Brand experience: Honeywell Aerospace
For global aerospace engineering company Honeywell Aerospace, building brand awareness in sales environments and building brand awareness as a B2B firm was holding it back. With the introduction of an immersive, responsive sales and marketing app, its brand experience is engaging and capable of making a real difference to the Honeywell brand. Brittany Golob reports
Imagine a busy trade exhibition, with every company’s latest and greatest products on display. Everyone is vying for a piece of time, for the opportunity to pitch, for consideration to be given to their products. Loud, visually overwhelming and exhausting, the attendee, and potential client, has few moments to spare for each company. That is the environment for which Honeywell’s digital application was built.
Global engineering firm Honeywell Aerospace – part of Honeywell International which produces everything from fertilizer to jet engines – found that its products, known as retro modification units (RMU), had little cut-through at trade shows, the primary venue for their sales and promotion. Components accompanied by a data sheet documenting their capabilities, the essential aeronautical tools – like transmitters, radar and proximity warning systems – had little impact in the visual-rich environment of the trade show.
Honeywell needed something to enable it to stand out and earn it time with attendees.
Thus, in late 2012, Honeywell approached UK-based digital agency Sequence to work up an initial interactive tool for use at exhibitions. Sequence worked on a small project before Honeywell decided to pursue a large-scale solution. With a global business and a number of technically-minded stakeholders, the scale of the project swiftly expanded as its ultimate usefulness became apparent.
“The idea was to create something which was a spectacle, which would draw a crowd,” says Sequence’s creative director James Bearne. “By turning it into a touch-enabled piece of work, it invites attendees to approach, touch and engage.” This indirect sales approach facilitates the initial interaction between the company and the potential client. With the added element of play, the interactive tool allows Honeywell that most valuable of commodities – time. “Our focus was on stimulating conversations between Honeywell and its customers. The more time you spend with a brand, the more connected you become.” The pay off for Honeywell has been more leads, engagement and higher brand awareness.
“The idea was to create something which was a spectacle, which would draw a crowd. By turning it into a touch-enabled piece of work, it invites attendees to approach, touch and engage.”
In developing the immersive, responsive, interactive platform, a number of needs had to be considered to translate engineering services and products – and the technical specs that accompany them – into a cohesive digital experience.
A Honeywell spokesperson says, “Honeywell strives to continuously improve our customer’s experience including how they access information on our products and services. This project was one example of how we used an innovative solution to communicate a range of aircraft upgrade solutions available for current fleets that can enhance productivity, safety and efficiency for our customers. We wanted to develop a tool that could house all of the information in a way that was easy to understand, engaging and intuitive.”
Each of six initial platforms – the aircraft that Honeywell’s products serve – was rendered into a 3D model, placed onto a 3D background and animated. Honeywell had specific requirements, Bearne says, in terms of technical accuracy, usability and visual appeal alike. “The brief derived from a workshop with Honeywell’s key project holders. It was clear the standard had to be high to maintain Honeywell’s innovative marketing strategy. They wanted to create something compelling. Something that was cinematic, unique and visually striking. All of which had to work across a variety of devices with limited performance capabilities,” he says.
A few of the models were available through stock sources, though that forced Sequence to edit out insignia or other modifications in order to present the craft in its unaltered state. Because Honeywell’s RMU can be placed anywhere on the aircraft, the entire exterior of each plane or helicopter had to be made available in 3D.
When it came to rendering the engines, Sequence found that stock models either did not exist or did not meet Honeywell’s needs. The existing models were not accurate enough so Sequence commissioned a photography of the engines, which would then be rendered in 3D. Some, Bearne says, had to be reshot and recomputerised because engineers weren’t happy with their accuracy. Thus, the finished platforms and engines are of a high standard of technical accuracy.
This process, though lengthy and arduous, was necessary. “The reasons for encouraging users to rotate the model when touched is to demonstrate where the retrofit modification units can be installed. The products aren’t restricted to the cockpit; they can be fitted within a variety of places on the platform,” Bearne says. “If we used a flat image, you wouldn’t understand the context of where you could place those products.”
The animated 3D models are accessible, as Bearne says, on touch-screen devices, allowing users to spend more time with the products and become more familiar with Honeywell’s brand.
But the models were just the beginning. For each platform, Sequence designed hundreds of infographics, made films using the models and incorporated the data and technical specifications of each retromod unit into the immersive experience.
The first stage of the project was completed in about three months – an incredibly short time scale – yet it has evolved in the years since. Bearne says the experience was designed initially in Flash. This was at a time – in early 2013 – when the Flash/HTML 5 battle was just coming to fruition in corporate communications. Sequence decided to go with Flash because Honeywell originally only needed it to run on Flash-enabled devices.
Since, though, Honeywell’s needs have shifted, particularly as the exhibition environment has become more technologically- advanced and as the immersive site has been used for sales and marketing purposes beyond that of the trade exhibition world for which it was born. Sequence has translated everything from Flash to HMTL 5, a process that required the digital team building a proprietary workaround tool to capture Flash animation and put it into CSS.
The app is also designed to be used across a variety of bandwith capabilities and with no hardware requirements. It is now responsive and able to be used on tablets and mobiles as well as screens of up to 50 inches.
In addition to getting the visuals and the digital experience right, the experience had to have a clear user journey. It was to feel like a movie, cinematic, Bearne says. “Because the products they’re selling are data sheets and black and silver boxes, it was very important that we brought them to life as much as possible.”
Travelling through the application, the user is greeted by a jet fly-by before selecting a specific stream – aviation or defense and aerospace. This then brings the user to a series of platforms and their uses on different aircraft. From there, each individual product features a 3D model with 360-degree views, infographics, video and audio. As the user progresses throughout the application, they become more immersed into the world Honeywell occupies – one of engineering and innovation, of blue skies and limitless possibilities, of scientific precision and authentic applications.
“Because the products they’re selling are data sheets and black and silver boxes, it was very important that we brought them to life as much as possible.”
The immersive experience is a reflection of the company’s universal reach. “There’s not an aircraft in the air that doesn’t include a Honeywell product,” Bearne says. While the app was designed as a sales tool, it has also become a source for building brand awareness. It is allowing Honeywell to show that it is an innovative company, immensely relevant in the modern world and capable of doing more than the core defense products for which it is primarily known. “The project was first created for Honeywell’s Defence & Space division, but is designed to scale, allowing Honeywell to showcase the breadth of platforms it provides products for. To achieve this, we’ve continued to push the limits of creativity and technology,” Bearne says.
He adds, “We’ve not just approached this to be a good looking project. It has commercial value behind it. It’s solving real problems with considered design and technical excellence, but still delivers a memorable experience.”
The Honeywell Aerospace brand has a slew of aeronautical firsts and feats to its name. It is innovative, immersive and ultimately, essential, to modern aeronautics. By creating a brand portal that can speak to all of those values through a beautiful and immersive app, Honeywell can better communicate about where the brand will go in the future.
The brand spokesperson says, “The interactive has become an effective tool to communicate complex information to our customers. We wanted our customers to understand the significant operational improvements that our technology upgrades can provide, the ease of installation and availability. We wanted to use to create a tool that meets the philosophy of the Honeywell user experience, a human approach to design, so it would be easy to use and valuable for customers.”
With the addition of an immersive app like the one designed to highlight Honeywell’s platforms, the overwhelming trade show is manageable for the first time. Its presence at such exhibitions is complemented by an intelligent technology
that allows potential clients a way to engage directly with the Honeywell brand, before any sales discussions take place. It gives the company time – time to play, time to learn and time to experience the Honeywell brand.