POV: Interview with Dave Batista, Partner and Chief Creative Officer at BEAM
I’m Dave Batista, a founding partner of BEAM, and I love experience design. In fact, I think experience design is currently approaching national pastime status. It’s an amazing moment. Everyone has an opinion about how to make any given experience more efficient and rewarding. It could be because we’re more aware of our mortality than ever (people are generally less religious), we feel stretched too thin or think our gadgets are asking a lot of us. The good news: Our obsession with experience design should help us improve our quality of life faster. I hope.
Tell us more about BEAM. What differentiates it from other agencies?
We start with the premise that most people don’t want to interact with most brands. We want the stuff they provide, but we don’t want to have to deal with them. There are exceptions of course, but, by and large, we want to spend our time working, being with our families, reading and watching “Duck Dynasty.”
Given this fact, we think brands have to be way, way more ruthless in their pursuit of being both frictionless and fantastic. They need to care about having the right key interactions that take less time than the competition. Most people don’t realize you can measure this kind of thing with — what’s it called? Oh right, a clock. But saving time is only part of it. Brands also need to understand that when they ask for someone’s time, they need to offer an experience that’s really hyper-useful, brilliant or magical. You can’t do it at everywhere all at once, but for God’s sake, identify a few key interactions or touchpoints, and then invest in making them truly memorable and worth talking about. Step up and prove your values.
Finally, we’re obsessed with measuring across media, channels and all other interactions, and we are dedicated to finding the paths that work hardest and have been embraced by a brand’s best customers. It just has to be done. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.
Tell us about some of your favorite campaigns that you’ve worked on. What was the strategy behind these?
No matter how great and smart some car salespeople may be, lots of folks still dry heave at the thought of having to interact with someone in a dealership. So we worked with MINI to create a tablet experience for car shoppers. They can walk around the showroom, kick the tires, touch the seat fabric and build the car they want on an iPad. Then, they can just hand the thing to a salesperson and say, “I want this.” Less time, less angst, more love for the brand and the dealer.
Shopping online for the right phone and a plan to go with it can be a total mind#$&! when really you just want to know three things: What exactly do you get with any given phone or plan, and how will those things simplify and improve your life? How do features and prices compare to the competition? And how will it feel to do business with the brand if you decide to choose them? So for Virgin Mobile USA, we built a new website focused on those three ideas, and online sales jumped significantly.
A while ago we worked with PUMA on a program for the European Football (soccer) Championships. Having watched a bazillion games in pubs and bars over the years, we noticed that when someone scores, generally folks jump up and down, hug and then break out their phones to call or text friends and family. We thought, “How could PUMA make this little moment better?”
So we created a mobile campaign that enabled fans to share the joy with friends and family whenever their team scored a goal. With a simple online or phone sign-up, they could download a free, custom ringtone of their national team’s anthems or chants. Whenever their team scored, this anthem or chant played automatically on their mobile. If they answered, they were placed into a free conference call with a group of friends and family they predefined.
For example, if a participant was watching a game at a local cafe in Rome while his Dad was watching at home in London, his brother was at the game in Zurich and his best friend was studying abroad and watching in Paris, they were all instantly conferenced together upon the scoring of a goal to celebrate, analyze and share the moment. We even provided online store discounts at the end of games to help celebrate a win or take the sting out of a defeat.
Digital and physical interactions are becoming more and more intertwined, and with this, designers have been calling for more of a focus on experience design. How do you approach designing “experiences”? What is important for brands or advertisers to consider?
Be more frictionless than the competition. More than ever, this equals significant competitive advantage. Also, ask people what you could do for them to make them love you. Put technology and reality aside. Dream with them. And most of all, don’t for one second be delusional enough to think that a significant number of actual humans are just waiting to spend time with your brand. People have lives. So once you have some ideas, test them hard and fast and go from there.
And again, if you’re going to ask for a person’s time, you damn well better give her an experience that’s really useful or stacks up favorably with any other way she could be spending her time. This is hard, but it’s worth giving it a go where it makes the most sense. Compared to most media budgets, the cost to make a few truly great experiences that get folks talking is minimal, and the impact is huge and lasting. It could be online, in brick-and-mortar retail or out in the world.
Some marketers blame the inability to effectively measure cross-channel performance on the lack of technology or standard metrics. What problems do you see with the current cross-channel marketing measurements? How can we fix this, or should it even matter?
There’s no magic bullet here, though there are some platforms (like the one we’ve developed) that can make things easier. But it’s still a matter of time and will. If you make the effort to get all your behavioral and sales data flowing into one place, then you can make some connections and learn amazing stuff to make your marketing efforts more efficient and effective. Most marketers are incredibly penny wise and pound foolish when it comes to analytics. And sometimes, they just don’t want to have to go talk to all the different people within the organization who are sitting on or controlling the data they need and then have to beg to work with them. Big companies need chief data officers — badly.
What advantages do small agencies have in the current marketing landscape?
Same as it has always been. We’re not slaves to quarterly numbers. So we can think about long-term relationships with our clients, and we don’t feel the need to bleed every nickel from them to hit that number we promised Wall Street.
What is long lead, highly considered purchase marketing? How does it work?
It’s really just a subspecialty of marketing that’s about effectively selling products or services that typically come with higher price points and require a lot of research and the approval of a number of stakeholders. In the consumer space, this could mean a car, a fridge or a nice TV. In the B2B world, IT infrastructure is a good example. Selling this stuff begs for comprehensive experience design. And obviously, the thing that selling these kinds of products have in common is the need to engender confidence over time: confidence in the product, in your understanding of how and why it works, why it’s better and what the experience of being a customer will be like.
Typically, you’re talking about more then a few touches and interactions to earn this confidence. You’re advising and educating. You’re working hard to make sure marketing and sales touches reinforce and enhance one another, instead of duplicating or complicating. You’re allowing folks to sample the experience of being a customer and connecting them with customers who are using the product. Finally, you’re always looking for the highest performing combinations of content and interactions.
What emerging trend in advertising are you most excited about and why?
I could say the rise of cross-device experience design and the fun of thinking about how the small screen, medium screen and big screen should all complement each other. Or the opportunity to design for “the last few inches” and how small, smart, wearable devices can improve our lives in tiny and less tiny ways — all incredibly exciting stuff.
But most of all, I’m excited that marketers holding company brass — really most folks — are beginning to understand that producing great linear media (like ads, video shorts, etc.) and doing great experience design requires discreet skill sets, organizations and cultures. Look, I love sitting back and being taken somewhere, even if it’s just for 30 seconds. And I love using something super smart that extends my abilities or lets me get something done faster. But there’s nobody doing both these things at a world-class level, and there’s a reason for that.
Now we just need to get to the point where corporations don’t think about dividing budgets by media and instead split budgets by linear media and experience design. To put an even finer point on it, if you’re a CEO or CMO with $X million dollars to spend, hire a branding agency to define and articulate your values, look and feel. Then, put X percent of your budget into creating and distributing linear media and clear pithy offers, Y percent into experience design, and save Z percent for some really smart PR. Measure it the best you can, see what combinations work hardest, and go from there.
Must-read book: “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman — an amazing overview of about 30 years worth of research on how we make decisions. If it ends up in the wrong hands, this book could end up killing us all.
Favorite ad of all time: The CP+B Burger King spot from several years ago in which the King and Darth Vader were just sitting staring at each other to the sounds of Darth’s breathing. TV ads are usually remarkably conservative about using those 15 or 30 seconds in unusual ways. Everyone I saw looked up and actually watched when this ad was on — everyone! Combine unorthodox and disruptive tone with imagery that consciously or unconsciously proves a brand’s values, and then make a clear offer. That’s my two cents on what makes a great ad. Of course, my thoughts may just prove I should stick to experience design.
Follow @beamlanders and visit beamland.com. I’ll be watching.