• Transform magazine
  • February 29, 2024


Opinion: How can we design experiences fit for purpose?

Harry Osborne, Creative Director, SET Live.jpg

Crafting an effective brand experience requires a careful examination of audience, creativity and the brand’s wider context. Harry Osborne discusses how brands can get the most out of the experiential

Over the last decade, experiential has become an essential component of the brand awareness toolkit. The marketing media is constantly reporting on the latest ingenious immersive events and activations which brands are employing in order to capture the imaginations of existing audiences and engage with new ones.

There can be no doubt we are now living in the ‘age of experience’ and the influence of the channel is only set to grow as more brands discover the intrinsic value of direct engagement with the consumer. With so much activity in the marketplace, sometimes it can be difficult to get your signal heard through the incessant noise of the competition.

Whatever the scale of the experience, there are three essentials to consider when thinking about your audience.

The first is to understand the audience. A live audience is the single most powerful thing about a brand experience. As such, an awareness of your audience from the outset is crucial. Everything from context to demographics needs to be considered. We like to sum this up in three key words: situation, motivation and mindset.

This knowledge of the human factor is crucial to the success of any live event. You can be as creative as you like but if you haven’t tapped into the psyche of your audience when developing your initial concept, you run the risk of investing your efforts in an expensive waste of time, which no one wants.  

Once you know who they are, where they are and what sort of mood they are in you can use this invaluable information to create an effective experience.

Second, first impressions matter. Of course, we’re always looking to create a moment of ‘wow’ when people first arrive at any experience, but it’s also important to you don’t show your hand all at once. Depending what you’re producing it’s a great idea to think about the entire guest journey and what they’ll be thinking and experiencing at every point.

Consider the bigger picture. For example, if you’re using a large space for the event, where will your audience be spending the majority of their time? how can you use the room’s architecture to inspire a sense of curiosity or discovery?

Timings and length of the activation should also be taken into account when structuring the concept. This will help create a lasting first impression. If it’s a day-long show or conference, use the entire running time as your narrative arc and build emotions and tensions. Tell a story from beginning to end. On the other hand, if you only have a short time with the audience, think about how to be clear and engaging rather than confusing them with too many ideas. 

Finally, keep things fresh. From a creative point of view, we’re always interested in the new and how can we do something the brand hasn’t done before. However, we need to ensure that those ideas are relevant to the audience too.

It’s easy to become gratuitous during the creative process if you do not take a disciplined approach. Sometimes tried and tested is equally as effective as the shock of the new.

There is a delicate balance between completely rethinking the plan and sticking with what works. We have a blend of projects, some re-occur and others are unique. For those projects that do reoccur we need to ensure we find equilibrium between the audiences understanding and expectation.

Of course there are occasions when a completely reimagined approach gives the moment of wow, but often it’s a case of maintaining some thread between previous instances. There are also instances in which existing activations will reappear in a new market. This is typically a great opportunity to revamp the project, only changing the elements that did not work, while keeping those that did.

At Set Live, we’ve worked with some of the world’s biggest brands to deliver everything from specifically nuanced incentives for 20 board level directors to global tours which reach hundreds of thousands. We’re used to developing high-impact events which strike a resounding chord with their intended target.

Harry Osborne is the creative director at Set Live