Back to the future – Face-to-face communication in the digital age
| How can you bring a brand to life, how can you demonstrate what’s unique about it and get people to see what distinguishes it? How can the brand become front-of-mind in consumers’ minds? What are the rules to follow? The force is in how the brand value is translated. The answer is a symphony of elements from architecture, graphics, film, light and technology, with the help of digital formats, to create brand worlds that deliver a sensual experience. The spatial signatures address every aspect of human perception and anchor messages even in the deep layers of consciousness. Brands point the way. A banal word becomes a complex design principle. That is the starting point.
The year is 2011 and we are invited to the IAA in Frankfurt. The key talking point at the world’s biggest automotive exhibition: the future is mass production. Sounds exciting. Before the show, customers and colleagues tell me that brand communication needs a rethink: it needs to become more digital! Social media, story- telling and content are the new magic words.
The digital shift is in full swing. Let’s consider a few hard facts: UBER revolutionised the taxi industry without ever owning a car. Airbnb successfully attacked the hotel industry without ever having purchased a property, and Skype is emerging as a globally operating phone giant, without ever having operated a telephone mast. Silicon Valley is taking the lead – but how are marketing departments reacting to this shift?
Our look around IAA 2015 was certainly sobering. Nothing has changed. The large car manufacturers of course make an impression with prominent brand positioning, but if you are looking for signs of courage to do something new, you are looking in vain. Unfortunately. Even though the mix between ‘real’ and ‘digital’ is being propagated across all channels – successful implementations are rare. Only Volkswagen has shown a bit of bravery and translated the power of social media into an experience: Visitors to the automotive exhibition were able to visualise their Facebook profile on the exhibition stand. Volkswagen called this campaign, which allowed visitors to create the world’s first social media footprint, Social Aura. An idea with great potential and the call to further develop this format. We unfortunately have to conclude that it’s not the agencies that are short on ideas; it’s the companies that are putting the brakes on, despite all the technological capabilities. Time for a change!
In summary: The world is becoming increasingly digital and fast-paced – but the desire for moments of truth is becoming more intensive. That opens up new opportunities for coming into contact with our customers. The aim is to load spaces with messages, feelings and quality of time. Right alongside this and almost invisibly, digital formats help us to strengthen face-to-face communication. We need to develop new ideas which bring man and machine together intelligently and meaningfully. The art is in positioning the brand only in the subconscious, because overloaded brand messages are undesirable.
Just think about how the retail market alone will develop in the future? Digitalisation will create new opportunities which will significantly drive the brand experience and allow for new profitability. Example: Think of the many large showrooms run by brand manufacturers in the clothing sector. These are generally large 1,000 m2 sites in prime locations. Thanks to technological developments, the rental area can be more than halved and the brand experience intensified. What remains is an investment in a very well organised form of media-based interior design – with a lower rent because the rental space is reduced. The ROI comes quicker than expected. Audi is the frontrunner in this segment and has managed to create a showroom in the heart of London with only one real car. The possibilities are communicated with the help and support of digital formats – at an affordable rent. Just imagine what real estate with space for more than ten cars would cost in central London!
The design options are infinite. But they take courage, and the desire to dare to do something different. Germany is the country of ideas. Let’s use our potential to make the world a little smarter with intelligent creations. Anyone can complain – but let’s make things better instead! Remain open and actively design change, including in your own organisation!