January 14th, 2020 By Damian Ferrar
Brand experience is changing. Content, technology and data are redefining expectations and transforming people’s relationships with brands.
Growth and relevance are the critical focus of business. But without innovation, even the businesses whose experiences, products and services have prospered in the past will start to become irrelevant.
Welcome to Genuine X: Jack Morton’s disruptive innovation practice. We’re transforming the brand experience landscape, shaping tomorrow’s world and fueling debate, innovation and growth.
In the first post of this series, we introduced our four Innovation Platforms: Immersive, Responsive, Curated and Connected.
Immersive recasts the physical and virtual environment to create brave new worlds. Responsive anticipates user needs through experiences that sense, measure, and react. Curated is about responsibly harnessing data to create hyper-personalised, ultra-relevant experiences. Connected creates compelling, consistent and continuous experiences across brand ecosystems.
In our second post, we delved into Immersive. Now, in our third edition, our focus is on Responsive Experiences. When we talk about what it means for an experience to be Responsive, we mean experiences that:
Anticipate user needs
Responsive experiences deliver what people need, as well as identifying and solving new problems. A relentless focus on the user experience means that people feel that every interaction is designed just for them.
Are intelligently and robustly engineered
New and exciting briefs deserve new and exciting approaches. That’s why we experiment, prototype and iterate in the X Lab, empowering our talented team and extensive partners to push the boundaries of emerging technology. This ensures experiences are robustly engineered from start to finish, with the inbuilt intelligence to measure engagement and analyse results.
Feel like magic
We believe every experience and touch point should be imbued with a sense of magic. That feeling when the interaction is animated, intelligent, and, yes, responsive. As natural as a conversation, enabled through the seamless integration of technology.
Throughout this article, we will be exploring three ‘landscape shifts’ – tectonic, global disruptions that will shape the Responsive age. Each landscape shift is in turn made up of three trends that define audience expectations in this new era – trends that brands can embrace to fuel relevance and growth.
Three landscape shifts
1. Seamless services help navigate a complex world
It’s never been easier to discover what we need, when we need it, thanks to intuitive new interfaces, seamless social and attentive robot helpers.
2. Intelligent environments that sense, measure, react
From innovative experience design and the proliferation of sensors and data to measurement and analytics, a suite of emerging capabilities are creating environments that are intelligent, alive and respond to specific audiences.
3. Enhanced storytelling makes things personal
Collaborations between humans and AI are unlocking more nuanced, emotive, interactive and relevant storytelling techniques.
Landscape shift 01
Seamless interactions help navigate a complex world
New, intuitive interfaces and services are evolving to help us navigate an increasingly complex world, removing barriers and transforming user expectations.
The goal of these interfaces and services is to remove obstacles we’ve become blind to. Why should you wait for days for an answer to a simple enquiry, when a chatbot can answer it instantly? If you see an ad for a new fashion range, why should you have to manually look up a new piece on your device, guess how it fits, , and wait days for it to arrive – instead of instantly trying it on in AR and wearing it hours later? Why should you have to learn complicated and esoteric software to make electronic music, when you can follow artist Imogen Heap’s example and use haptic gloves to manipulate sounds in a live environment, just like you would a musical instrument?
Nope. We don’t know why either. Our day-to-days lives are filled with interactions that make less and less sense in today’s world – but new technology and infrastructure is emerging to create new ways of doing things.
The rise of embodied interfaces
To navigate an ever-accelerating society, it’s essential to be able to access and absorb information as simply and effectively as possible. This means moving away from the tyranny of the touchscreen to embrace a range of physical and verbal interfaces. These interfaces will enable us to interact with information in the same way that we interact with the physical world – through our voices, gestures and bodies.
Our fluency with these new ‘embodied’ interfaces is growing daily. Now, 42.7% of US adults use voice search, according to Voicebot – a figure that will only rise. Gestural interfaces have been introduced to mass audiences by the Google Pixel 4, which comes with its own radar chip. ‘In the X Lab, we have created bespoke ‘dragon eggs’ – smart objects that can control environments through content, lighting, sound and smells when placed on a smart surface. We carved geometric shapes out of humble potatoes, vacuum moulded them, and then embedded the organic shapes with RFID chips. For another client, we dramatized the results of a whitepaper by including simple physical dials guests could use to make their own statistical predictions, before the published results were revealed..
Using our hands, voices and bodies to engage with content helps to make abstract information more tangible and memorable. So, brands take note: if you want elevate your communication and make an indelible impression, then make it physical.
Automated intelligences get personal
The uncanny nature of chatbots may be divisive (are you talking to a real person or not?), but you cannot deny their usefulness: the ability to instantly answer questions has improved customer experiences on a global scale. Forbes’ research shows that 70% of Millennials report positive chatbot experiences; Accenture Digital state that 57% of business agree that chatbots deliver large ROI with minimal effort; and according to MIT Technology Review, 90% of businesses report faster compliant resolution with bots. These chatbots mark the beginning of a fleet of automated intelligences that will power services of real utility and value. If we grant them our permission, these services will soon permeate our lives.
We created one such service in the X Lab: a prototype of a machine designed to help resurface the memories of those suffering from degenerative memory loss, by playing music from the formative periods of sufferers’ lives. The machine – which we have fondly named ‘Betty’ – pulls tracks from Spotify’s database based on that person’s year of birth. Someone who was born in 1953 might hear music from their teenage years, such as the timeless classic ‘All You Need is Love’, by The Beatles (released in 1969). Studies reinforce what we all already know - music and memory are interlinked - and it is hoped that through Betty we can inspire more doctors, scientists and inventors to explore how emerging technologies and data can be combined to positively impact lives.
Today, smart assistants are on the verge of becoming integrated into experiential as well as home environments. Bespoke voice apps are being tested for Google Home that answer queries and enable users to discover new information. Soon, intelligent robo-assistants will proactively assist us in our day-to-day lives, to the point where it will seem strange we ever lived without them.
Seamless social enables instant gratification
Social is transforming into a truly seamless ecosystem, with leading brands and influencers blending content, entertainment and logistical sophistication to instantly deliver on the desires of their fans. These platforms are enabling users to browse content in their newsfeed, identify the products within it, and make a purchase – without ever leaving the app.
The rise of social shopping has been meteoric: Deutsche Bank predict Instagram will be a global market worth $10bn in 2021.Emerging technologies are powering new features: Pinterest’s Lens capability, built on computer vision, can now recognize 2.5 billion products, incorporating shoppable pins inside photos. Our newsfeeds are also reaching into the ‘real’ world, creating dizzying hybrid offers. In Australia, Burger King created an Instagram story that enabled shoppers to choose the ingredients for their perfect burger – before directing them to their nearest restaurant, where they could devour it. 5G will enable people to browse hyper-real, virtual product displays through AR, buy them, and have them in their hands in no time at all.
These new expectations will rapidly become the norm, marking the beginning of a truly connected ecosystem in which the ‘gap’ between wanting a product and holding it your hands all but disappears. For brand experiences, this means that it will no longer be enough to entice people to your product without the logistical back-end in place to literally deliver it.
Landscape shift 02
Intelligent experiences that sense, measure, respond
From measurement and analytics to skilled experience design, a suite of emerging capabilities is enabling environments to feel intelligent and alive.
This intelligence and liveliness can manifest itself in the simplest but most expressive of details. We remember one such detail from a talk at the Cannes Lions: a designer describing the thought process behind an interactive wall at a museum. The wall – really a mirror – came alive at a touch from the user, with illuminated text appearing as if from nowhere. The elegance of the interaction didn’t lie in the finishes themselves – which were indeed beautiful – but rather in the fact that the wall recognized the users’ height and displayed the message at a level that was appropriate to them. The thoughtfulness of this design carries with it a deep and implicit message: this is designed for you.
Today, we are a long way from ubiquitously realising this ‘user-centric’ vision, and the lack of provision made for people in environments in which they spend years of their lives is shocking. If you are reading this in an office, know that the standard office temperature was derived in the 1960s, and was based on the metabolism of the average man – meaning if you are a woman, your work environment may be 5 degrees too cold for you. But brand experiences enable us to prototype the environments of the future, and in these environments, a fleet of technologies and designers are making environments more responsive, more adaptive, more intelligent, and more human.
The power of play drives memorable, tech-infused experiences
The joy of play can be experienced by everyone – from a small child playing with their Lego to a competitive C-suite executive. Indeed, lessons from the classroom can be used to enhance brand experiences. A report in Psychology Today on the neuroscience of joyful education outlined the ingredients needed to create an optimally engaging classroom: the key is to combine challenge with novelty in a non-stressful environment. This is when information flows freely, students achieve higher levels of cognition, make connections, and experience ‘aha’ moments. This kind of learning doesn’t come from ‘quiet classrooms and directed lectures, but from classrooms with an atmosphere of exuberant discovery’. We believe that these principles don’t just apply to the classroom. By designing tech-infused experiences that are powered by play, we can create memorable experiences for our audiences.
For one client, we created a suite of tech-infused games for a senior audience in the professional services sector. This included an AR game we developed using Intel SenseDepth and tracking camera SDK. To reinforce a particular message (which alas, we cannot share) players were asked to solve a puzzle, moving from A to B through the grid matrix to by determine which shape was next. The camera would track the players movement through the grid, and the computer would feedback to the player confirming whether the player had made a right or wrong decision.
These games began as physical experiences for people in the room – but were so enthusiastically received that we are now adapting these games into portable, tablet versions to be used by a much broader internal audience to communicate the same messages. This is the infectious power of play at its finest – a universal language that every brand should employ.
The dawn of the trillion sensor economy
By 2025, the Internet of Things will have over 100 billion connected devices, each with 12 or more sensors collecting data. That’s according to a leading research paper from Research and Markets, who predict that this data will create an estimated $19 trillion market and the Trillion Sensor Economy. Fueled by AI and 5G, the sensors are expected to generate bronto-bytes (1000 trillion bytes) of data by 2025, requiring the internet to grow exponentially.
Today, we deploy sensors and spatial analytics to monitor user engagement with specific touchpoints. What are the most visited elements of an experience? How effective is an ‘attractor’ at turning passers-by into engaged users? How many people who visit one touchpoint then go on the experience another? From small and intimate experiences to large trade shows, spatial analytics offer the key to understanding consumer behavior. As the Trillion Sensor Economy develops and our capabilities evolve, we believe that we will be able to adapt live experiences in real-time, intelligently coordinating footfall, attention and content from a control centre to create the best possible return on investment, attention and emotion for our clients.
Prototyping the smart spaces of tomorrow
We waste a colossal amount of energy – human and environmental – dwelling in spaces that do not meet our needs. This erodes the quality of all of our daily interactions with our barely being aware of it, but the smart spaces of the future will shape themselves to the functional and physiological requirements of those who inhabit them.
This environmental flexibility is being prototyped today: Philips have created a lighting system that can help school children be energised in the mornings, or calm after the lunch break, or alert for a test. The Amazon Go flagship in San Francisco is an unlocked retail store navigated entirely through an app – from the entrance, to the scanning of the products, to the automated payment – creating a frictionless experience. In the future, our ecosystem of personal devices and bio-metric wearables will be a constant dialogue with environment, which will proactively configure its messages and sensorial qualities according to our interests and needs.
Today, brands can create steps towards creating bespoke interactions and environments through simple and robust technologies – such as NFC and RFID. Tap into a work room to create your favourite settings; enter a space to trigger bespoke content, tailored to your interests. This is the beginning of an environment that feels truly responsive and alive – the beginnings of a world shaping itself around you.
Landscape shift 03
Enhanced storytelling makes things personal
We are on the verge of a storytelling revolution. Emerging mega-technologies like AI, machine learning and automation will inspire new kinds of narratives, enhance our connection to them, and unlock greater levels of participation and inclusivity than ever before. There are considerable challenges to overcome, but for every news story about the unintended biases of algorithms, there is another to spark hope – such as the school teaching its 10-year-olds to be fluent in machine learning design concepts, to better understand the potential pitfalls.
For those concerned about the prospect of AI making human creativity obsolete, we have a heartening tale. When Grandmaster Gary Kasparov famously lost to the chess AI Deep Blue, he realized it was because the computer had an advantage: the ability to scan millions of prior games for moves and strategies. What if he had that ability too? He subsequently organized chess tournaments in which teams and AI competed against one another. The most successful teams were neither purely human, nor purely AI – but rather ‘chimaera’ teams that used AI to supplement human decision-making. AI will do the same for storytelling (and music, and medicine, and anything else you can think of) – helping us to create new kinds of stories for tomorrow’s world.
AI is enabling interactive stories you can shape yourself
When the ‘Bandersnatch’ episode of Black Mirror premiered on Netflix, it brought a ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ style of media to the attentions of a mass audience that could choose the path the protagonist takes through an unfolding narrative. The next iteration of interactive storytelling will take this one step further, by enabling an audience to interact with the characters themselves.
At the forefront of this storytelling revolution is Guy Gadney, Co-founder and CEO of Charisma.ai, who we interviewed for one of our Genuine X podcasts. Charisma.ai are at the forefront of using artificial intelligence to allow audiences to actually talk to the characters within the stories, building relationships and influencing how the story develops depending on what is said. In traditional stories, Guy says, the audience is a ‘reader or a voyeur, the recipient of a monologue’. With Charisma.ai, that becomes ‘a dialogue – in which you have agency as part of the experience’.
This means our world will merge even more with the world of content, TV and media. Narrative designers and games writers will new hired to create truly personalised and responsive narratives that audiences don’t just passively receive, but co-create.
Machine learning will refine our emotional arcs
AI and machine learning is permeating every part of creative process, changing the way stories are conceived, edited and presented to audiences.
IBM’s Watson helped to create a trailer for Sci-if thriller Morgan, identifying and recommending the most emotionally resonant scenes for inclusion (which were then edited together by a flesh-and-blood human). MIT’s ‘story learning project’ analysed the emotional arcs of thousands of Vimeo videos to ascertain whether certain story arcs stimulated greater engagement. One of their findings was that stories with a larger amount of positive and negative ‘swings’ in emotion (a story that might perhaps be described a ‘rollercoaster ride’) generated more passionate comments.
As these machine learning tools mature, we will be able to enhance and refine the experience journeys we develop for our clients, tweaking and optimizing video content, keynotes, and touchpoints to create the most emotive and memorable results.
We need to create stories about the future we want to inhabit
In today’s cultural landscape, the future is either a dull, glossy utopia, or (more often than not) a grim dystopia. But if we are to create a future in which we want to live, we must first imagine it. Kevin Kelly, a founding editor of Wired, coined the term ‘protopia’ to describe something in the middle: a society that aspires to be better today than it was yesterday, a pragmatic yet optimistic vision that creates a roadmap to a place where we might someday like to be.
We’ve created a short film of near-future fiction with one of our clients, Scania – a ‘white mirror’ to counter the pervasive sense of ‘black mirror’ pessimism. The film,‘Travelooper’, was written and directed by Jennifer Sheridan, and forms part of a range of content, short stories and podcasts that tackle issues ranging from AI to how we build and design the cities of tomorrow. To map out this future vision, we invited visionary leaders from Scania to collaborate with a bold and exciting futurist and a wildly imaginative storyteller.
We’re deeply proud of this film. But more broadly, we’re proud of the people we worked with to create it. It reaffirms something that we all already know: the key to great and inspiring work lies not in harnessing the right technology, but in forging relationships with brilliant and passionate people.
Experience innovation in content, technology and data
We hope you found this article informative, thought-provoking and exciting. Keep your eyes peeled for future installments in this series exploring how innovation in content, technology and data are transforming the evolving brand experience landscape.
In the meantime, if you’re as excited about the future as we are, there are a few things that you can do.
1. Drop in for breakfast
Attend one of our monthly X Breakfasts when we host an inspiring talk from a content, technology or data agency, start-up or superstar. These are designed to be both thought-provoking and inspiring, helping us and our clients to stay ahead of the curve and identify future opportunities to create measurable experiences, products and services that people love. Contact us for details of the next X Breakfast.
Need a hand in working out how you can harness emerging technologies, content and data to solve your business challenges and grow your brand? We create scalable, bespoke workshops for brands – built on our four innovation platforms – to help you identify strategic opportunities to create relevant products, services and experiences for your audiences and a roadmap to bring them to market.
Our X Lab is where we experiment with new ideas and technologies, blending emerging technology, content and data to create valuable, measurable experiences. Book a tour to explore exciting emerging technologies, play with our prototypes, and see the emerging technology we’ve deployed for our clients in action.
Follow us on Instagram @wearegenuine_x for a behind-the-scenes look at the work we’re creating, the talented individuals behind it, and experience innovation in content, technology and data.
Did we mention the Genuine X Podcast? Tune-in to our regular episodes on Spotify, where we’ll be interviewing many of the fine minds in the emerging technology scene, many of whom have guided and informed the content of this article.
For more information, please contact our Innovation Director, Damian Ferrar, who heads up our global Genuine X offer: firstname.lastname@example.org