Next-generation brand communications


Andy Wardlaw, MMR’s Chief Ideas Officer, makes a serious offer to WARC readers to address declines in campaign effectiveness. This is about exploring how finely tuned video and aural stimulus can be used to depict your brand experience and create desire, he says.

Two of the world’s biggest media buyers expressed serious concerns about the state of brand communications, during a conference in Las Vegas this year.

Keith Weed, seasoned marketing supremo at Unilever (since retired) expressed personal dissatisfaction with the social media landscape, highlighting how difficult it has become for brands to express themselves with “consistency and integration”.

And Marc Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer at Procter & Gamble, advised that “the days of advertising as we know it are numbered”. He asserted that we must now plan for a world with no ads.

So, against this backdrop of media fragmentation and unprecedented levels of distraction on people’s time, how can brands punch through and land something that holds attention and drives purchase consideration?

For the answer to be effective, we must accept that people are becoming resistant to interruption by advertising – even on social media. So, we must tap into people’s insatiable appetite for experiences (driven by the radical ‘Z’ Generation) for a viable solution.

We live in an era of relentless online stimulation and that is driving us all towards heightened levels of excitement. This assertion has been validated by work undertaken by Professor David Levy at the University of Washington, who found that the internet is literally rewiring our brains!

For innovation, it means a direction of travel that offers more complex, more challenging and more theatrical product encounters. A recent article by Kathryn A LaTour in the Journal of Advertising Research highlights how engaging multiple senses across a product experience can generate deeper learning about a brand and lead to more enduring mental availability.

For communications, this means more profound, more immersive and more stimulating executions. But what could this look like?

It turns out that the train has already left the station.

ASMR is a genre of experiential stimulus that has quickly proved its ‘viral’ potential. It is shorthand for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. Videos play out as highly immersive visual and aural experiences that some claim induce a profound state of relaxation. YouTube contributors are commanding astronomical viewing figures – frequently in excess of 100 million.

Hot on the heels of this phenomena, a few big-name brands have been getting in on the act with ASMR-style communications that seek to pierce the consciousness of today’s media savvy consumer. One of the most impactful efforts comes from AB InBev and its Michelob Ultra brand.

To support its premium, light and pure taste, AB InBev created a dramatically different approach to building mental availability and creating desire. And it appears to be working as the company’s CEO told Bloomberg that demand for the product is now “surging”.

Other brands, including Coca-Cola, Nestle Dove Chocolate and Paulig Coffee are also experimenting with this.

Beyond the hype, such executions reveal that some of the world’s biggest players now recognise the untapped value of their brands’ sensory assets: the triggering of desire from the sound of a chocolate bar wrapper being opened; the physiological response ignited by seeing a product being bitten into.

So several questions for brand marketers spring to mind:

1. Do you know what your most valuable sensory attributes are, in terms of distinctiveness, and what their impact is on people’s mental availability?

2. How could you engineer these to strengthen perceived levels of experience – perhaps by engaging multiple senses to build stronger mental availability?

3. What would experiential communications look like for your brand – building upon the viral success demonstrated by ASMR executions?

At MMR, we recognise immersive, experiential communications as an opportunity for our clients, and we’d like to utilise our worldwide expertise in sensory-led product design in combination with our video communications business, Ideal Insight.

We want to hear from companies that see value in creating the next generation of brand communications and that are interested in working with us to create an immersive and sensorially charged video capable of :

• engaging Generation Z

• communicating the core sensory attributes of a brand in innovative ways

• creating physiological desire.

This is not about sending people to sleep! Quite the reverse in fact! Let’s start a conversation, with the most promising opportunity benefiting from investment by the MMR Innovation Network.

This article first appeared in

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