Our focus at HeyHuman has always been to bring people and brands closer together, particularly through the power of experiences. As part of this, we’ve researched and predicted the dramatic changes in brand relationships over recent years, and how that’s affected both experiences and the role of technology.
Technology has changed the brand relationships people want
Our six-month behavioural research study (our first Behaviour Barometer) asked what relationships people wanted from brands, and how experiences and technology could help deliver the relationship they want. The findings were clear: people wanted different relationships with different brands.
Brands have always focused on the deeper and longer-term relationships and concepts like brand love, but we found that people want more fleeting and everyday brand relationships as much as these, and technology and experiences can facilitate both. As in real life, there are so many deep and meaningful relationships in our lives, and our everyday relationships are usually shallower and more fleeting, but still necessary and important.
Across various research projects, and honed over time, we developed a set of explicit brand relationship labels that spoke to the nuance we discovered: friend with benefits, secret affair, fling, casual acquaintance, dependent, flexible friend, little treater, experience bringer and creative muse.
Experiences and technology can build or break brand connections
Neuroscience research has helped us really understand the role of technology in brands, brand relationships and experiences. This started with the negative effects of technology on brand awareness and recall (particularly smartphone technology) and was added to by research into the positive effects of enhanced experiences on purchase intent. Both gave us exciting new insights but also a bit of a conundrum for brands: use technology in the wrong ways and awareness and recall fell through the floor; enhance experiences in the right ways (with and without technology) and it disproportionately increased purchase intent.
Daniel Kahneman’s thoughts on experiences capture the conundrum and the opportunity – “We don’t choose between experiences, we choose between memories of experiences.” How do brands create experiences that get the level of experience right so that they are remembered positively over other brands?
Brands need to balance the unusual and the everyday in content, experiences and technology
We conducted neuroscience research to try and uncover how some of the most effective brand communications achieved engagement and memorability. We saw brains literally light up when the brand had perfectly balanced the familiar with the unexpected; the unusual and the everyday. These were the communications that engaged in the moment and were remembered, and our findings now guide our approach to creativity and what we call Unusual Everyday™ ideas.
Of course, behaviours in relation to experiences and technology have exploded since the pandemic, in both unusual and everyday ways. We’ve seen a massive shift in behaviours, brand relationships and what people expect from experiences that brands need to respond to and enable. We’ve described this new expectations of experiences as being selective rather than indiscriminate, digital and physical rather than just physical and always people first rather than brand or technology first.
Focus on brand relationships, human behaviours and connecting with busy brains
To bring people and brands closer through experiences and technology, brands need to think about relationships, behaviours and brains. Brand relationships have changed and brands need to be clear on delivering across the spectrum of these, deep and shallow, extended and fleeting. Behaviours have changed and people are clearer on their new expectations of experiences and technology. Finally, only by understanding how our brains really engage with experiences and technology can we truly deliver the connections people really want.