What Consumers Want: Physical Action = Emotional Reaction

  By   Danny Litwak, Experiential Strategist

The year 2013 brought us an unhealthy amount of experiential campaigns featuring vending machines, facial recognition software, and  even rewards for sitting patiently on a bench.  And with each campaign came the same engagement model: action = reward.  Do something clever, receive something cool.  Amstel asked people to stop for three minutes and  receive a   free beer.  Douwe Eberts gave out free coffee if you   yawned in front of their machine.  Samsung gave people free phones for winning a   staring contest.  Common thread: Action = Reward.

I get it.  Engage someone with your brand  and  give them something in return. The model works, but it’s boring.  It doesn’t mean anything to me.  The new generation of consumer wants their brand  interactions to have a powerful message, to have a reason behind the engagement.  How have you affected my mood?  How have you shown me that you care?  How have you connected with me on an emotional level?

In one of the most brilliant executions of the year, Coca-Cola nailed it with its   Small World Machines campaign in India and  Pakistan, attempting to unite two nations with vast cultural differences under the universal theme of happiness.  Yes, the end result was a Coke dispensed from a machine. However, the overall message of connecting cultures and  finding “new, open-hearted ways for people to come together, while highlighting the power of happiness” was much larger than that single bubbly beverage.  They showed the world that despite your wildly different cultural views, happiness is a universal emotion that can be achieved if expressed correctly.

The Russian Olympic Committee took the Action = Reward formula and  turned it into   action = currency with a campaign that traded squats for subway tickets.  Do 30 squats and  receive a free ride on the subway.  So simple, yet so effective.  A simple action expressed the message of getting Russian citizens to live a more active lifestyle.  Expect to see this trend of performing an action in exchange for currency to continue into 2014.

Consumers are used to this mindset of “Ok, I’ll do it, but what do I get in return?”  Every sweepstakes, every social contest, every competition entry receives this treatment.  But we are now moving into an age of a more emotional and  meaningful connection with our favorite brand s.  You are engaging me because you care.  You are engaging me because you understand  me.  You are engaging me because you identify with me.

Slowly, more brand s will note that consumers want more from their engagements.  The days of dancing for drinks or sitting for tablets are over.  In the upcoming year, brand s will become more humanized and  start to show their true colors, engaging in new ways – ways that make sure we remember those moments after I take the last sip and  throw away the bottle.

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