Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Microinteractions = Branding 2.0

I came across this really intriguing slideshow created by David Armano, VP of experience design at Critical Mass, "a professional services firm with a sweet spot for creating outstanding experiences." In his view, microinteractions between consumers and brands--social media, widgets, mash-ups, etc.--are the building blocks behind the brands themselves. It sort of turns the whole top-down branding idea on its head. On some level, it goes against the basic tenet we're instilled with in the Strat Comm: brand positioning first and everything else follows.

For Armano, since technology has allowed consumers to become hyper-engaged and co-authors in their own brand experiences, these mini interactions are more important than the overall brand messaging.

He says:

“We live in a world where the little things really do matter. Each
encounter no matter how brief is a micro interaction which makes a deposit or
withdrawal from our rational and emotional subconscious. The sum of these
interactions and encounters adds up to how we feel about a particular product,
brand or service. Little things. Feelings. They influence our
everyday behaviors more than we realize.”

So what does that mean for companies? It seems as though they'll have to relinquish control over their brands, giving audience's the control over their own experiences. So are brands then just a forum for user interactivity? As Sunya stated in our JetBlue presentation, are they just a branded playground for people to communicate with one another? I think the most successful brand are just that: facilitators. Starbucks creates a welcoming cafe environment where customers can come in and relax with their friends. Apple, who even though operate on a closed-technology business model, creates a community of users who feel like they "own" a piece of their brand.

Then it not only becomes a question of interactivity, but also a question of consumer empowerment. Umair Haque of Havas Media Lab says it best:

"[The] future of communications as advantage lies in talking less, and listening more. The decision to invest in consumers is also a decision to listen to consumers – instead of talk at them."

[Via Adweek newsletter]

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