Effectively integrating data-driven content into a branded experience is not an easy task. Typically, the desire to include dynamic, self-updating content is driven by a desire to cost-optimize content creation. In many cases, this means that the inclusion of basic information like weather, time and other boring, readily available RSS-fed content. This has been a pet peeve of mine for many years. Information like time and weather are already readily accessible to us, and incorporating them into a location-based digital experience does NOT make people feel the content is more relevant to them. It is typically de-selected, or worse, it may have the opposite effect, making people feel that the content really does not provide meaningful information for them. Dynamically driven content does not need to be boring or emotionless. If a proper branded experience strategy is created that first looks at people’s purpose of visit and then aims to deliver only relevant content that is meaningful and personal, then it can be a truly powerful thing.
I recently had the opportunity to take a behind-the-scenes tour at Apple retail store locations in Toronto as part of an exciting project. I had the opportunity to learn all about Apple’s staff choreography, customer journeys and integrated digital experiences that help to provide consistent brand messaging and content across all their channels. Last year, Apple introduced their “Today at Apple” concept. Its main purpose is to create environments where people can gather to talk, test and learn about all things Apple. There are no pushy salespeople urging you to take advantage of the latest limited-time offer or time limits imposed on trying the products on display. Apple encourages people to linger at the tables and spend more time at the stores. This philosophy has influenced the evolution of not only the store design, but also the content on the website, mobile apps, social media, software, and of course their in-store digital content experiences. In some flagship locations around the world, Apple has introduced massively beautiful and large 6K LED video walls that are the focal point of the new store design.
In Toronto, the flagship location is located at the Yorkdale Shopping Mall, which has evolved to be a premium shopping destination. While I gazed in wonder at this beautiful crystal clear display that had razor sharp imagery of the latest Apple gadgets shown larger than life soothingly moving and rotating on this massive canvas, practically hypnotizing me and yanking at my wallet, the content went into the next segment, which was a fully dynamic RSS-fed show of “Today at Apple” that was beautifully designed and animated but also pulling real-time information that is also feeding web, mobile, and social channels.
This blend of what is happening at Apple around the globe and at this local store quickly shifted my appreciation of the product, brand and design to the relevancy of information being displayed. I quickly realized that everything I was looking at was being dynamically delivered in real time and the beauty, aesthetics, tone and mood had not been sacrificed in the slightest bit. The local store event info, seminar sessions, featured happenings and even local community educational visits and sessions that were about to take place that morning were being delivered in conjunction with some large retail announcements that Angela Ahrendts, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Retail, had shared just a few minutes before online. This was achieving many objectives through the delivery of dynamic data-driven content:
- Delivered consistent brand messaging across all media channels
- Allowed for well-designed, self-updating content to be created
- Provided real-time and relevant local information to visitors of that particular store
- Seamlessly complemented the video product and brand content
- Connected visitors with the global brand and people around the world
- Helped reinforce the brand as a leader in innovation and content delivery
- Elevated the overall brand experience
- Most importantly, it created deep emotional connection to the brand and content
Content, be it data-driven or not, can only be effective if it delivers relevant content that is in line with the visitor’s purpose of visit. In order to ensure you deliver meaningful data-driven experiences, always work with a strategic integrated brand design team that can help ensure the experience will emotionally connect with the target audience.