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Tech Trends, Part Three: How to Get the Most Out of Mass Personalization

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Chris Cavanaugh

Chris Cavanaugh

Executive Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer

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What CMOs need to know to maximize the emotional impact of brand experiences

This is the third installment in a three-part series in which Chris Cavanaugh, CMO of Freeman, discusses the event technology that is shaping the future of brand experiences. Catch up on Part Two here

We are a society that has become hyper-personalized.

Today’s consumers don’t just appreciate customized content — they expect it. Whether we’re shopping for clothes, planning a vacation, or browsing for a TV show to watch, we seem to have very little patience for choices that we don’t relate to.

There’s an emotional angle to all of this. Across the globe, consumers have started craving a deeper connection with the brands they use. They want to feel like they’ve made the right choice with their money, and they prefer to invest in brands that understand them and know what they care about.

Technology has made this possible. Now more than ever, there are a multitude of channels that learn our behaviors, listen to our feedback, and give us the ability to opt into — or out of — the experiences that fill our lives. The future is being dictated by what individuals want rather than what brands want for them. Nowhere is this truer than in the world of brand experiences.

This is a good thing. Brands, at their core, are all about people. Not crowds of people but rather individuals, each with their own unique set of values and emotional connection points. Personalization based on emotional investment gives us an opportunity to forge deeper connections with our audiences.

Fortunately, live events offer a wealth of opportunities for brands not only to provide personalized experiences but also to continue learning how to make emotional connections with their audiences as well. 

Tech Trends, Part One: Get Ready — VR & AR Are About To Change Brand Experiences

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Tech Trends, Part One: Get Ready — VR & AR Are About To Change Brand Experiences

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Know your audience(s)

It seems obvious, but many brands do not actually know their audience beyond the broad strokes painted by their standard research. Today’s audiences can be much more complex than that.

By the year 2020, there will be five different generations working at the same time. That’s more generations than have ever been in the workforce at once, and it presents a new wrinkle in addition to the usual segmentation challenges we face. Each generation will have its own set of priorities, motivators, and preferred methods of communication.

Speaking of generations, as our original attendees age out, who will replace them? The up-and-coming generations will have an overabundance of experiences and channels to choose from, so it’s very likely that the same old tactics may not work on them.

If we want to attract these new audiences, segmentation will be the first step in understanding how we can connect with them. 

Tech Trends, Part Two: Live Streaming Video Can Change the Way Brands Engage with Audiences

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Tech Trends, Part Two: Live Streaming Video Can Change the Way Brands Engage with Audiences

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Use data to make a human connection

Now that you’ve defined your audiences, data is the key to personalization. Once you have the data, there are many ways to customize the experience for your audience.

Turning heaping piles of information into insights that are actionable and meaningful is no easy task, but with today’s event technology, anything is possible. It starts with putting the customer at the center of the proposition, using empathy and insights to understand what he or she wants and needs, and then creating a personalized experience that delivers emotion without feeling intrusive.

There are challenges, of course. We will have to be vigilant about issues of privacy, data ownership, and usage. I find that, in this case, honesty is the best policy. If audiences are aware that you’re collecting their data in order to enhance their experience and remove the clutter, and you ensure that they are totally and implicitly aware of what is being collected and studied, then you should have no problem. 

Reach audiences where they are

As mass media continues to fragment, so do the ways in which marketers can reach audiences. The days of the big ad running during prime-time television are being supplemented by new devices, new streaming vehicles, and an evolving mass of new marketing channels. If you are going to employ multiple channels to get your message across, there should be continuity between those channels. 

It’s important to remember that campaigns are ongoing conversations. There are many avenues of communication at our disposal today, and the beauty of many of them is that they’re two-way. They allow us to listen to what our audiences are saying and gather insights into what motivates them and speaks to them on a deeper level.

Getting Attendees Involved in the Content Mix

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Getting Attendees Involved in the Content Mix

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Allow audiences to co-create

When creating brand experiences, we can now use data and technology to design environments and make these story worlds more responsive. We’ve developed some platforms that allow consumers to control their own experience and offer real-time feedback that can shape the content of a program as it is happening.

Given that most attendees have their phones in their hand at any given time, this provides a great opportunity to get them involved in coauthoring content at your event (and feeling the ownership of it). What better way to get them to feel emotionally invested in what your brand has to say.

Keep storytelling at the center of the creative journey

There was a time when advertising and marketing relied almost entirely on the power of emotional storytelling. In recent years, storytelling has given way to algorithms, metrics, and optimization. While there’s no doubt that those things are important, storytelling has always been the beating heart of this industry.

Storytelling can be a powerful drug. A 2006 study by Spanish researchers looked into the effects of storytelling on the human brain. They found that, while statistics and facts have little to no effect on our emotions, descriptive stories have the potential to stimulate certain sensory regions of our brains, such as touch or smell. They can even generate activity in the motor cortex, the part of the brain that controls movement.

Now more than ever, brands need stories that help stimulate audience emotions. After all, a customer who feels an emotional connection to a brand is 52 percent more valuable than one who is not emotionally connected. 

Few marketing channels have the capacity to incite emotion in quite the same way as brand experiences. While many can come close, a personalized brand experience is the best way to envelop an audience in the context of a story and really inspire them to feel something.

At the end of the day, personalization is about transforming the idea of marketing from a form of mass communication to a form of conversation.

We are asking people to give us their time and attention, and we should be giving them something in return. Personalization lets an attendee know that, not only are we listening to them but we are genuinely interested in their individual interests and needs. We care about making them feel comfortable, entertained, satisfied, and, most importantly, emotionally connected.

That sort of attention goes a long way toward converting an attendee from a potential client into an existing one. 

This concludes my series on event technology. As part of our effort to keep up with the rapid pace of change, Freeman will continue to monitor and curate the latest trends. 

For more information on mass personalization, download our insights paper

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