Brandspaces and immersive experience - a key focus for CMOs and brand managers

  • 5-Nov-2012

Everything has a brand. It doesn’t matter if it’s Nike, the BBC, or New York City – every company, product, person, and place have characteristics that define who and what it is to the rest of the world. When you see the swoosh or the yellow taxis, you know what they represent. Words are redundant in such cases.

Impressions of a brand or a place are often instilled before you even experience something: this happened to me earlier this spring when I took a week-long holiday in Provence. I realized before I even went there that certain characteristics of Provence – the lavender fields, the gnarly olive oil trees, the smell of wild thyme – existed in my mind almost as a memory, even though I’d never actually been there. The “brand” of Provence had been cemented in my mind thanks to the novels of Peter Mayle, the plays of Marcel Pagnol, the paintings of Van Gogh, and eating bowls of herb-laden ratatouille.

Brand managers and CMOs have the possibility to create similarly evocative “pre-memories” of a brand, ones that can begin to create impressions and invoke aspirational loyalties even before a potential customer experiences a product. That sexy picture of James Bond driving the Aston Martin, or ordering a martini specifically made with Gordon’s gin, or suavely sipping a glass of Bollinger Champagne, for example, creates a world of aspiration for every man who’s ever wanted to be a British secret agent (or every woman who’s ever wished to seduce one).

Increasingly, the use of “brandspaces” or “experiential brand immersions” are used to set the stage. Imagine, for example, an exhibition where you could test drive Aston Martins, drink Bollinger, and try on James Bond-style tuxedos: a far more compelling experience than seeing a simple print ad for any of the products. It’s more like entering a virtual world or playing a game, and brand managers know how effective that can be.

Some of these immersive experiences already exist; one example is what the organization Culturespaces has done with a gigantic stone cave in Provence. In a hollowed-out grotto with high ceilings and huge open spaces is a panoply of art and music that immerses you in the spirit of Provence. Larger-than-life paintings by Van Gogh, Matisse and others change and morph into real pictures of the landscape; some might even say it’s better than the real thing outside the grotto.

Corporations are also springing up to create such experiences for big brands. Late last year at a conference in Holland I had the pleasure of having dinner with Ed Lantz, president and CEO of a company called Vortex Immersion Media, which sets up portable immersion domes for media and brand immersion events. It wasn't surprising when the conversation turned to capturing people's personalities to live on in virtual worlds after they're gone from this one. This is the stuff of science fiction, perhaps, but the technology is slowly becoming a reality.

What does all this have to do with brand & digital asset management? For brand managers and CMOs wishing to create similar experiences, or at the very least take their brand promotions beyond traditional print or television advertising, a multi-faceted strategic and technology approach must be considered. Many tools and systems typically need to get combined to create engagement and immersion across different media: not just multi-channel digital asset management, but social media monitoring, long-form media asset management, video production, personalization, and analytics.

We're often advising our subscribers and consulting clients on a one-to-one basis on how to tie all these elements together, when success is dependent on so much more than just selecting the most appropriate technology.

These goals of immersive brand experience and brandspaces may seem lofty if you're still trying to solve fundamental, everyday brand management challenges. But that shouldn't stop you from thinking big. Brand & digital asset management is but one rung on a tall ladder that's getting us to the next level of marketing.