For years marketers have endlessly nurtured and tended to their fragile brand-consumer relationships; endured the never-ending development of the consumer mind, and adapted their strategies based on market reports and trends. All in hope of curating the perfect brand-consumer relationship. This illusive ‘perfect’ symbiotic relationship has left a world of marketers, public relations specialists and branders fighting to immerse audiences with a multitude of brand messages. Up to 80’000 in a day in fact!
How are consumer needs changing?
Over the last few years, markets have seen an expansion of wearable technologies, smart appliances and multi-purpose or functional products and services. Our home-work-social environments are becoming increasingly inundated with easy-living products and as consumers, we’re becoming a society reliant on these technologies to enhance our comfort, ease and quality of life. We have already seen a number of these products saturating the market: Apple are discussing their plans for a self-driving car, aptly titled ‘Project Titan’; there has been a rise of food delivery services such as Abel & Cole who choose a selection of meals and then provide you with the ingredients to make these at home.
Last weekend NU Creative were invited to the launch of MULTIPLEX, an immersive, multi-sensory department store, designed to bring together powerful experiences, bespoke services and unique products. The innovative British-based homeware designer Tom Dixon and Wallpaper* Magazine partnered up together to host a month-long event at the 20,000 square foot site, The Old Selfridges Hotel. MULTIPLEX has been held to coincide with four of the most important events on London’s creative calendar – London Design Week, London Fashion Week, the BFI London Film Festival and the Frieze art fair. The innovative retail concept encompasses design, technology, fashion, film and interiors to explore how the future of immersive experiences might look, sound, smell, taste and feel. Selfridges are playing host to an eclectic range of designers and events, installations, pop-ups and interventions; each of which has been carefully selected in order to target the full 360 degree of consumer needs and wants.
Dixon noted that MULTIPLEX was commissioned in order to “build new connections with people and technology and evoke new experiences and networks between (industry) tribes”. Some of the brands involved were Deliveroo.com who presented what could be called the future of dining out – restaurants where instead of ordering directly from the kitchen to your table, you have a choice of dozens of restaurants in your local area, each of which are willing to deliver their food to the restaurant you’re currently sitting in.
Technology also took an advanced form thanks to brands like Cubitt, the spectacles company who use their Digital Facial Gauge to achieve the perfect fitting glasses by measuring the proportions of a face to the millimetre. SONY also presented their range of ‘Life Space UX’ products, designed to “transform a room into any world you’d like”, and included a 4k Ultra Short Throw Projector as well as a portable version and LED Speaker bulbs. SONY state “spaces hold the potential for exceptional experiences, and comfortable ‘life spaces’ feel more like home”, highlighting that brands are becoming increasingly reliant on developing and enhancing experiences and quality, rather than chasing audiences through standard marketing messages. A relationship that is noticeably one-sided.
What do consumers actually want?
Year-on-year we have seen the differences brands are making in order to strengthen their consumer relationships. Nowadays there is much more emphasis on the personalisation and authenticity of brands and the customisation of products and services for individuals. An example of this is recently launched American telephone-delivery service, 1-888-FUTURES, whose focus is on delivering “bespoke future presents”. People are able to place an order for a product which will then get made in the University of Southern California workshops and then be sent out for delivery for the recipient on their chosen day. A service which we hope will one day come to the UK!
No longer are audiences content with buying items for the sake of buying. Instead they are looking for genuine connections with the beliefs and values of their chosen brand. The demand for brands to identify their standpoint alongside differentiating themselves against their competitors is meaning companies are shifting their efforts towards strengthening real engagement and networks between their audiences. The expansion of digital technologies as well as social media means that individuals are able to demand a service which is completely aligned with their requirements at any given point.
How are marketers adapting to this change?
This rise of easy-living assets means brands are having to adapt their processes, policies and culture to attract a more involved audience. Marketing used to typically favour mass communication, hoping one message would work for thousands of audience members and evoke them to a response. But we’re now seeing audiences take a shift towards a more participatory culture. This is an era in which the emphasis is not on consumers who simply just consume anymore, but who are actually looking to produce as well. A trend titled the ‘Prosumer Movement’ by culture theorist Alvin Toffler in 1980. Marketers need to learn how to involve their audiences in a way which not only allows their brand to be consumed, but also challenges how much individuals are involved in their brand lifecycle.
MULTIPLEX targeted this in a way which involved their audience members by building connections between “tribes” who usually don’t communicate much between each other. At the event Tom Dixon stated that it’s “becoming harder for brands to do physical spaces”. The retail concept put an emphasis on the individual relationships consumers have with their chosen products by involving attendees in a range of experience and personalising the services and products on offer for individual people.
People are realising now that there is no one-size-fits-all option. Instead brands, agencies and marketers are seeing the benefits of adapting their strategies to create a tailored experience for audiences. In recent years, there has been an expansion of experiential marketing and augmented realities, allowing brands to create a closer bond and evoke an emotional response with their consumers by immersing them in a fun and memorable experience.
In 2012 Microsoft launched their Windows 8 operating system by installing a giant slide in the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent to emphasise their service as “fast and fun”. In order to convert audiences, experinental events marketing can be more effective than delivering marketing messages through social media or a 30-second broadcast advertisement. Brands are learning that instead of looking for results-based metrics, to attract a participatory and engaged audience the focus needs to be placed on experience, qualitative analytics and evoking an emotional response.
Audiences want a two-way relationship with their brands and this is set to be the one of the biggest focuses of marketing strategies of the future.
MULTIPLEX is open from 18th September to 15th October 2015
Old Selfridges Hotel, 1 Orchard Street , London , W1H 6JS