Marketing

Brand experience needs to be reimagined for the post-pandemic landscape

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This guide outlines examples of how we need to rethink brand experience for the ‘new normal’ of business marketing. With the rollout of boosters and the first wave of vaccines for kids happening, there is hope that the pandemic that altered our lives for the past two years may be starting to ease. However, with debates about government mandates and flu season around the corner, we are never more in touch with our new normal than right now. It is in the space of restrictions that we began to ask ourselves, what’s next, and more importantly: what matters to me now?

2020 and 2021 taught us that human interaction and connection is invaluable to our wellbeing. And at this particular moment, it comes with a perceived risk. Every potential opportunity to connect is strictly vetted against our intentional desire for meaning. We have edited our priorities down to only the things that are truly worth it. There is insight in this practice for brands and brand experience. Connecting with consumers is going to mean reimagining what community engagement looks like. Post-Covid we are looking at consumers who are only motivated by purposeful interaction that have cut through the clutter.

Reimagining brand experience events 

Right now, some brands are sticking to IRL brand experience events but pivoting to creative ways of engaging people through innovative live event formats. This might look like micro events, bike-throughs, drive-throughs or requiring vaccination cards to attend in-person events. Others are reprioritizing “phygital” (physical + digital) and hybrid experiences to battle “Zoom fatigue”.

What matters now are impact, value and intentionality for brand experience. Long gone are the days when we were attending events just for the sake of it. Experiences now have more than one purpose – they are now doubling as content studios, a source of giving back, a space for community engagement, change, and so on.

Brand experience case study 1: FX

When FX was preparing for its season 4 premiere of Snowfall in spring 2021, they were looking to make a big brand experience splash that celebrated the spirit of the show and the heyday of car culture.  We launched an experiential Neighborhood Car Wash inspired by the show, where the sights, sounds and vibes of the streets immersed people in the world of 1980’s Los Angeles (where the show’s set).   It was a great weekend of supporting the community’s Black-owned businesses and checking out all the sparkling rides in the LA sun.

We knew that safe logistics were not going to be enough to make an impact, so with an awareness of the cultural moment that was happening all over the country, FX leveraged its platform to create a meaningful experience for the local LA community. Alongside the contactless, COVID-safe drive-through event, the campaign helped keep the community love going through the FX Snowfall Black-owned business hub in partnership with Official Black Wall Street, supporting Black-owned businesses around LA that had been impacted by the pandemic. The audio and visual spectacle not only went viral socially, but also made quite a community impact.  Wrapping a brand experience in purpose is not impossible or too difficult. Brands can get creative with real life and interactive components to drive significant change in the world we all live in together – even through business.

Brand experience case study 2: CVS Health

Another example of impact driven brand experience within the framework of COVID, is how we partnered with CVS Health to increase vaccination rates in the U.S. by reminding people about the live experiences they can have without the limitations of COVID.  The ongoing effort included the #OneStepCloser sweepstakes, offering opportunities to win thousands of fun and exciting prizes including free cruises, free date nights, live events and more when getting vaccinated.

Brand experience case study 3: Lancôme

The pandemic taught us that connection is crucial whether or not we are able to share space. However, Zoom fatigue is real, and bringing creativity to the task of virtual engagement meant bringing experiences that would transcend location. Lancôme got it right during quarantine when they shifted their previously IRL training conferences to a “phygital” (physical + digital) event series. With travel on hold, we invited Lancôme Beauty Ambassadors on virtual trips to France to train them through immersive “phygital” experiences with the Lancôme Passport to Paris campaign, making them feel truly connected to the French beauty brand.

We helped them create more organic inspiration for group engagement that included virtual tours of The Eiffel Tower, a tour of a cosmetic lab in Paris as well as the beaches of St. Tropez. We offered interactive beauty demos, TikTok challenges and Lancôme “Happiness Boxes”, which were mailed to attendees so that they could touch and feel the products and engage with one another throughout the interactive program.  The outcome was not only an authentic and intentional experience for participants, but created a community driven by authentic brand love and loyalty as well as a reinvigorated sense of pride and purpose in their role at Lancôme.

Conclusion

The last two years have been traumatic and, in many ways, forced us to edit out the things in our lives that we adopted mindlessly. We did things because it was what we always did, but did we enjoy it? Did it serve us? Was it in line with what really matters? Having to be truly intentional has allowed us to evaluate in a mindful way what “stays” and what we never really believed in anyway.

This is a model for brands. How many things has your brand carried along because it has always been there, but does not serve your purpose? Doing more, does not mean doing things that resonate. It is in the process of “boiling down” to the truth of your brand that will place you in a position to carry an experience that consumers will connect to.

About Danit Aronson

Danit Aronson is currently the Chief Partnership Officer at CSM Sport & Entertainment, and is a veteran in the marketing industry with a lifetime of experience building and leading multi-disciplinary teams from pitch to execution, developing and implementing strategic revenue and growth plans, working with companies ranging from early-stage start-ups to Fortune 500’s, and forging iron-clad relationships. She’s always been passionate about making brands culturally relevant, and has worked with the likes of Airbnb, Coca-Cola, L’Oreal, Hinge, CVS, H&M, Klarna, Netflix, REI, and Equinox, among others.

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