Can Brand Experiences Truly Cater to Everyone?

Paul Martin, Creative Director, London

Today’s customers demand more personalisation from brands than ever before. So, when it comes to experiences, how can a single physical event individually resonate across a broad audience?

If there’s one way the wider creative and advertising industry has evolved in the past decade, it’s through personalisation. Technological advancements and increasing digital touchpoints and channels have meant brands can quickly serve more personalised ads to individuals based on geography, age, interests, and behavior. According to one McKinsey report, 71 percent of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized interactions. And 76 percent actually get frustrated when this doesn’t happen. 

For both in-person and virtual experiences and events, data has opened up new doors to creativity, and enabled us to make things more personal than ever before. A beauty experience, for example, can recommend specific products depending on a customer's body type or skin tone. Technology at a retail experience can determine how clothing or a pair of shoes might fit by taking a person's measurements ahead of a visit. And at London’s NikeTown, customers can design a custom shoe model/colourway based on their personal preference and taste. 

We know that different audiences have different wants and needs, and will expect different levels of personalisation or relevancy. Meeting these consumers' expectations will be less of a challenge when creating an experience for a specific audience demographic. For example, an event specifically for Gen Z gamers will vary drastically from an event aimed at a luxury beauty audience.

However, due to budget restraints, some industries and brands do find themselves having to cater to and reach multiple different audiences through one single live event/experience. This is where things can become more challenging. If you try to please everyone, you can invariably please no one, oftentimes including yourself.

There is a very fine line to tread between delivering a high-impact, highly engaging experience and ensuring that half of the audience don’t feel alienated in the process. The good news is that if approached strategically, and with the right creative concepts, brands can still effectively reach many audiences in one go.

Telling the TCS story for London marathon's vast audience of participants.

Let’s take running for example. When it comes to sports, is there a more broad audience? Tune in to any global marathon event and you’ll see the breadth of diversity across people taking part, let alone those spectating; people of all ages and backgrounds, some for competition, some for charity, some purely for fun. How, in a case like this, can experiential marketing effectively tap into such a wide audience through a single live event? 

Zoom out.

The key is to have a robust strategy and messaging hierarchy from the start. What do you want people to leave here thinking/feeling/doing? What is the key message that a brand wants people to take away? From there you can build an experience that does so across a range of different audiences. 

Find a common thread. 

In the case of Marathon running, it’s all about performance. But performance means different things to different people. For elites and semi-pros, performance is about improving your Personal-Best or hitting world records, for the charity runner it's about performing for your cause and the people that benefit from it, for kids it's about achieving something new and exciting, for others it might simply be about the kit. So the overall key message for the event would be around performance. 

Communicate the common thread across multiple touchpoints.

Once identified, a common thread can be articulated in many ways throughout the same event or experience. In the context of a marathon event, we may design a photo moment for one demographic, and an interactive game that measures performance for another. In a retail or pop-up scenario, we could split the space into multiple experience zones. One area could focus on a fitting experience, another for testing, and another for sharing. All doing an equally good job for the brand, while hitting different needs of the audiences.

So, while a catch all approach may seem like a fool's errand. With the right insight, positioning and creatively-led approach, personalisation at a macro level can be achievable. 

Paul is a Creative Director at Set Creative, based in London.

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This article was originally published by Little Black Book on 12th Oct, 2023.