December 3rd, 2020 By Scott Varland
For brands and agencies alike, 2020 has been about navigating uncharted territory, strategic risk taking and experimentation. It’s also about getting the essentials right. As we’ve developed solid strategic frameworks, partnerships, and agency capabilities for success in creating virtual and hybrid experiences, we’ve wasted no time thinking about the future and all of the exciting developments ahead in the technology and platform space.
With in-person events being canceled or reimagined due to COVID-19, companies have learned a lot about delivering compelling, engaging events and experiences virtually. And before deciding on the right technology platform, we’ve stressed the need to revisit the strategy and business objective alignment in this new normal. Much to our delight, we’ve seen breakthrough results when the agency and client truly partners to ask the right questions, challenge assumptions, and invent the future.
But what ‘platform’ is best?
When it comes time to deliver, a core competency for marketers must be in digital mediums, audiences and measurement. For many producing virtual experiences, this comes down to one question: ‘which platform is best?’ Unfortunately, the answer is a little more complex than choosing between something like Microsoft Office and Google G Suite. A virtual platform might be something akin to a venue — it is, for the most part, a blank slate, and many of your most important choices involve how to fill it up. And many of those choices will not (and should not) be dictated by the software you use.
The platform is often more of a limitation than a leg-up. That’s because of the disconnect and competing priorities between platforms, their customers, and the agencies who support them. On one side, platforms are looking to maximize for scale and repeatability. Zoom hosts more than 300 million participants in a day, on average. On the other, marketers are looking to maximize for quality and engagement. The sweet spot is to create experiences that are bespoke — that feel true to the brand, and meaningful and relevant to the audience. You don’t want your big brand experience to feel like your everyday Zoom call.
But with hundreds of platforms out there, where do you begin?
Beyond the core features and functionality of the product, you need to realize that your brand needs premium, high-touch, technical support and customer success teams. If a platform can’t deliver this, scratch it off the list. Flawless execution for a virtual experience, just like for an in-person one, is tied to the ability to be agile, adaptable and responsive. It matters how quickly vendors respond to requests, and it matters how quickly the team is able to implement solutions. With many platforms under considerable load from unprecedented demand, this is often a shortcoming.
It’s a principal reason why agency-delivered solutions, like Jack ethos, our owned in-house solution, provide an advantage. It is a vertical integration model for virtual experiences, allowing for micro control over every workflow, every piece of critical software, and every team member. You need to be able to craft an experience with the technology, rather than having the technology craft the experience.
What the future holds for technology solutions is yet to be determined. It is still a green field for innovation — whether it’s XR studios, immersive 3D worlds and avatars, or A.I. powered attendee networking. There is an entire world of possibilities. Just look to the video game industry — arguably the most successful digital, interactive medium ever conceived. Online experiences will look more like games than TV in the future. And you will need a team that can get there with you.
While 2021 will certainly bring more uncertainty to the brand experience landscape, we know this much is true:
Meet your audience in their context, on their terms.
Digital audiences are anything but captive, and you’re competing for attention against everything from TikTok to toddlers. Highly personalized, snackable, episodic content has replaced multi-hour and multi-day agendas.
Design for the medium and for broadcast.
Video, like filmmaking, is all about engaging people in a cinematic, one-to-one relationship with the content. You need to move. You must take your audience on a journey. Presenters need to give more to the camera. Take people places. The advantages of pre-produced, record-to-live content, are significant in this medium.
Design for inclusivity and scale.
Companies are seeing an order of magnitude increase in the size of audiences – and those audiences are coming from every part of the world. We now have the ability to tap a truly global, truly diverse, truly inclusive audience. As we shift to hybrid experiences, this is integral to future success.
2020 taught us many lessons – and it continues to do so. The upcoming year will likely be no different. But the strategic, creative and production tools we’re developing today will be the foundation of next generation experiences.