News & Views

Google's Ben Jones on great brand experiences

by Contagious Team

Ben Jones is a creative director at Google, where he helps brands and their creative and media agencies draw on the best technology, media and storytelling. His work takes him inside most major US advertisers and ad agencies, shaping them for this digital, mobile age.

Ben will be speaking at Now / Next / Why, Contagious' essential, annual strategic briefing for brands and agencies, in San Francisco on 9 June. Now / Next / Why also comes to New York on 6 May and Chicago on 19 May. Go to nownextwhy.com for more information and tickets.

1. Let’s cut through the jargon: what does ‘brand experience’ mean to you? Why is it so important?

Technology blends the discrete parts of brands – the product is the content is the service is the marketing. If they're not the same thing, then I expect them to be seamlessly connected and responsive – to be alive to my interactions with it, to react to my needs and to deliver back value for my time and attention.

It's so important because either the brand is alive in my attention, or it is dead. A message is a dead thing. An inert service is dead. An unlovable product is dead. An experience is alive. None of us have time for dead things.

2. What’s the top mistake you see brands making in their attempts to create customer-focused experiences?

The number one mistake brands make is shoehorning messaging into experiences; they don't embody their brands, or evoke an emotion; they bribe people for attention and try to force something on them in return – the very opposite of customer-centricity. They often don't get past the idea of marketing dressed in the clothing of customer experiences.

3. Who, other than you, is nailing brand experience right now?

Heineken is doing very interesting work between the Stranded series, Routine Interruptions with Fred Armisen, and smaller live event activations. Under Armour has also been doing great stuff – buying a platform like Mapmyrun gives them social data on top of which they can build programmes. That's a great example of blending service, marketing and product.

4. What current marketing buzzword or trend is the least important, in your mind?

The Periscope/Meerkatting of things – feels like the worst impulse of marketing to jump on a shiny new technology. I've never seen an interesting one, or enjoyed watching one. Nor have I ever had someone tell me about one that they saw that was interesting or moving. Could there eventually be? Maybe, but based on the substance of the event and the personalities involved, not the Meerkatting of it.

5. What recent changes in marketing will cause a lasting impact for brands and agencies?

The rise of programmatic and the widening gulf between media and creative. The evolution on the media side is accelerating faster than creative is evolving to match. So we're getting more powerful guns, but firing the same old bullets. If we don't push the creative product harder to evolve also, we'll never get imaginative, creative experiences that realise the potential of our technology.

The potential upside is amazing, if we figure out how to use data to tell genuinely new kinds of stories, or to create magical experiences for people; if we only use technology for targeting, we'll have missed a big opportunity. I think it's most important to remember that we're 1% of the way along – the biggest and more transformative changes are yet to come.

Join Contagious at Now / Next / Why 2015. Limited tickets available; book now:

LONDON / 21 APRIL 

NEW YORK / 6 MAY 

CHICAGO / 19 MAY  (in partnership with SOCIALDEVIANT)

SAN FRANCISCO / 9 JUNE (in partnership with BSSP)

Contagious magazine and Contagious I/O subscribers receive a 10% discount.  For more information email events@contagious.com or call +44 203 206 9275.