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5 Ways Your Brand Experience Can Help Connect People



INFLUENCER: Jack Morton Worldwide's Lewis Robbins shares strategies for success

5 Ways Your Brand Experience Can Help Connect People

One of the great joys in life is making a connection with a stranger. It’s a joy of which people have always known the value. In the rigidly hierarchical society of medieval Japan, poetry became the means of removing social barriers and creating bonds. Gatherings would take place at night in which the tough ruling class of Samurai warriors would anonymously mingle with people of different ages and social rank. They’d write ‘linked-verse’ poetry in which the two strangers would alternate lines to create a coherent whole. These kinds of connections are a fundamental human need: nourishing, life-affirming, and good for our well-being.

Linked-verse poetry never really caught on, but people will always need to connect. But today it often seems like the more ambiently connected we are through technology, the more isolated we are in reality. Technology can be a great enabler of connection, but at its worst our devices become an infinite distraction - rendering us the passive consumers of an endless newsfeed. The opportunity for brands lies in creating extraordinary experiences that are immediate, visceral and real; experiences that form powerful memories (and long-term loyalty) by connecting us to the people and the world around us. Here are five strategies for success.

1.  Create a framework for conversation

Heineken’s recent ‘Worlds Apart’ campaign delivers on its ‘Open Your World’ brand promise with substance and integrity. The main ad takes the form of a controlled social experiment, bringing two people together with drastically different views to see if a meaningful conversation (over a beer, of course) can unite divisions and challenge prejudices. The result is uplifting and inspiring – but the campaign also unfolds experientially across different elements of the business. A series of live events, in partnership with The Human Library, aims to create a framework for conversation that brings people together; an employee initiative, ‘Mix it up’, connects people from different parts of the business; a Facebook Chatbot connects ‘unexpectedly like-minded people from diverse backgrounds’. The campaign is a framework for bringing people together, and instead of aggressively placing the product at the centre of attention (just one of the things the recent Pepsi spot got so drastically wrong) the result is compelling content with real social value.

2. Use tech to remove barriers

A keynote probably won’t change your life, but a chance meeting in a corridor with the right person can. Events, exhibitions and conferences are increasingly being designed for chance encounters and cross-pollination – creating powerful new networking opportunities that greatly increase the value of the experience.  This year, the Cannes Lions festival has introduced new tech-enabled experiences. ‘Braindates’ bring strangers together to share knowledge and expertise on a subject they’re passionate about, and the Cannes ‘Connect Band’ also removes barriers to meeting people. Pioneered by the likes of the Tomorrowland Festival, the RFID-enabled wristband is synchronised with the attendee’s digital profile, so that when guests ‘tap’ their wrists together they exchange contact information which can then be downloaded via the festival app.

3. Connect cultures through immersive portals

One of Roman Krznaric’s top ‘habits’ in his book ‘Empathy: Why it matters, and how to get it’ is to ‘seek experiential adventures’ that are about ‘exploring lives and cultures that contrast with our own through direct immersion, empathic journeying, and social cooperation’. One such ‘experiential adventure’ was created in 1980: the perfectly-titled ‘A Hole in Space connected New York to Los Angeles via a live and life-sized video feed. Rapturously received, the ‘public communication sculpture’ created a portal that brought strangers together (often with amusing consequences) and spurred family and friends living in the two cities to plan meetings to see each other via the satellite feed. Decades later, Coca Cola’s ‘Small World Machines’ brought together people in India and Pakistan via much the same technology - a live video feed, encouraging people to put aside their differences to connect with each other through the glass to show ‘what unites us is stronger than what divides us’.


4. Make space for the community

Retail spaces are refocusing the customer experience to place more of an emphasis on non-transactional values that form bonds with their customers. Apple’s new retail stores, for example, place a renewed focus on 'community and entertainment'. The result is an environment that has more in common with a park or civic space than a traditional store. In fact, the new designs exhibit many features commented on by William Whyte in his charming and counter-intuitive 1980 documentary, 'The social life of small urban spaces'. Long, cafe-style tables keep the environment sociable; light floods the space; trees with ‘low and hospitable’ planters create ‘places that are open to the action, yet slightly sheltered from it’, and a vibrant stage houses daily workshops, live art, and music performances.

5. Unite people through a shared experience

Live performances have a unique ability to unite a crowd through a shared experience. To borrow again from William Whyte, street performers can ‘connect people together, and make strangers behave as though they are not’. When Jack Morton worked with the Glasgow 2014 Organising Committee to create the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in 2014, things took place on a rather larger scale, but the approach was remarkably simple: to forge a connection by welcoming people to the city of Glasgow, in the way that the locals would welcome people into their own home. The result was a vibrant ceremony that welcomed the watching world to Glasgow and which also raised millions for Unicef through a live appeal. Open and democratic, proud yet with an underlying humility - the ceremony created a feel-good factor that forged connections through a shared and inclusive experience. 

It’s important for brands to retain this sense of humility. Their significance in people’s lives pales when compared to family, friends, culture, a vast explorable world. But that doesn’t mean it’s insignificant – in fact, the brands that facilitate connections to the things we value are the ones that will thrive. A recent experiment showed that those who engaged with strangers on the New York subway had a more enjoyable experience than those who remained solitary or were left to fill the journey as they pleased. Yet people anticipated the opposite - that engaging with a stranger would be the least pleasurable option, because they were afraid that the strangers would not want to speak with them. Tom Hodgkinson, editor of The Idler, writes that in the West ‘we have lost that easy camaraderie of life’ that so enriched other cultures and eras.  That camaraderie is not lost, but it is perhaps submerged - brands can create the moments that help bring it to the surface again.

Lewis Robbins is Senior Creative Associate at Jack Morton Worldwide

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Categories: Recruitment, Business Services

Jack Morton UK, Fri, 30 Jun 2017 15:18:50 GMT