News & Views

Conor Brady of Critical Mass on Great Brand Experiences

by Contagious Team

As chief creative officer for experience design agency Critical Mass, Conor Brady oversees all the agency’s work and drives creative excellence on a global scale. He has worked with many of the world’s largest and most admired brands, a few of which include Nike, Pepsi, Audi, Hilton, Citi and Samsung. 

Conor will be introducing Critical Mass' More Than Mines interactive exhibition at Now / Next / Why, Contagious' essential, annual strategic briefing for brands and agencies, in New York on 9 June. Go to for more information and tickets.

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

I have been flipping it the other way around and thinking about what it means to experience a brand. As designers now there is so much we can do--I almost feel part of our job has taken on the role of experience editors. What do we truly need to get a real connection with a brand and what is the stuff that just needs to get out of the way. Great experiences now need to get off the screen. We touch and use them in different ways, and if we are really smart sometimes we don’t have to touch them at all. They have scale and can fill a physical space--were we all started with this, designing for the browser--is now just one small part of it. Technology has completely changed how we meet a brand today.

What’s the number one mistake you see brands making in their attempts to create customer-focused experiences?

That they still aren’t asking what their customers actually want. But I think some of that is still falling at the feet of the agencies they are working with. I find that type of upfront research invaluable in writing a creative brief--in fact that might be a close second--how many of us are working with a real and agreed on creative brief from the brand?

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

I love everything about NEST. From taking a crappy old thermostat and making it into something beautiful. To how you unbox it and install it. To how the product is just smart and effortlessly saves me money. I love it. They have thought about every aspect of their experience and just consistently done it beautifully.

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

'Co-Creation'. As a form of research and input, it can be incredibly valuable. But I believe it is misunderstood and is being used for lots of parties to step all over the design process. I don’t believe everyone is a designer, in the same way I don’t believe everyone who reads WebMD is a doctor. When I buy a product I want it to be designed by people who live and breathe the brand every single day and have made it their life mission to be the best at designing it.

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

Brands buying agencies. I feel at some point we all made a decision to be either agency or client side, that was as much a lifestyle choice as it was work. To suddenly wake up and find yourself client side must bring with it a massive cultural shock. I wonder if those brands can offer enough to keep that type of talent happy and engaged, or is this just another industry cycle we are going through?

Now brands have all these ex-agency people in-house if they ever need to interact with an outside agency again how will they use them? I think this is going to change a lot where the thinking and strategy sits--does it mean that the agency role in this scenario is just reduced to execution, production or staff augmentation?

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