We live in a world where as human life is extending, corporate life is dramatically reducing. It is estimated that by 2027 more than 50% of the S&P 500 will be usurped. How to survive?
Experience is key. By 2020 customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. We’re seeing the impact of this as agencies are increasingly remunerated when people spend time with brands. It’s a new ROI – a return on involvement.
As an industry we’ve been quick to identify technology as the answer to extending the return on involvement, since it’s so closely associated with business transformation. As a result, agencies have spawned innovation labs, incubators and teams to work the future out. But technology innovation is too often used to fuel short-term buzz rather than meet the unmet needs and increasing expectations of consumers.
The result: an overinvestment in an underwhelming solution. The agency gets excited. The client gets bored. The consumer gets nothing.
The crux of the problem is that technology isn’t an effective experience in itself. What it can be, when leveraged in the right way, is a brilliant enabler and connector of experiences. It’s connected experiences, fuelled by data, that give brands longer-term competitive advantage – and create a return on involvement.
But which emerging technologies will be the game-changers in helping deliver effective connected experiences? This means identifying not only the disruption potential and the time to market of the technology, but also the data that is going to fuel relevance with the audience. Each of the current favourites – AI, VR and AR – present challenges and opportunities.
AI is very much in its infancy – we are way off achieving the seven aspects of AI that pioneer John McCarthy laid out in 1955. The key game-changing aspect, when it is finally realised, will be 'abstraction' – defined as the quality of dealing with ideas rather than events. For the medium term, while AI lacks the ability to deal with the more intangible, we should concentrate on automation.
This is important as it means we can focus on asking the right questions rather than analysing the wrong answers. A great example of this challenge is health self-quantification apps, which in practice cause more anxiety by answering the wrong questions due to a lack of context. So we need to ensure that we are using automation to ask the right questions in order to enhance brand experiences, making them more personalised, responsive and measurable - as demonstrated by the Nike Unlimited Stadium, where the environment recognised and responded to individual runners.
VR can add great impact, but brands and the relationships they are creating with people can easily be devalued through novelty VR activations. This is a significant risk, as it's no longer what a brand looks like that is important, but how it makes people feel. Ultimately, virtuality will introduce the 'internet of experiences', meeting the desires of the 'want' generation. What they want, where they want it, when they want it. But because the hardware and software are still in their infancy, we are a few years from VR being ubiquitous.
People’s interest in augmented reality has diminished, seeing it as a novelty providing little value, but in the short term AR will become more prevalent. Both Apple and Google have invested heavily with their ARKit and ARCore platforms, while Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft are also counting on AR as a strategic imperative. Although Google Glass and Snap Spectacles, failed to gain traction, AR-ready eyewear will become commonplace in the next 18 months as the utility value and entertainment opportunities it provides are recognised.
Brand experiences will embrace AR’s ubiquity to reimagine experiences, from eyes down on screens to looking up and interacting with the environment around you.
Damian Ferrar is senior vice-president, executive creative director at Jack Morton Worldwide