How Brands Can Create Experiences Where Audiences Already Are

If there’s anything that 2020 and 2021 have taught all of us about rules of life, it’s that change is, indeed, the only constant. As the pandemic continues to linger, consumers’ fluidity of behavior in their content and media consumption continues to challenge brands and marketers to evolve traditional ways of connecting with their audiences, and, more importantly, to make those experiences more meaningful than ever before at every interaction in the consumer journey. Whether you’re looking to promote discovery and forge new connections with audiences or engage someone to help them consider or purchase your product, our brave new world has shown us how we need to not just think differently but behave differently. The good news is that there are promising and practical ways to evolve our methods by using data to create experiences that reach people in the places they already spend time.

Know your audience – that never changes.

Despite the growing avenues for brands to create unique experiences for consumers, knowing your audience is still a golden rule. Helping brands steer their marketing efforts with strategy built off data and insights as the guide is how we know that an infant formula brand would not see much success marketing with a daytime talk show that skews Boomer-age viewership. Knowing that piece of information could make or break the way in which a brand message is delivered and received.

One of the biggest marketing traps we see is navigating what people say they’re doing vs. what they’re actually doing. It can create challenges for brands that aren’t able to cross reference their data for a clear view of their customer; who may appear to be a frequent Amazon shopper but actually spends many more hours browsing Instagram. This kind of insight signals an opportunity to create a more meaningful brand experience for the user on the platform they spend the most time on.

The brand has to be the experience.

The greatest opportunity this pandemic has offered brands is the chance to reimagine who they are, what they stand for, and the true value of their product or services in a non-physical world and in the daily lives of their audiences.

When the pandemic forced limited in-person fan attendance at the Super Bowl, Verizon used it as an opportunity to bring fans together in a variety of other ways. Within the Creative Mode of Fortnite, game publisher Epic Games worked with Verizon to develop the Verizon 5G Stadium, where fans virtually competed for prizes and interacted with NFL players and pro-gamers in football-inspired games.

Powered by Verizon’s technology, fans could use the NFL mobile app to watch the game from different camera angles. Verizon also hosted a celebrity-filled concert benefiting small businesses that ran on broadcast television and was streamed on YouTube, Twitter and TikTok. In the process, Verizon was able to showcase the low latency of its 5G technology and its impact on consumers at various touchpoints within their day-to-day lives.

Accelerated by the conditions of the pandemic, virtual platforms continue to find success helping brands and entertainers bridge the on and offline worlds. As marketers we must continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible in the places where our audiences are already spending their valuable time. Why? Because who would have imagined that Epic Games’ Fornite “live virtual concert” with rapper Travis Scott would be attended by 45.8 million users, recreating a revenue stream for artists and their labels while revealing a new experience for music lovers and gamers globally? Across industries, brands are looking for and finding new ways to connect.

Luxury brand Gucci has never shied away from exploring the intersection of innovation, culture, and the ethos of its brand. Through partnerships with a variety of platforms, including Roblox, virtual world app Zepeto, and avatar app Genies—in which it will offer custom sneaker design as well as digital-only releases of apparel items like sneakers, sunglasses and clothing —Gucci invites people into its brand universe.

Not all strategies are created equal.

Understanding and, more importantly, applying the 2 rules above is critical in the strategy development phase. While a virtual Fortnite concert featuring Ariana Grande will draw even more kids and teen players in—and spur mom and dad to shell out for virtual goods like custom avatar skins—that experience is catering to a specific audience. A bank or insurance company, for example, would need to come up with an experience that’s more authentic to their potential current audiences based on what they offer and what’s important to their customers. The only way to have that intelligence on a granular level is to ensure first-party data is being captured, analyzed, and activated on while understanding how those audiences and consumers are behaving in the real and virtual world.

In its campaign to rebrand milk as the more nutritious sports and performance drink, MilkPEP has been leveraging GALE’s robust data and insights to understand how people’s experiences—and preferences—with milk can differ. To get people to reconsider milk, MilkPEP created a new platform (“YOU'RE GONNA NEED MILK FOR THAT”) that allowed for MilkPEP to create and co-create different experiences for their varied audiences by demonstrating and bringing to life the different ways milk can play a role in a person’s daily athletic life. From video stunts featuring Olympic athletes training in a grocery store with milk as their fuel to a custom game with Roblox integrating milk as a “power up” feature in the Roblox “Tokyo Street Games”, the experience was the brand and the brand was the experience in a way that was both familiar to the audience but also pushed the brand to new places.

Amplify. Amplify. Amplify.  

Going beyond the just the brand megaphone is also important as credibility, breakthrough and authenticity can be strengthened by ensuring you have a paid, owned, and earned approach for the partnership. Based on our Gen Z audience target for the MilkPEP Roblox game, the role of ambassadors was critical. We knew that our audience was both inspired and influenced by watching their favorite influencers play Roblox games, so we created an opportunity for our gamers to not only watch, but to play with our 11 influencers. Content was then posted on the creators’ channels as well as packaged for MilkPEP’s owned channels and supported with paid media via the partnership. Amplifying the content in the right context to the communities where existing and potential customers are spending their time promotes discovery and reinforces the connection with the brand, ideally solidifying it as a meaningful experience for the audience.

One thing’s for sure, there are no shortage of challenges for marketers. New data and privacy regulations will ensure we all get a lot more creative about connecting with audiences which, while a challenge, also sets the foundation for greater creativity and work for our industry at large, and more thoughtful experiences for people in their everyday lives.

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