Swipe right. Get your brand noticed.

Notes from my Revolution conference presentation. 5th March, London.

A short talk for a retail audience about applying digital thinking to build relevant brands. The title swipe right, get your brand noticed nods to the addictive Tinder interaction.

Who is getting it right?

Brand cathedrals, like the iconic Burberry Regent Street store, establish brand credentials, entrancing us with every single step. Everything controlled, weaving a seamless brand narrative. Done well — as Burberry have — is exceptionally seductive.

However.

More often consumers stumble across brands in unusual places, with lots of other brands scratching for our attention.

Department stores employ teams of buyers with trend reports about what we want. As consumers, it is still our choice to walk in and pick up products. Online it is murkier. Algorithms suggest products we need, often before we need it and opportunities to purchase pop-up in places we’re not not expecting it.

Blend the science of shopping with the wider changes in our culture. We feel empowered broadcasting our #selfie selves, while secretly picking up cues about what we really really want from @strangers we've never met.

This shift from controlled brand cathedrals to the serendipity of moments we can't control fascinates me.

In this serendipitous world, how do brands win?

Great stories.

Patagonia have a crystallised mission “build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” They haven't written a positioning statement, they've taken a position. That gives them the foundation to tell stories that matter.

What can I do?

While most digital experiences overly simplify life, a few are starting to celebrate its complexity. Facebook has over 70 gender options. In this confusing, emotional world, it is refreshing to see platforms beginning to reflect our delightfully ambiguous identities.

Silk Road and its many imitators trade in illegal and life threatening goods. But we use them because of trust built on something really simple (and often forgotten) — great customer service.

We don’t go online, we exist there. Our Apple Watch will check us into our hotel, while our Nest thermostat ensures our home is cosy when we arrive. In short, digital tools are exceptionally good to use, and are getting much less digital.

In this post-digital digital world, we have to be thoughtful. As the video by Keiichi Matsud shows, the land grab for attention could get messy quickly.

So map out adjacent and opposing brand experiences that your customers will bump into. Think active experiences that respond to human interaction and most importantly, do something believable for your brand.

What is right for my brand?

Big question, but the Hyper Island toolbox is a great place to find exercises to answer it. A simple exercise that I ran live at the R:Evolution conference asks “why?”

Think of a brief you might give a designer.

  1. Write it down.
  2. ask “Why”?
  3. repeat

Repeat the process at least three times. You'll see your original brief become more transcendental. At the conference, the original response was:

“Let women know I’m a great cook”

After a few rounds of “why?” we exposed more primordial needs, both carnal and carnivorous. We determined in a matter of minutes that (in this participants view) food and sex are fundamental to life.

With this deeper response we can explore more meaningful ways of communicating fundamentals, with much more imagination across many more touchpoints.

Ok, anything else I should know?

Some interesting references for good digital thinking include:

Wake up (aka Awakening Tech)

Amnesty have been rolling out a series of digital billboards that show a husband punching his wife in your peripheral vision. When you look at the billboard, the image changes showing a happy couple. Skoda have been rolling out an entire campaign that tracks your eyes to determine what you’re interested in. This active communication is both engaging for consumers, and potentially a rich insight tool for brands about what is and isn't interesting in the real world.

Habits

Nir Eyal makes many great points in his book Hooked about building habit forming technology. In short, design the trigger and reward for your product.

Influence the influencers

Mr Porter invited a hundred well dressed sartorialists to act as a Style Council both endorsing and inspiring men about how to dress and where to shop. Think about how you'll use influencers to talk about what you're doing.

Play with scarcity

I've mentioned this before, but celebrate the ephemeral and let digital things degrade and fade.

Be an ingredient

We are using tools like If This Then That to mash services together. This is a perfect lab for brands to see consumer interest in products that flex and a wake up call to ensure everything we design slots into a wider ecosystem.

Add context

Google have been adding contextual information on their search results for some time. They provide restaurant opening times, city information and currency exchange rates (and many many more!) This context enriches the Google experience. Think about how you could add context.

Make sure your environment reflects your brand ambitions

I’m lucky enough to be working with Airbnb, which means i've enjoyed their epic offices and deliciously healthy meals. These are much more than mere perks. Belonging is at the core of their brand, and their environment is literally, a home-away-from-home. Think about your environment and how well it incubates and supports the people who represent your brand.

Want to understand how animals live? Skip the zoo, explore the jungle.

Design feedback into products you have in the wild, I love the Coke Hug Me vending machines that can be (and I think has been) rolled out exchanging Facebook data for Coke. In the exchange, Coke get detailed demographic data about who is interested in their product, giving them live up-to-the-minute consumer insight. Think laterally about how your brand can get into the wild and learn from your consumers.

Be positive

In this era of emerging behavioural economics, there is plenty of focus on scarcity and peer validation as tools to nudge through to purchase. But the thing that gets missed, positivity.

We are worried.

We are worried about our planet overheating, cities flooding and resources running out. We're worried about terrorists and the power of destruction so few hold over so many. We're working harder and longer but with less to show in things we can buy and job security we can fall back on.

I've been a long term admirer of A Hundred Years, a “purpose-driven creative consultancy dedicated to amplifying the dreams of extraordinary organizations.”

In this world, it's time we build brands that make positive contributions, supporting positive behaviour with positive communications.

Thats it!

Thank you for reading this far, sorry if it is a bit rambly — its tough translating a talk into written form. Thoughts & points of view much appreciated.

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated James Hurst’s story.