An immersive experience about an immersive experience....


SXSW is known for it's over the top brand experiences but HBO is taking it to a whole new level this year to promote Season 2 of it's popular TV show Westworld.

Set on two acres of land in Austin, HBO will give fans the opportunity to experience Westworld firsthand - complete with dozens of actors playing the robotic "hosts."  For about two hours, fans can observe or interact with the hosts to recreate iconic moments from the first season, uncover clues about what's to come, or even experience live scene-setting.  It's the closest fans can come to actually being part of the show.

As expected, ticket preregistration for the event is already sold out - but there is still a chance to score one during SXSW.  If you do manage to get one - enjoy.  We hope for your sake the robots don't rebel.

Meet Jane Walker



In today's highly polarized political climate brands no longer have the luxury of sitting on the sidelines. Consumers are more likely to make their purchase decisions based on a brand's beliefs and a recent study by Sprout Social found that two thirds of consumers want brands to take a public stand on social or political issues.

The latest brand to harness a cultural conversation is Diageo's Johnny Walker.  Set to debut during Women's History Month, Johnny Walker will add a female counterpart to the iconic "striding man" mascot - part of an effort support women in business, culture and politics.  Jane Walker will appear on 250,000 bottles and Diageo will donate $1 per bottle produced to organizations that promote women.

But the best part? Diageo isn't just talking the talk.  They are also making a commitment to increase female representation internally by increasing their board to 50% female by April and ensuring their agencies put forth at least one female director as part of any work pitch.  Just another way Johnny Walker is living their "keep walking" philosophy.



FCK , we're sorry!


KFC regularly makes headlines for the unique and fun ways they engage consumers.  But this past week - not so much.  Due to operational issues with their delivery provider, KFC was forced to temporarily close most of its 900 UK locations due to...wait for it....a shortage of chicken.

Even in #KFCCrisis, the chain issued an apology that injected their classic sense of humor into a difficult and embarrassing situation.  A full page ad rearranged their name to spell FCK on an empty bucket of chicken and offered an apology to customers and staff impacted by the ordeal - turning what could have been a PR nightmare into another authentic way for them to connect with their consumers.

Food poisoning? Yep, there's an app for that.

Image result for food poisoning

We can all agree that food poisoning is on the Mount Rushmore of bad CX. But largely it is unavoidable in certain situations. The good news: help is on the way. Researchers at UMass Amherst have developed a method for testing food via a smartphone peripheral that can identify the presence of bad bacteria in about 30 minutes. A simple test using water and a sensor that plugs into your phone will let you know if its safe to eat. You'll even be able to see the little buggers on your screen. The technology will prove extra useful in disaster areas where clean water is of utmost importance.

Sure, you'll have to wait a bit to chow down, but the wait could be worth it, especially if you're saving yourself hours in the bathroom later on.

Smart warming jacket is pretty cool



Wearable tech is not a new concept. But wearable tech that adapts specifically to your changing body temperature sure is. Boston-based Ministry of Supply has developed a smart jacket that will adjust its warming level relative to your environment. Step outside into sub-freezing weather and it maximizes its heat relative to your needs. Climb into your already warmed up car and it will sense that it needs to cool down. The more you wear it, the more it learns about your body's preferences. And of course it has voice control via Alexa and Google home.

Gold modal for the (super) 5G


Athletes on the medal stand in Pyeongchang aren't the only winners at the 2018 winter games. Brands like Samsung and Intel are showing off what their technologies can do on South Korean wireless carrier KT's 5G network.

Delayed streaming seems to be a thing of the past, with connection speeds faster than short track figure skaters. 4K and even 8K quality video are now possible as well. 

With 5G on the horizon here in the US, perhaps we'll all be able to get closer to the action for the 2020 Summer games without having to travel to Tokyo.

Prime savings at Whole Foods



We're no stranger to the rewards credit card world, and can definitely appreciate when a card offers an added and desirable benefit.

Amazon Visa Cardmembers with Prime memberships will now receive 5% cash back when making purchases at Whole Foods - which should help take the sting out of those legendary grocery tabs. This is yet another example of Amazon looking to make the Whole Foods experience more accessible to a wider audience.

Board games have a new voice


It was only a matter of time before Alexa took a seat at game night. Manufacturer Sensible Object has developed When In Rome, the first board game that incorporates Amazon Alexa device capabilities, and the result could change how game night is done forever.

Rather than reading through confusing printed directions, Alexa carefully walks you through the rules, keeps score, and even throws in a little smack talk if you want. Although When In Rome will be the first out of the gate this summer, Sensible Object is planning an entire line of games for the Amazon platform.

A breathing billboard...really


To promote it's new original series, Altered Carbon, Netflix recently installed a breathing billboard in LA on Santa Monica Boulevard. The billboard replicated a life-size, nude, strategically-placed man in a large plastic-blag hooked up to a breathing apparatus. The "billboard" looked real, felt real and even replicated a real breathing man.

 While the stunt came across as creepy, gross or disgusting to some, it did meet the experiential marketing stunt goal of getting people talking on the same day as the show launched on Netflix. And while the stunt itself doesn't tell you much, if anything about the show, it does plenty to spark intrigue.

Fried chicken is for lovers


Who doesn't love fried chicken? Well, besides those that are health conscious and vegetarians. At any rate, with Valentine's Day now safely a day behind us, we can admire the unique customer experience KFC had to offer.

With your purchase of the romantic $10 Chicken Share meal for two you also received a scratch-n-sniff valentine that smelled like fried chicken. The valentines featured none other than Colonel Sanders and included a food pun, such as "I fell in love the first moment I slaw you." While you may have missed your opportunity to get the perfect card for that special someone in your life this year, we now have 364 days to see what KFC will offer next.

The real store disguising as a knock-off...wait, what?

Canal Street in New York, known by many to be the best place in the world to buy knock-off wares, was actually the home to an official Diesel pop-up store. Those brave enough to buy items with blatantly wrong logos (it was misspelled!) were actually buying one-of-a-kind, specialty items.

 The brand took things one step further than their campaign last year that celebrated flaws. This campaign, from Publicis NY featuring high-quality Diesel products (with flaws) fits into that theme like a pair of designer jeans. But before you get your hopes up on scoring a new pair of jeans for knock-off prices, the store is officially sold-out.

Everyone is a foodie

PSFK recently did an interview with chef and restaurateur Nicholas Morgenstern on the ever-changing landscape on how consumers interact with food. Morgenstern credits companies like Blue Apron (though he is NOT a fan) with making consumers much more comfortable cooking at home and even inviting guests over for a home-cooked meal. While he doesn't like the subscription box genre as he finds the packaging wasteful, he does also see the trend of people having basics delivered to their door and only going out to pick up specialty items. This, coupled with people getting more comfortable with gadgets makes for an elevated dinner party experience.

Morgenstern, who opened a different twist on the traditional ice cream parlor, still believes people will go out for the specialized experiences they can't recreate at home. Here's to hoping for his sake that is true.

The 'Miracle on Ice' team really wasn't a team of Americans?

Oh, the Olympics is upon us and in full swing. One of the most iconic Olympic underdog-turns-unlikely-champion stories belongs to the 1980 U.S. men's hockey team and their gold medal win over the Soviet Union.

In a clever move, ancestry.com took 5 members from the now infamous team and tested their origins. Turns out these hockey players aren't American at all, they have roots in Italy, the Middle East, Turkey, Iran, and...you guessed it - even Russia.

 The moral of the story is unity, embracing our differences and of course determining your own roots through the ancestry.com experience.

Backseat Drivel


Imagine if you will... a typical Uber scene in the backseat of a 2007 Camry at 2am on a Saturday morning in downtown Nashville, driven by a very tired Todd. Behind him, three bearded and bespectacled Gen X-ers, smelling a bit of cheap craft beer, pretension and dashed hopes.
Drunk 1: Dude, she was totally into you. WTF?
Drunk 2: TODD!!! PARTY!! TAKE US WHERE THE BITCHES AT!!!
Drunk 3: Murmurs incoherently.
Drunk 1: Dude, I think I’m going to puke.
Not an atypical ride, and yet nowhere in this scenario do any of our regal passengers exclaim, “Say, let’s see how Luxembourg is doing in the decathlon!” Hmm.

Beginning Wednesday, February 7, NBC will be offering unique, unprecedented access to the Winter Olympics for Uber riders. “Unprecedented” because, well, they simply haven’t done it before. That’s pretty much what “unprecedented” means. And “unique” because, well, riders won’t actually get to watch Olympic events. What they’ll have access to, through the Uber app, are interviews between U.S. athletes and broadcast announcers while they’re in transit between competition venues. That's right. To be clear, this "experience" consists of riding in a car, watching other people riding in a car. 

I’ve crawled up onto this particular soapbox before: I’m a superdelegate for the value of experience marketing. Done right, it’s a beautiful - and effective - thingy. Done poorly, it’s just not. Activations like this that are weak and disconnected benefit neither brand.

TODD!! PULL OVER, MAN!! I'M GONNA HURL!!

Warning: not for those afraid of heights

Picture virtual reality.

What comes to mind?

Mostly likely the image of a disoriented person wearing goggles, groping blindly in mid-air at invisible objects. Let's be honest—it's a little dull. But not the virtual reality slide at The View at The Shard in London.

Strapped into a wobbly seat with a headset, people can immerse themselves in the thrilling (or terrifying) 360-degree experience of sliding down the tallest building in Western Europe. 1,016 feet off the ground. At 100 miles per hour. Talk about experiential.

As a brilliant bonus, it's super fun to watch people freak out on the ride. Almost makes you want to try it.

How does this ad sound?


Facebook video ads can be frustrating for marketers. Many users browse their news feeds with their audio off, limiting at least half the watching experience, relying on the user to be interested enough in the visuals to read the captions to get the full story – if there are captions. However, these ads for Bekol, an Israeli non-profit for hearing loss, are leveraging the in-video text in a clever way that is likely to catch a user’s attention and engage with their ads.

A video clip with text invites viewers to pass the ad's "listening test". How? By listening to it, of course. The audio that goes with the video visuals are jarringly mismatched. Being able to detect the dissonance would diagnose those with adequate hearing as readily as those without. The ads also bring to life the experience of not being able to hear adequately to those that can and illustrate how sound impacts how things are perceived.

It's a great example of how experience-based observations (knowing users have their sound off) can amplify creative. It also goes to show that user behaviors don't have to be seen as obstacles!

Inspecting the speculum


Speculums aren't exactly "everyday" objects (unless you're in obstetrics), but good CX is as important at the gynecologist office as it is anywhere else.

Take the horrible, loud, clicking noise of cold metal being ratcheted open - the sound that pre-empts every routine pelvic exam. It's no surprise that these doctors' visits are profoundly uncomfortable for many women.

Prompted by this insight, the design and engineering team at frog have created Yona, a modern redesign of the speculum. By identifying specific shortcomings of the patient experience, they work to exchange the use of a scary, metal object for a product focused on patients' comfort, modesty, and ease in their environment. 


While this doesn't necessarily make visits more fun, it certainly makes them less un-fun.

Skip the lemon water, throw me a Snickers


As a stalwart Brandflakes journalissimo, I have a civic and professional responsibility to report the news of experience marketing wherever I find it. We champion experience because it is the new economy of marketing, of consumerism, of life. We embrace the brands that have internalized it, taken chances with it, and have seen the wisdom of it.

Usually.

This week, the Mars Wrigley Confectionery company – purveyors of such sweet classics as Snickers, M&Ms, Twix, and Skittles – announced the opening of a pop-up shop they're calling Sweet Retreat, with an emphasis on treat. And that's great! Bring the people in! Rejoice in the sugary indulgence! Celebrate what you are! Right? Right?

Um... not exactly.

Because Sweet Retreat is a spa-like object. It's about indulgences, yes, and it's about treating onesself, as it should be. But instead of a Skittles ball pit or a Snickers-eating contest, it's all mani-pedis and blowouts and massage and meditation. Want your toenails done in Skittles colors? No problem. Dove dark chocolate eye shadow? Step this way, ma'am.

The mission of experience is to bring your brand, your product, to your consumer in as authentic a way as possible. Anything else is a different experience... it's somebody else's brand. So while we celebrate experience marketing in nearly every corner we find it, we don't do it wholesale. We applaud Mars Wrigley's foray into this semi-charted wilderness, but this particular Jimmy Olsen just can't help but think that it went a little sideways.

A taste of Kindness


Sad to say, the protein bar wars continue to rage with no sign of abatement... and it's ugly, folks. It touches all of us. Families are torn apart, bros are openly snubbing each other in corporate hallways, campers and hippies are... well, nobody cares about campers and hippies.

Now, to make things even worse, there's a new team on the field. And they're not kind. Actually, they are kind, as in Kind, as in the snack bar formerly relegated to soccer moms' SUV consoles and the bottoms of handbags of 22 year old girls working in publishing. That Kind.

And it's ugly. Ugly as a dropped pie, as my grampaw used to say. Because these Kind folk, not being kind folk, they're playin' dirty. Convinced that their new offering is superior in both taste and in the wholesomeness of its ingredients, they're shipping their product along with their competitor's products to the first 10,000 who sign up - part of a six million dollar sampling effort.

Kind considers itself a challenger brand that revels in disrupting category conventions. They know that this kind of belly-to-belly experience is what is necessary to deliver their message. They recognize that getting their product into their consumers hands to prove their point is paramount.

And they know that, eventually, the campers and the hippies will come around.
Now your brand news diet is chockfull of tasty tales of Customer Experiences (CX). Served-fresh every morning for your daily recommended dose of marketing inspirations. Never sugar coated. May contain nuts. Archives | Look back at these past bites