Embodied brand experiences – the new frontier

By January 14, 2016General

Is there a new way of promoting your brand through brand experiences? Picture the scene: you’re at a party and a stranger walks up to you with their hand extended. “Hi. My name’s John, and my three personality pillars are honesty, integrity, and respect.”

If someone introduced themselves to you like this, you may think they were slightly unhinged, but this is how many brands try to connect with people. They tell us what their values are, instead of making them implicit through how they behave. This is just one symptom of the gap between marketing and real life.

Let’s return to our ‘friend’ John. He’s still standing there; hand outstretched, so you stretch out your hand and shake it. Perhaps his handshake is weak, or bone-crunchingly firm.

Whichever it is, the contact carries meaning at a subconscious level. From his handshake, you will make a judgement about his character – whether he’s weak, overbearing, confident or shy.

Embodied cognition

Brand experiences should be memorable. And emotional.

Our physical experiences in the world are deeply tied up with how we think, feel and behave. This may seem obvious – but it contradicts thousands of years of Western philosophy (which traditionally sees the mind and body as separate entities), and is a driving idea in a relatively new area of cognitive science called ’embodied cognition’.

Embodied cognition posits that the mind is not only connected to the body but that the body influences the mind. That is, our cognition is determined by our experiences in the physical world.

This is why we say that something is “over our heads” to express the idea that we do not understand; we are drawing upon the physical inability to not see something over our heads and the mental feeling of uncertainty.

This emphasis on the body represents a new frontier for marketing, and brand experiences are particularly well–positioned to make use of its findings.

What does this mean for brands?

For brands, this means that if we want to express something emotionally, a good place to start is to think about how an experience ‘feels’ physically.

Many ‘traditional’ mediums are therefore undergoing an immersive, multisensory re-invention that places greater emphasis on an embodied experience. Pioneering work by Punchdrunk for example, has helped make the theatre physical.

And exhibitions like Soundscapes (at the National Gallery) and the Tate Sensorium aim to heighten our experience of art through birdsong, ultrasonic projection, ash-flavoured chocolate and more.

This kind of approach to marketing – bringing people to their senses through brand experiences, creating something they can feel, something they want – is key to closing that gap between marketing and real life.

Hotcow is a non-traditional creative agency that specialises in experiential marketing that goes viral. Our campaigns generate buzz through crowd participation, PR and content sharing. Contact us on 0207 5030442 or email us on info@hotcow.co.uk.