Like everyone in the world of brand experience, we’ve had to pivot. And pivot fast. At a time when a third of the world is in lockdown, we are working to meet those changing needs at a speed none of us could ever have predicted. But meet them we all must, if brands are to stay relevant.
Amid the clamour for virtualisation, it’s more imperative than ever that we are not tempted to see technology alone as the answer to meet these changing needs. Emerging technology is a fantastic enabler of extraordinary experiences, but shouldn’t be confused with the experience itself. All too often, the focus is the novelty the technology enables, rather than the real value it helps to deliver. With this in mind, which technology should we be using, right now and in the future, to deliver this real value?
Right now, the technologies we require to deliver on the new needs are the tried and tested. These arguably boring but nonetheless critical technologies – 4G, broadband and enterprise collaboration platforms – are essential for pulling off the current pivoting from live to virtual events.
While there is a lot of talk about virtual experiences, the reality is as an industry we are at least a year out from delivering truly virtual events at scale. The secret to an effective virtual experience right now is a content-first approach. Think engaging TV formats – from talk shows and documentaries through to TED talks and scripted dramas. People’s time and attention is stretched in ways it has never been before – they are not going to sit through a two-hour live stream of a presenter on a stage.
The next 18-24 months
As many commentators have pointed out, innovation comes in the most challenging of times. So now, through these hardest of times, we are shaping the new brand experience normal. In this new future, it won’t be a question of delivering a brand experience but of curating the brand experience; a channel and platform agnostic ecosystem of immersive, responsive, curated and connected brand interactions across all relevant platforms, products and services.
As we work towards this new normal, the key technology trends I expect to be most prevalent in the next 18-24 months all fall under the spatial computing movement that sees people engaging in a shift from how we transition from the restricted interaction with static computers and screens of the past to how we can engage with the multi-sensorial immersive, responsive technology of today.
Brands will increasingly leverage platforms such as Epic’s Unreal Engine and Facebook’s Horizon to interpret environments where audiences will enjoy deep immersion experiences with greater field of view, no blurring and spatial 3D sound through headsets such as VRgineers XTAL.
Those people who attend the experience IRL will be engaging with huge holographic displays that will create super-stereoscopic, three-dimensional scenes that multiple people can interact with, such as those being developed by Looking Glass Factory.
For those that don’t attend IRL, conversational devices will be key – automated speech recognition will span the connected experience ecosystem leveraging platforms such as Google’s Duplex to conduct natural conversations that will seek out and curate relevant content and experiences for people. This content will be delivered on parallel reality displays that allow over one hundred people to simultaneously view a screen and each see something different and relevant to them, such as those being developed by Misapplied Sciences.
Today’s disruptive and challenging landscape means brand experience agencies must recalibrate and prepare for a future where we use technologies to create brand worlds that deliver against the new reality of people’s needs and values.
Damian Ferrar is innovation director and global head of Genuine X at Jack Morton