So, who saw that coming? COVID has changed everything. So, we decided to create ‘The Definitive Guide to creating the most memorable Virtual Experiences’.
So, who saw that coming? At the time of writing, over half of the world’s population is following social distancing measures. Borders have closed, travel restricted, interaction controlled. Markets have rocked, growth contracted and there’s a worldwide recession on the horizon. It’s not the normal ingredients for good news, that’s for sure.
But, these are not normal times and Rebel & Soul is a glass-full kind of company. The coronavirus may have robbed us of in-person events, but the core elements of our award-winning neuroexperiences remain. We still have forward-thinking brands and eager consumers. We still have astonishing technology and intriguing neuroscience insights. We still have our proprietary INVOLVE® methodology and limitless memory-making potential. The only difference is that we now have to prepare the memory-making feast in a digital kitchen and deliver a virtual takeaway to our customers.
Whisper it, but social distancing can be good for business. Amazon’s stock has improved by almost 25% since the start of 2020. Zoom usage jumped 30-fold in April. SignEasy (eSignature software) has doubled its number of weekly users. We know these digital companies are particularly suited to benefit from lockdown, but the message is clear: companies that embrace virtual will fare best post-Covid.
This is especially true for marketing. Digitally-savvy marketers have not only been the most insulated from lockdown measures, but are the best prepared to take advantage of the ‘new normal’. From innovative use of technology and on-point messaging to jaw-dropping collaborations and uplifting campaigns, marketers have gone back to their creative roots to take advantage of the new audience, messaging and medium opportunities.
For starters, there is a whole new audience out there. In-person events are limited to being, well, in-person, but the internet’s reach is truly global. An online wine-tasting course can be accessed from homes on all seven continents (we’re sure they like wine in Antarctica too). A live at-home runway event can feature participants from Milan, London, Paris and New York.
With reading, listening and watching becoming almost fully virtual activities and over 40% of consumers spending longer on social media and messaging services, brands can reach new consumers who are increasingly spending their hours devouring online content. Consumers who are calling out for something exciting to brighten up their day, be it an online clubbing experience, a virtual tour of the Vatican or the ability to invite a llama to their next conference call.
What’s more, many of these online consumers are virtual virgins too. From elderly parents using video calls for the first time to outdoor types forced inside, the coronavirus has expedited consumers’ move to digital; marketers’ should follow suit to reach a wider scope of audience.
Ok, the audience is out there, but what do we tell them? How can we ensure our message is getting through? Evelina Lye, Head of Regional Marketing Media Partnerships at Facebook APAC, told our 5&5 video series that “brands who are standing out in this period are ‘giving back’”. From DoubleTree hotels giving out the recipe to their famous cookies to Apple and Google putting aside their rivalry to create a platform for contact tracing, now is the time for brands to channel their inner purpose, be useful and ‘give back’. In times of uncertainty, consumers value brands that connect on a human-level, support the community and use their voice for good.
In addition, Mark Bornstein, Vice President of Marketing at ON24, told a Discover Martech virtual event that because audiences have become more creative during lockdown – think about all the household games you’ve devised – they’re expecting brands to get creative too. For him, post-Covid marketing is less about clicks and downloads and more about engagement and experiential marketing.
You have the audience, you have the message, now what vehicle do you use? Hands up if you’re thinking of blogs and webinars right now. Hands up if the thought of blogs and webinars has made you drowsy. Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
Luckily, there’s much more to digital marketing than those run-of-the-mill mediums. From live and pre-recorded streaming to virtual and augmented reality, purpose-built virtual worlds, holograms, games and AI, brands can make virtual experiences that are equally as intriguing and memorable as live events. To borrow the words of James Stewart, Founder of Building with Buddies – an entertainment company that creates and distributes content related to LEGO – digital innovation “represents an opportunity to completely reimagine what value is to customers and how it’s delivered”.
“Within 72 hours, we pivoted to meet consumer demands and be relevant to them on top of bringing the joy of fashion to everyone.” Christopher Daguimol, Group Director Brand Communications at ZALORA Group who reactively shifted their business during the pandemic, has got a point. More than one in fact.
Firstly, while some brands bury their heads in the sand, their competitors are out there building up their brand reputation to be leveraged in the future. For those that rest on their laurels, it will be like waking up from winter hibernation to discover everyone else has been up for months.
Secondly, social distancing is here to stay. Spikes of the virus will come and go. Borders will open and close. Restrictions will tighten and relax. Preparing a well-thought-out digital strategy now stands brands in good stead for the long run.
Thirdly, consumers are craving something new. Brands that communicate with consumers during these testing times – that supply them with a stream of positive memories – will reap the loyalty benefits for years to come.
At Rebel & Soul, we’re applying our model to the digital context. As kitchen tables became desks, we dusted off our virtual box of neurocreativity and had a root around. We analysed our in-person neuroexperiences and started rebuilding them for a digital age. We evaluated audience engagement, tested technologies, measured ROI and examined content. Here’s what we found.
It seems every recent virtual tech-related article refers to the ‘Zoom boom’, but the digital world is much more exciting than conference calling technology. Brands can enhance content with special effects and interactive games. Brands can alter reality and transport consumers from their sofa to a virtual world. Brands can live stream concerts and beam Lady Gaga into customers’ kitchens.
Brands can use tech for a myriad of spellbinding experiences, but whatever they do it must tickle the senses. With virtual experiences, alluring visuals and entrancing sounds are just the tip of the iceberg and innovative brands should creatively use digital tech to arouse consumers’ taste buds and tantalise their nostrils too. Now that’s a memorable experience.
If you haven’t heard by now, marketing is all about making memories. Those long-term positive associations between brands and consumers that dictate trust, value and loyalty. Those emotional connections that subconsciously guide 99% of consumers’ purchasing decisions. Those mind-bending, heart-pumping, smile-generating thoughts that make us who we are.
When creating experiences, stunts and campaigns, marketers must therefore seduce the subconscious. Luckily, the memory-making possibilities of virtual experiences are as endless as in-person experiential. Think live games and prize giveaways, worldwide Zumba sessions and indoor dance classes, AI-hosted events and online world record attempts. Virtual tech is such a powerful memory-making tool that people have even been known to marry holograms. If brands wield that power well, the subconscious has no chance.
In 2019, Apple’s iPhone 11 launch was live-streamed on Youtube and watched by 1.8 million people worldwide. The video game Fornite hosted the largest ever virtual concert in February last year with 10 million viewers tuning in live. No physical auditorium or stage could ever come close to those numbers.
The power of virtual marketing to reach enormous audiences around the world is just one of the reasons how virtual boosts marketing ROI. From cutting in-person costs, such as venue rental and staff hire, and minimising the chance of event cancellation to increasing network connectivity and using dazzling special effects, virtual marketing is cheaper, more reliable and more accessible. It’s ROI’s new best friend.
According to Cisco, watching videos will account for 82% of consumer internet traffic by 2022 and 60% of the world population will be using the internet. With so many videos and so many people, what will be the great differentiator? Yep, that’s right, content.
In the digital realm, content is not just king, but judge, jury and executioner. A brand’s online content will determine whether their virtual marketing flies around the internet creating positive memories or sinks like a dull, repetitive, seen-it-all-before stone. Awesome content must hit the spot and nail the tone – think human, empathetic, supportive. Awesome content must cut-through in an overcrowded space – think punchy, punctual, relevant. Awesome content must use tech inventively to arouse the senses – think games, VR and AI. In other words, think INVOLVE®.
Brands that have stood out during the pandemic are those that have channelled their inner purpose and given back to their customers, such as Burger King providing the quarantine recipes for its favourite burgers or Hilton and Amex providing free hotel rooms to healthcare workers.
However, one of the most surprising lockdown trends has been the wave of brand collaborations. Across industries and amongst rivals, brands have come together to help consumers and help themselves, such as Apple and Google’s contact-tracing partnership.
At a time when consumers value unity and usefulness, brand collaborations capture the public’s imagination, but partnerships are not just about social media shares and impressions. As all brands face the similar challenge of a socially-distanced virtual future, it makes sense for brands to share insights and knowledge so everyone can grow together.
To take advantage of digital opportunities, brands must tread a fine line. One false step and the enormous potential of a global audience and seamless sharing can end in reputational catastrophe. For example, Volkswagen’s recent video of a giant white hand pushing a black man away from a new VW Golf was racist and misjudged. Instead, brands should be championing the fight against racism by supporting movements like Black Lives Matter or using their platform for change, like Nike’s video urging people: ‘for once, don’t do it’.
Brands also need to make sure they use the right messaging and medium to cut-though in the crowded online space. That’s where we come in. As the world’s first neuroexperience agency, Rebel & Soul uses neuroscience and neuromarketing insights to create dazzling experiences that forge strong associations between brands and consumers. Or to put it another way, we create long-lasting positive memories of a brand in consumers’ minds.
Whether physical or digital, memories are the marketer’s currency. They’re core to human existence, they control how we feel and how we act, they underpin everything that we do as humans and everything that we do at Rebel & Soul.
As master memory-makers, we know how memories are formed and how to form them. From the explicit and the implicit, the semantic to the episodic, we understand how and why people make, store and recall positive memories. This knowledge, garnered from neuroscience insights, created INVOLVE®: our award-winning methodology that ensures all our experiences live long in the memory.
The application of INVOLVE® has allowed us to significantly boost engagement for top brands in the digital space, such as creating a mobile app for Heineken and a pitstop mechanic game ad for Red Bull F1. Our office might be a no go zone but our digital memory factory is up and running and we’re hungry to serve you more. Whether you’re into virtual wine-tasting, concerts and tours or simulated experiences, games and realities, there’s a world of digital memories out there and we’d love to make them with you. Also, for some extra good feels, Rebel & Soul operate on a 1 for 1 model – for every brand memory we create, we donate 1 life enhancing memory to those in need for charities such as B1G1, Habitat for Humanity, BillionBricks and more.
If you want to make some great virtual experiences, come and get INVOLVE®d.
Kristy Castleton is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of Calyx Technology, a global technology company who streamline consumer experiences. She is also the Founder and CEO of Rebel & Soul, a socially conscious business that produces highly memorable events for global brands across Asia Pacific. She is an extrovert and a geek, passionate about neuroscience and technology. He company Rebel & Soul works with brands like Heineken, HSBC, Chanel and MINI and agencies such as Dentsu and Saatchi & Saatchi to create events that pack a punch. Think wearables, gamification, holograms and virtual reality mixed with awesome music and a free flow bar. Rebel & Soul’s vision is to drive event technology to be the new frontier of marketing in Asia. Kristy spent years working on weird and wonderful events and campaigns in Europe at festivals like F1’s and the Olympics and wanted to bring a snippet of the event marketing fun out east. Kristy was nominated by Campaign Asia to be on their Women to Watch list. Team Rebel also provides pro bono event consultancy for local charities and non-profits. These initiatives include Billion Bricks, Thomson Reuters Trust Forum, Buy1Give1, and the 100 Resilient Cities initiative by the Rockefeller Foundation. Rebel & Soul won Excellence in Technology& Innovation award, Start-Up Excellence and Customer Engagement by the BritCham for its 18th Annual Business Awards. Kristy holds a Bachelor in Business Studies from Edinburgh University.