‘Class doesn’t shout’: Why clever tech creates more engagement

One of the greatest con men in American history, George Parker, notorious for selling property he didn’t actually own, such as The Brooklyn Bridge, Madison Square Garden and the Statue of Liberty, once said, “The only people who care about advertising are the people in advertising.”

A shift has happened, a firm resistance to the work of advertisers today simply because we have become sick of being told what to buy. Especially amongst the younger generation of ‘digital natives’, hard selling is inappropriate and along with it the platforms of the past. Thanks to things like Netflix and Apple TV, the ‘tube’ is no longer the primary playground for advertisers, and social media has now been flooded by outdated companies attempting to reach a younger audience on a platform they don’t really comprehend.

Subtlety and choice are the new measures for brands in this new climate.

Exploring this concept, I am referencing an engaging activation for Autotrader that cleverly uses immersive technology. Executed in the backstreets of Miami, we can see that providing choice and allowing customers to have their own experience might be far more effective than traditional static ‘one way’ approaches such as TV ads and billboards.

Autotrader is a technology brand that helps consumers find their perfect car match, and this unique installation turned that concept into a multi-sensory experience that connected people with their perfect match in real time.

“Driven By Style” created by Zambezi took place on Thursday, June 30th leading up to the Fourth of July weekend in the stylish yet urban Wynwood Art District in Miami. The experience, which uses innovative colour detection technology, was powered by the brand embracing the idea that one’s style is an expression of their personality.

According to Unit9, the technical approach was “contained within a pillar, situated opposite the car, a device detected the presence of a passerby. This triggered an LED light sequence to indicate to the person that something was happening. When the lights illuminated white, an HD camera captured a photograph. From this image, up to 5 dominant colors were picked and used to tint 5 layers of animation within the WatchOut projection mapping software. All 5 layers of animation were then projected across the street and subsequently colored the car with the most dominant color picked, along with brand messaging on the back wall”.

Why did it work?

Triggers: Identifying that human trait of curiosity. The gesture recognition interrupts passers-by, responding to them by lighting up. This simply triggers our imagination. Our natural response as humans is to investigate.

Choice: This concept appears to enable people to make a personal choice whether to play with the experience or not. There are no branded promotional staff handing out giveaways or trying to draw people in, no data sign ups, no hooks. This allows those who participate to focus on the product, so what they have done is they have crafted a journey that subtly promotes curiosity. Just like Alice in Wonderland, you want to see where it the rabbit hole goes.

Personality – Why I love this concept is because it celebrates the individual. If you look at the patterns and colours the people are wearing, you have bananas, polka dots, shapes, bright block colours – we as humans are all different shapes, sizes, colours and often express ourselves through what we choose to wear consciously or unconsciously display our individuality.

Location – Often auto companies will activate ideas and launch new products at larger events like a motor show, or a sports event where the brand is a sponsor – often the consumer is met with many different car brands all shouting and jostling for attention.

What is clever is that this is just in a back street in Miami, people are just out enjoying their evenings on a long weekend. I believe consumers are a lot more open to opportunity and consideration if they feel that they aren’t being forcefully marketed to.

Technology vs Gimmick – Some companies are still super fearful even now of interactive technologies such as augmented reality, virtual reality and things that move on their own. Fearful because using technology takes away elements that you can control. Investing in a gimmick for the sake of having technology in an activation (think QR codes, they didn’t work in Australia but were massive in the UK a few years back), is just that – a gimmick. Consumers are smarter than that. This activation is simple – the white car, the white wall and a location that feels familiar to those who pass by. The external build is simplistic, the user experience is slick – even if the back-end build of the program is not.

Share-ability – You have to let the user control the experience. Because if they have this choice, they will have an authentic experience and they will share it genuinely which will be received by their followers genuinely. This shift towards a consumer led market means that brands have to give the experience away and allow the user to advocate, celebrate and share it – on their own terms.

Observing that there are approx. 17 people who try out the experience in this video, and you can see that at least half get their phone out in excitement to share it online. Inviting social influencers to take part in the activation created additional amplification of the event – which is both measurable and trackable, unlike traditional methods such as billboards and magazine ads.

We have all heard about the six degrees of separation? Frigyes Karinthy (1887 – 1938) was a Hungarian author, playwright, poet, journalist, and translator. His claim to fame was first discussing the six degrees of separation concept, in his 1929 short story, Chains. This video allows us to understand the science behind it. The concept based on yourself having 44 friends that you share something with, and each of those 44 friends has another 44 friends (who are not also your friends) and so on and so on – within 6 steps you would be connected to 7.26 billion people. The below link explains the concept in great detail:

“If, as designers of experience, we can make someone love the process even before they trust the product, we remove the cognitive work of decision making” – taken from The Psychology of Choice: What Addiction and Consumer Decision Have in Common.

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