The last couple of weeks have seen the two colossal guardians of creative excellence, D&AD and Cannes Lions, make significant announcements regarding their structure and award categories for 2018.
Of particular interest is the increased focus on the role of brand experience at both festivals. Whilst they reflect different definitions of the meaning of the word experience this renewed focus and clarity surrounding brand experiences is to be applauded and is long overdue.
The D&AD has separated experiential into its own discrete category which intends to highlight “the importance of great brand experiences, the Experiential category recognises work that seeks to demonstrate interaction between consumers and brands through experience-led activations such as stunts, events, pop-up shops, technology-led experiences and public environments for brands”
Cannes has also at last removed the “catch-all” Promo and Activation category and reclassified it under the heading of “Experience” which has refreshingly been defined as a category that focuses “on the powerful brand currency of intelligent customers journeys and immersive experiences - captivating audiences at every touch point”.
Cannes goes on to say that the award will “celebrate creative, comprehensive brand building through the next level use of experience design, activation, immersive, retail and 360 customer engagement” and “demonstrate how the customer journey, experience of the brand and optimisation of every touch point led to increased brand affinity and commercial success”
However beyond holding company pressure what is driving these changes and why is brand experience taking such a prominent place in the minds of clients and brands.
Put simply, it is a reflection of the changing definition and importance attached to experience.
This change is been driven at both ends of the equation.
At one end the changing expectations of modern person who has come of age in the time of the experience economy.
This is a person who values experiences over material possessions, a person who values tangible first hand experience over distant statements of intent and a person who expects a brand to deliver on all parts of their relationship providing meaning and value throughout.
At the other end is the changing nature of brands. Brands are increasingly building participation and service into their core product and taking a more holistic approach to solving their problems by embracing behaviour change and activation.
These brands see the customer journey is no longer a path to purchase but an ongoing relationship that never ends, that needs to be curated and crafted with both a vision for the entire experience.
With this energy pushing at both ends it is hardly surprising that we are in the best of times for brand experience and it's great to see this reflected in the most important festivals of our time.
Jon Hamm is Global Chief Creative Officer, Geometry Global