During a TEDx talk he gave on the subject of experiential advertising, Layne Braunstein, Chief Creative Officer at Fake Love, pointed to a monumental shift in the way successful brands think of their target audiences. Rather than view them users or consumers, Braunstein urges us to think of our audiences as human beings who are participating in a relationship. In his view, real engagement does not come from passive impressions on a piece of content. Rather, brands are increasingly aiming to engage the audience by giving it an active role in creating the brand’s world and visual identity.
Recently, the haircare brand Amika successfully put that principle to the test through a pop-up experience they launched earlier this year after their product line went through a vibrant rebrand. The pop-up presented an opportunity to translate this shift in visual identity into an engaging experience. Rather than create yet another Instagrammable display for eager “selfie” moments, the brand chose a more conceptual route. Usually, going to the hairdresser is a relatively solitary experience; you are either alone, mindlessly flipping through a magazine, or making small talk with the stylist. Only rarely do you actually talk to the other clients who are in the other chairs. To turn this expectation on its head, Amika decided to center the experience around a round styling table, allowing visitors to sit together and ask trained stylists for advice before participating in their own live makeover.
This experience stayed with me because it went further than just offering an hour of saturated orange backdrops and deluxe free samples. It made me rethink the entire hairstyling experience, and positioned Amika in my mind as a brand that genuinely cares about how we users (or as Layne would say, we “human beings”) experience the culture of hairdressing, from the salon to styling our hair in the comfort of own bathroom mirror. By offering us a physical space to experience their rebrand and get to know their products through conversation, they attained a level of engagement that simply would not have been possible with a traditional banner-ad floating at the top of the screen.
As brands increasingly jump on the “pop-up bandwagon”, it will be interesting to see which activations are designed with a genuine desire for connection and engagement with the audience, and which are just a 3D rendition of the default ads that crowd our everyday life.
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