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5 Takeaways from the BSSP/Contagious Now/Next/Why Conference

June 11, 2015

On June 9th, over 150 people gathered at the Golden Gate Club in San Francisco to learn, be inspired and share their own thinking on the theme of “Obsessing Experience” at the BSSP/ContagiousNow/Next/Why Conference.

BSSP had chosen to partner with Contagious because as a publisher and consultant, they’ve spent the past decade keeping their fingers on the pulse of the new and emerging forms of communication, understanding who is doing what, but also why it matters.

The theme of “Obsessing Experience” was selected because its clear digital technology is transforming consumption habits and giving rise to new behaviors (Nielsen just reported app usage has increased 63% in 2 years) and ways to interact with brands and it’s also creating new competitors who are elevating experiences and expectations.

These technologies offer brands the chance to form one-to-one relationships with customers in ways unimaginable a few years ago, but it’s not just about the digital side, brands are also thinking hard about the totality of the experience in other channels and how it can be improved. Keeping customers happy has across the journey and post-purchase has become an increasingly important consideration for brands.

Helping us to learn about and from the world of “Obsessive Experiences”were an eclectic group of presenters, including- expert analysts fromContagiousTom Raith of IDEO (Design thinkers), Anna Pickard of Slack (Transforming workplace communication), Doug Ziewacz of Under Armour (Taking on Nike, Adidas and Silicon Valley), Derrick Lewis of Rapha (Upscale cycling gear and experiences), Ben Jones of Google (Art Copy, Code– aka re-inventing advertising)Tom Marchant of Black Tomato (re-inventing luxury travel) and author/experience consultantMatt Watkinson.

During the course of the day, five things emerged out of the conversation that can help brands when they think about developing obsessive experiences

1. Know Your Strategic Fundamentals (your user, who you are and understand the journey)

In an increasingly complicated world with more channels than ever and more requirements for content, you need a map. This means understanding who you are and why you exist for customers.

Beyond the fundamentals of Brand Architecture and user understanding, being able to objectively and methodically lay out the customer journey is now also becoming an important strategic imperative

2. Brands Need both Attention and Experience

One of the challenges for brand markers and agencies appears to be the to deliver the need for both attention and experiences. In a world where consumers are obsessed with smartphones, brands need to find increasingly clever and imaginative ways to tell their stories and grab people’s attention. We also inhabit a world where apps that are bringing us things at the touch of a button and therefore expectations of experience are constantly being raised.

It’s clear there are two disciplines in play here; one that’s about finding new and interesting ways to tell stories and the other that’s about designing and finessing experiences based on understanding users.

With both attention and experience, finding unique ways to deliver these with obsession depends on a unique combination of technological, cultural and brand understanding.

3. How Do You Balance Digital and Human?

With the world in the cloud and the ability to algorithmize everything, customers’ lives can be made much easier by self-service and automation. While there was widespread recognition and head nodding from the audience, there was an understanding that there’s nothing that can beat human interaction. So while the temptation might be to remove humans from the process (just think of the cost savings!), brands probably need to evaluate what they might be giving up from doing this

4. Small Things can Make a Big Difference

Sometimes the breadth and depth of a customer journey can appear daunting, it looks like it’s just too much to take on and attack.

However, it’s often the small things that can make the biggest difference of all. If you can identify the parts of the journey and experience that really matter to people, or do something that’s unexpected in a digital world (like write a hand-written letter) your small action will be noticed and people will respond.

5. Is Experience Falling Between Corporate Silos?

Experience is obviously everyone’s responsibility, but there’s often no single person, no champion, who’s accountable for it, because it’s simply too vast and crosses so many disciplines, so the problem for experience could be that it’s falling between the corporate silos.

It’s why we have the “back of the deck” problem that Tom Raith of IDEO identified, clients are used to buying advertising and know what to look for, but that’s tougher with experiences, because they’re often beyond the limits of budget and personal responsibility.

It’s clear agencies could do better by finding ways to prioritize and identify their “back of the deck” ideas, by doing something of the things listed below.

  1. Determine the potential value to brand and business- find the one’s with the greatest impact
  2. Find the ones that are going to have the greatest impact on the brand’s attention and experience.
  3. Map them back to the most important parts of the customer journey.
  4. Define what do they deliver. Are they about keeping customers more loyal? Bringing more customers into the brand, or a different way to gain attention and amplify awareness?

Finally, to summarize, the day provided some real context around the idea that brand experiences matter more than ever, but it also reminded us while it’s easy to drown in the hype, supposed complexity of the digital age, but often as the conference proved, the best solutions can be the smallest and the most human and the first place to start is always by asking yourself some very basic and straightforward questions.

So, if you erase from your mind buzzwords like “disruption” and “digital transformation” and instead think about how you can improve the customer’s experience, it suddenly all becomes less daunting and more possible.

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