How to perfectly balance technology with emotions to connect with consumers

Our guest columnist says that technology is now a catalyst in bringing alive emotions.

Royal Enfield unleashes the traveler in us, and Nike invokes the much-required adrenaline kick. We can now agree that Marketing 2.0 is beyond selling a product and more about building a purpose-led connection with consumers.

As renowned entrepreneur and American author Seth Godin correctly said, “People do not buy goods and services. They buy relations, stories and magic.”

Today, we stand at the precipice of an era where technology has moved beyond its role of being a medium to analyse and communicate emotions, to becoming a key catalyst in bringing such emotions/stories alive.

This transformational marketing can be attributed to the massive shift within marketing technology. Channel-focused solutions, including websites, social and mobile platforms, content management tools, and search engine optimization, are fast becoming yesterday’s news.

As a part of the growing beyond marketing trend, organizations are adopting a new generation of mar-tech systems to deliver unprecedented levels of customer intimacy, targeted engagement and precision impact.

A very apt example of this that comes to my mind, is from Shanghai, where Starbucks offered its customers to experience the roaster through augmented reality (AR) via their app. The customer simply could point to key features around the café, like the cask, which will display new information, and act as a tour guide. Customers could also explore the space and collect virtual badges. Once they order all, they receive a custom roastery social media filter to share.

This only reiterates the change that by deploying new approaches to data collection and analysis, companies today are driving a lot more personalized and end-to-end experiences for customers. These experiences, in turn, help to create deep emotional connections towards products and brands, thus, strengthening brand love and recall.

Bringing the two together

Marrying technology and emotions, requires brands to have a constant pulse on consumers and their evolving preferences. An apt example that celebrates the combination of this, is an intriguing pop-up that eBay launched last year.

The e-commerce brand, alongside a tech company Lightwave, installed booths that were kitted out with bio-analytic technology and facial coding software. Guests were invited inside a booth and were asked to browse a selection of items from eBay’s “giving page”, while the technology would detect which items they liked and which they felt more negatively toward. After leaving the booths, guests would receive a personalized emotion report to help them understand and go for the items they connected with the most.

In India too, several startups are proactively working towards gauging consumer sentiment by detecting facial expressions, eye movements and even brain wave mapping.

Closer home, we celebrated Valentine’s Day with #HowFarWillYouGoToMakeThemBlush, our campaign for Cadbury Dairy Milk Silk. To create sweet moments of love, we introduced real time personalisation through AR for our consumers. This enabled them to unlock TV spots, newspapers, hoardings and even open spaces at home to see custom messages sent by their loved ones in an immersive 360-degree virtual environment.

Even in other campaigns, including ‘Not Just A Cadbury Ad’ and ‘Perk Disclaimers’, the marriage between tech and emotions, remained seamless. It is what we, at Mondelez, refer to as ’empathy at scale’, wherein we look at various patterns of the consumer interaction through data signals, helping us to arrive at the best strategy that will strike a lasting chord with our consumers.

While there is an accelerated adoption of technology by brands today, what’s interesting to note is that it’s not not being used to create a sentimental connection, but also creating more immersive experiences. Beyond advertising, the use of technology has also resulted in a drastic growth of gamification, making it an extended arm of consumer experience in a brand’s virtual universe.

What was previously a mere collaboration between two brands, is now sprouting into brands creating exciting experiences for their customers real time, creating microsites and landing pages for consumers to directly engage with the brand only on the content they desire to consume.

Crystal-gazing into the future

It is a no-brainer that in this constantly evolving industry, technology will continue to be an invaluable asset in establishing a dialogue with the audience as well as building a strong relationship with the brand. However, it’s important to note that brands have survived the tides of time through the thread of emotion.

Any communication should have purpose at its core, which can then translate into a myriad of emotions, exclusive of the platform or channel. The end goal is to create lasting moments of joy that can be enjoyed by the consumer, while clearly presenting the brand’s messaging.

With the COVID pandemic having ushered technology to take on a stronger role in communication, it is only expected to grow further. Brands today are already leveraging technology to not only evoke emotions, but also create sensory experiences like smell by means of mental triggers.

With the world now also stepping into the realm through the metaverse, with shopping, entertainment and even marriages being a virtual experience, who knows, someday we may be able to experience the taste of our favorite chocolates or try on top-of-the-line garments via one of the verses!

However, through all this, it will always be key to have the perfect balance of emotions and technology, the secret ingredient to build lasting connections.

The author is head of media at Mondelez India.

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