Have you ever seen a skyscraper under construction? Cranes balance heavy beams. Concrete fills the floors and walls. Panels of reflective glass rise skyward. But before any building begins, a solid foundation must be laid. The stability of the skyscraper depends on it.
So it is with brand experiences. Beneath all that meets the eye, audience research underpins a successful event. Skillful design then creates the frame. And testing completes the construction.
We’ve been in the experiential industry for over 30 years, and in that time, have honed eight foolproof steps for building engaging, effective and enjoyable live experiences from the ground up.
1. Audience Research
Your brand experience should revolve around your audience – not the other way around. Conducting early research on your prospective attendees will help you anticipate their reception of your program or event. What are the motivating factors when deciding about brands, products or services like yours? What are the rational reasons for those decisions? What are the emotional reasons?
Start with secondary research, gathering insights on audience demographics, interests and behaviors. Then dive in deeper. We often survey audiences, study people behaviors and customs, habits and differences, and/or conduct benchmark research, comparing one’s business’ processes and performance to industry bests.
2. Cultural Review
In addition to audience research, you’ll need to anticipate potential attendees response to the experience. Are they likely to be receptive or skeptical of brand messages? Are they historically brand loyal or do they prioritize other attributes of a product or service, such as price? How might certain imagery, words and body language be interpreted? Consider the appropriateness of chosen colors as well as how you position elements within your brand experience. Allow potential sensitivities to inform how your experience takes shape and how you frame messaging.
3. Awareness Assessment
Has the audience seen a product or service like yours before? We had to be especially mindful of awareness issues when working with our client NanoTouch Technologies. Their product, a self-cleaning surface, is as desirable as it gets. It’s also new, different and sounds too good to be true. Because awareness was low, we opted to market the NanoTouch product through trusted influencers who could demonstrate its effectiveness to consumers. Determine how you can overcome low awareness or differentiate your brand within a saturated market.
4. Topic Literacy Evaluation
Topic literacy is equally important. If participants have difficulty reading, writing or speaking about a specific topic area, opt to present information and instructions in a visual format. Infographics, videos and simulations can communicate messages that may otherwise be missed.
5. Language Testing
Follow up your topic literacy evaluation with this question: Are we addressing low literacy or a language barrier? In 2016, nearly 58 million Americans self-identified as Hispanic or Latino. That’s 18 percent of the population. While presenting all your information in English might be easiest, it’s not always the most effective – or the most inclusive. Develop your experience to speak the language(s) of your attendees, including translations, multilingual brand ambassadors and opportunities for engagement in their first language.
6. Engagement Review
An engagement review examines the points of interaction between the brand and the audience. The goal? To make sure both parties benefit.
Prioritize building long-term relationships with participants by extending the life of the experiences you create. Offer attendees an elevated experience in exchange for their email address. Introduce a hashtag to ignite social sharing. Encourage brand ambassadors to ask questions that yield customer feedback. Then, follow up. Who wouldn’t love to see their Facebook post shared by your brand? Or feel that their input influenced the development of a new product? Consumers who feel heard and valued are far more likely to stick with you. An engagement review will help ensure your experience leads to customer relationships.
7. Mock Events
Will your brand experience be a success? The time has come to find out.
Mock events invite real people to experience your program or event in real time. No controlled environments here – your mock event should allow participants to engage with your experience on their own terms and provide feedback on what they liked (and didn’t).
Before launching our ongoing All of Us mobile tour, we hosted 2 mock events: one with a healthcare provider and their patient community; the other at a community center. During the provider event, a large proportion of senior participants noted the high degree of technology involved in the experience. They suggested including further explanation in order to help their peers navigate the experience comfortably. At the community center, a high percentage of participants indicated a lack of email access. We therefore needed to identify alternative communication methods.
The feedback enabled us to make tweaks before the program launched, increasing our likelihood of success. Better trial and error than no trial and failure.
8. Accounting For The Intangible
There are some things you just can’t measure – animated conversation, laughter, a smile. Be sure to pay attention to these intangibles during your mock events, too. When your experience triggers emotions, attendees are more likely to remember your brand and engage in the future. Lacking a fun factor? Ask what’s missing and adjust accordingly.
During our 30 years in the industry, we’ve seen a lot of awesome, impactful brand experiences achieve sky high results. We’ve also seen many fall flat. Now, our blueprint for success follows the eight essential steps detailed above. Dig deep in audience research. Lay the foundation of your engagement around the needs, abilities, emotions and prior experiences of your prospective attendees. Then, build upward and extend your activation through complementary touchpoints. And no matter how impressive your experience architecture, always put it to the test.
Interested in learning more about exceptional brand experiences? Contact us today.