between two or more tasks (like talk on the phone while shopping for whatever it is we're discussing with our significant other) and we're eliminating some of the friction of life. A lot of what we saw at CES this year was about eliminating friction. Eliminating friction creates ease, and the more ease, the more that attracts us. Perhaps no example was more stunning than Motorola's Atrix smart phone. For underlying technology that reduces friction for better computing experiences, AMD's Fusion APU is equally note worthy.

2. Increase of inspiration: Inspiration often occurs when suddenly we can do something we've never been able to do before. Take LG's touch TV; it allows us to draw right on the televised image in a nearly limitless range of creative and interactive experiences. In the beginning of TV it was often called the electronic babysitter, but in a derogatory way; children watching mindless programming designed to sell them sugary treats. Now, with LG's touch plasma TV, the device can babysit while educating through hands-on interaction that allows kids to play games that teach them math. Brilliant, and but one example of what they've packed into this device.

What do these two principles offer experience marketers? Two things. 

  • First, spend some time thinking about how you can use the above named technologies in staging your experiences. Technology can be a powerful enabler of media in marketing experiences and when they are as smart as those mentioned here, the technology disappears (just like the seams) and the subjects of the media are free to shine. If "innovation" is one of your brand attributes, just providing the media experience through innovative means starts to embed this attribute in your audiences' mind as one that's true about your brand.
  • Second, ask yourself what you can do to eliminate the friction in your marketing experiences while enabling new activities. Count the steps it takes from the start of your experience to the finish and see if you can reduce the number. Ask yourself how you can give people the experience of something about your brand they've never had before. A simulated but authentic experience of life improved by your brand? A live data map of an improved transaction process? A live video chat with other users of your product? Reducing friction and increasing inspiration creates impact and buzz, the kind that generates tons of earned media. It's a great way to create experience-driven brand engagement.

What are your favorite brand experience or brand experience marketing examples of reducing friction and increasing inspiration? Share your comments here.

Ralph Lauren Uses Live Experience to Celebrate Online Anniversary

In what is yet another demonstration of the complementary nature of digital and face2face experience (digitalive) Ralph Lauren celebrated the 10th anniversary of it's online presence through an extraordinary live experience in London and New York. It's a brilliant execution of a great clutter-busting strategy that proves at once that a brand can sell tradition in the most innovative ways and that nothing breaks through like big idea live brand experience. 

You can see the action here, but don't forget to check out how Lauren is promoting the videos at the link provided below because their staging of the video on their site  is equally brilliant and a key part of the strategy. See that not only do they feature vids that capture the action in both cities, they also provide a look behind the scenes at how it was all created, taking one more step to sell the 10th anniversary of ralphlauren.com one more time: http://bit.ly/f2fcelebratesdigital.

Ralph Lauren 4D Experience from F.TAPE on Vimeo.