The Perpetual Experience Engine

Brands built through experience will succeed better than those built through communications

Too often these days, our industry sees brands as the sole product of advertising and communications. This is understandable as communications are the core of what we do.

But we have to remind ourselves that the most successful brands are built around a purpose. The top fifty fastest growing businesses between 2000 and 2010 were built with defined ideals. Google’s is to “organize the world’s information”, Innocent Smoothies’ is to “make natural, delicious food and drink that helps people live well and die old”. This clear purpose results in brands that have a richness that, while defining their behavior in the real and virtual world, will leave behind a cultural legacy.

The tail has been wagging the dog since advertising became popular as a medium and we need to re-think about how we contribute to building brands. A standard advertising and communications led approach is a powerful way to immediately reach a mass audience with a brand’s world, inviting consumers to take part and engage. But it’s exhausting, relying heavily on continued media spend for what is, in essence, a one-way conversation.

The alternative is the experience led approach – a far more robust and sustainable way of building brands. This approach creates a Perpetual Experience Engine between product and service experience and cultural imprint a brand can leave in society – through language, occasionality and shared experiences. This virtuous circle grows sustainably on its own, driving sales as it does, and while this growth can be accelerated with advertising or communications, it does not rely on it.

A wide range of brands have been built with this approach. They are constructed around a specific purpose, have a differentiated product and engage consumers in a very direct way. They rarely use advertising and communications in the early stages, instead relying upon the growth in culture such a strategy brings to build its audience. They focus on experience through disciplines such as advocate group engagement, shopper, packaging, content, events and social activation, and through developing their internal cultures, all in the name of living the brand they are representing.

Encouraging such ground-up approach provides exciting opportunities for agencies and clients to embrace. Brands should be organised around a true purpose, engaging staff and delighting customers, driving success and sustainability. In the digitally connected world this Perpetual Experience Engine is perhaps the only way to create a truly transcendent brand.

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Smartphones fuel rise of ‘snackable shopping’

Consumer retail behaviour is fragmenting in ways never seen before. We call this ‘Snackable Shopping’. The notion of snacking on content is of course nothing new, but snacking behaviour is becoming more widespread; extending to how people engage in social interaction, with brands, and in how they buy, on and offline.

Many day-to-day activities no longer need to be planned and it is becoming more natural for people to find ways to fit things into the gaps. To wait ‘until they have a moment’ and do several things at once. This means that content and information needs to be delivered in bite-sized chunks – easy to understand and to act upon.

This is happening because shoppers are interacting far more frequently than before with devices, each interaction taking less time and the sum total getting closer to being truly ‘always on’. Smartphone users interact with their phones 150 times per day – that’s every six minutes.  The era of second-screening or multi-screening is upon us, in a survey of connected device owners, nearly half of smartphone owners (46%) and tablet owners (43%) said they use their devices as second screens while watching TV every day (Nielsen). Given that estimates put smartphone penetration at 73%, the context for this new behaviour is clearly established.

The rise of ‘Commuter Commerce’ is a perfect example of this phenomenon. No longer do we gaze out of the train window or aimlessly flick through a free newspaper. Geometry Global research has shown that 90% of us use commuter time to browse, shop and buy via smartphones and tablets. With technology so ubiquitous and assimilated into the lives of the shopper, even the journey to work becomes a moment to make purchases.

What does this mean for the chief marketing officer? The most critical lesson is that the consumer is in control. For brands to successfully ingratiate consumers and integrate into their worlds, they need to identify these commuter opportunities and connect the modern digital shopper in a meaningful way.

Brands and marketers need to rebuild how and where they attempt to engage consumers, and the systems and processes required to support this.  Not only do we now need to develop snackable content, but also entire experiences (ecommerce, brand engagement) which can be ‘consumed’ in bite-sized chunks, anywhere, at any time and on whatever device.