19 May 2024, 03:23
By Vaughan Edmonds Feb 15, 2021

Branding is coming home

With its tiered restrictions and lockdowns, the pandemic has significantly reduced home furnishing and furniture brands’ opportunities to interact directly with their audiences in-store. Meanwhile, writes Sense’s Vaughan Edmonds, engagement and trial opportunities are coming straight to the living room, thanks to ‘at-home’ experiences …

The events of last year have fundamentally changed the way we live our lives, and these shifts have had immediate implications on our marketing. 

In particular, a global lockdown wasn’t great news for the types of environments traditionally associated with brand experiences, which have become an increasingly important part of home furnishing and furniture brands’ marketing strategies – from pop-ups at festivals, events and commuter hubs, to engaging in-store experiences. However, the past six months have taught us a great deal about the art of brand engagement. 

We’ve learnt that brand experiences were never really about the environments they took place within. They are about people – brands augmenting their lives to make the everyday a little more exciting. Just because the people weren’t on the streets, it didn’t mean the show couldn’t go on.

It doesn’t take the latest in-depth webinar series to know where people have gone. It turns out we’re adaptable. Rather than turning our back on the activities that were once only possible outside our front doors, we’ve brought our favourite pastimes into our homes. 

We’ve seen a global increase in intent for activities such as for cooking (+54%), at-home entertainment (+40%) and home improvement (+22%) (McKinsey). Zoom’s daily user base grew from 10 million to 200 million in the three months over lockdown as more of us were forced to work away from our offices (also McKinsey), and there has been an +18% increase in ecommerce use in the UK for products normally bought in-store, as a result of Covid-19 (Shopify). 

These changes in behaviour have created new challenges for home furnishing and furniture brands looking to interact with their customers. The good news is solutions do exist to face these challenges. Innovation is occurring that represents the immediate future for brand experiences and all the benefits they bring. Successful experiences can be activated in any environment. 

The past few months have seen several brands focusing their attention on the home to great effect, which home furnishing and furniture brands can learn from. Last year, we saw Greggs launch the UK’s first sausage roll delivery service, taking their delicious snacks straight to people’s front doors. Visit Puerto Rica ran masterclasses through their Instagram Live platform, including a cooking tutorial with Juan José Cuevas. 

Haagen Dazs helped bring the magic of Secret Cinema directly into our living rooms by sponsoring Secret Sofa. Tesco asked the nation to be part of their Food Love Stories ads by dedicating videos on social media to loved ones during lockdown. Malfy Gin partnered with Pasta Evangelists to create an exclusive gin cocktail masterclass and pasta-making workshop, transporting attendees to the south-west coast of Italy in one exquisite meal. Finally, at Christmas, John Lewis created their largest virtual events series, taking their festive marketing out of their stores and into people’s homes.  

So, what makes a great brand experience at home? Here are five key tips for home furnishing and furniture brands to bear in mind when activating in living rooms up and down the land:

1. Remember the difference between experience and content

Experience and content are not the same thing. Experiences are powerful because they involve an interaction. The act of slicing up our own garnish, dressing up our living rooms and applying our own make-up is so much more memorable than watching someone else doing it. 

2. Social amplification is essential

In the past, the question for every brand experience was how to increase the reach for something taking place in the physical world. At-home experiences rely on social amplification, and it has never been easier for brands to include more people in their experiences. Hundreds of people tuned in live for the PizzaExpress x Fever-Tree Mixing Masterclass. 

The convenience of an experience taking place in your living room makes it far more accessible. The key for brands is understanding which social channels and influencers will increase reach as effectively as possible. 

3. Think about an occasion to align with

Marketing is all about building associations. To build habits (and ultimately increase sales), at-home experiences should align with a natural consumption moment in the home. 

With us spending more of our time at home, the opportunities for brands to align with have grown. Take exercise, for example. At the start of 2020, few could predict that half the nation would be leaping around their gardens to a 9am Joe Wicks HIIT class by April. The change in behaviour presents an opportunity for many brands that would never normally be consumed in the home. This is how we can change perceptions, and how products naturally consumed on-the-go could begin to become relevant in people’s lives again. 

4. Consider your marketing objectives 

Brand experiences are a powerful tool if used strategically. They can deliver a plethora of different marketing objectives. In general, they can help grow awareness and consideration, whereas product trial can be used to build association and drive immediate sales. 

When planning a campaign – especially an experience – try to build a strategic roadmap. What does our audience currently think about our brand? How do we want them to think instead? How can our experience be designed to changed those perceptions and show the brand in a new light?

5. Idea first, format second

Experiential is a flexible marketing discipline. The possibilities for an experiential activation are endless, and the best marketing is distinctive and original. Just because your competitor did a comedy gig live over Zoom, it doesn’t mean you should do the same. There are a multitude of ways a brand can augment and improve the at-home experience. Trust the creatives to build something unique.  

Despite a turbulent few months, this winter may be one of the most exciting in recent memory for brand experiences. A few brands have pioneered the at-home experience movement – innovation that was necessary, regardless of a global pandemic. 

The opportunity to engage with consumers in their homes exists. For those willing to grab that opportunity, the chance to stand out from the crowd and drive brand advocacy is enormous. 

Vaughan Edmonds is planner at global brand experience agency Sense, a strategically driven brand experience agency with offices in New York and London.

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