The newest approach in brand engagement is blending brand encounters across physical and digital planes, bridging the gap between on and off-line experiences.



Brand Engagement: Let's Get Phygital

We’re living in revolutionary times, where technological advancement is happening at a rate of knots. The goal posts are constantly moving for brands trying to stay ahead of their audience, audiences that are trying to swim above a rising tide of digital pollution. As consumers, we're being targeted in increasingly intimate and nuanced ways.

Communication between brands and their customers is now multi-faceted. Just 30 years ago you could solely focus your efforts on TV, radio or print. Today's audiences live in the digital world and it's one where they're bombarded with ads in many guises. The recent attention on legislative changes with GDPR serves to demonstrate people are actively switching off from brands they encounter online. Many brands have mastered the art of reaching audiences with their digital content online but how can they get them engaged with that content in the real world?

You could do little else with your time but try to keep up with the latest in marketing buzzwords but one snappy portmanteau that’s becoming ever more important is ‘phygital’. Use a physical imprint to make meaningful digital interactions.

An offshoot of ‘immersion marketing’, ‘phygital’ refers to the blending of brand encounters across physical and digital planes, bridging the gap between on and off-line experiences. The use of the most cutting-edge technology complements reputation for being cutting-edge. While engaging with users in real life offers far more human interaction and engagement, it’s easy to see the appeal of interactive digital technology.  Luckily, the two have begun to converge.

Retailers are rapidly adopting 'phygital' approaches. Take, for example, C&A in Brazil, who have a 'like' counter on their clothes hangers, feeding into their social platforms.

The easiest way to apply the concept is in the tradeshow environment, where, in the U.S., it’s estimated that businesses spend $25 billion reaching visitors at B2B shows alone. In an environment that’s saturated with hundreds of other brands and puts your competitors right next door and vying for attention, it’s vital to secure high levels of engagement. Engagement promotes brand loyalty, enhances visibility and is an excellent way of measuring and testing content effectiveness.

Traditionally, exhibitors focused on using people to capture visitor attention and drive engagement. Personable and effusive staff went to great lengths to stop people in their tracks and divert attention to the stand. Thankfully, the age of the promo model or ‘booth babe’ is drawing to a close and technology is doing the attracting for them. There’s been a clear change in thinking. From, ‘how do I batter people over the head with my messaging’ we’ve gotten to, ‘what do my users find valuable and what increases or decreases their interest?’ Mastering the latter ensures you have captured their attention to deliver your messaging. Users are now far more aware of the inherent value in their time and personal information. It must be earned.

Another key consideration is the way in which we assimilate information. Research has shown that as humans we each learn best in different ways: visual, auditory and kinesthetic (physical).

Visual learners need visual stimuli to properly absorb information, while auditory learners are aided by the use of audio cues and aural repetition. Meanwhile, many of us learn best through action, by engaging with our environment and things we can reach out and touch. After all, that's how we did our most prolific learning as babies.

Visuals are also processed 60,000 times faster than text, which means you can paint a picture for your audience much faster with an actual picture than words. Adopting one approach to reach everyone is foolhardy; tailoring a multi-faceted approach to reach the individual is key. There’s little to be gained with getting someone's attention if the user doesn’t leave with a positive, lasting impression.

Mixed realities like AR and VR, alongside continuing development in touch technology, have opened up the possibilities to reach people in a ‘phygital’ way. There's been a quick adoption of VR headsets in trade-show environments but it hasn't proved to be enough of a draw alone.

What makes you stick out from the pack? Well, there are some golden rules to live by in the world of MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, Exhibitions):

  • Perform interactive demos

  • People love competition (gamification)

  • Adopt cutting-edge technology

  • Draw a crowd with vivid, pervasive content

  • Take the conversation offline on social media

  • Offer a reward for engaging

  • Make it photogenic

  • Leave visitors with a positive experience.

It should come as no surprise reading the above that PufferSphere® technology has proven so popular with exhibitors. While our solutions tick those boxes, if our extensive experience in this environment has taught us anything, it’s never to be happy with what engages people today.

That approach led to the development of our unique on-sphere touch functionality. It’s seen us innovate with real-time data connections to our PufferSphere (see PufferFlight). It’s been the driving force behind the increasing sophistication of our powerful software platform, allowing for the integration of third-party software for increased functionality (see TwitterSphere) and why digital content development at Pufferfish is driven by user experience.

Next up is the rolling out of our AR PufferSphere application, for interaction that is somehow even more than phygital. Watch this space for exciting new innovations in user engagement.

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