Why Human Behavior Is At The Center Of Every Successful Advertising Campaign
This Seattle agency creates content by leveraging human-to-human interaction
In Seattle, creativity and technology collide at every intersection. Stand on Harrison and 5th Ave and the Space Needle sits just across from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Stand on Westlake and Thomas and Amazon lives just across the street from Tesla. My exploration of Seattle’s creative culture has just begun. A hop to another area of the city, downtown, and you can visit the newly opened art deco digs of Rational Interaction, an integrated digital agency that designs for what they call human–to–human interaction.
Rational focuses on three aspects to their business: Advertising, Technology and Consulting Services. But what sets them apart from most in the business today is their experiential capabilities, a solution based on human psychology that they built on their own—and it’s a skill set that has led them to work with Amazon, Microsoft and Seattle’s most famed sports teams, The Seahawks and The Sounders.
PSFK meets with agency founder Selina Petosa and co-founder Joseph Debons over coffee to understand their unique approach to immersive digital experiences that draw out what all marketing attempts to achieve: reaction, response and engagement. In the ever-growing conversations on engagement and connection, here’s how this shop is winning:
In your opinion, how are brands misinterpreting the “experiential”?
Selina Petosa: There’s a strategy gap in all businesses. It comes from not correctly translating business goals to the creative execution in campaigns designed. When agencies try and build “experiential” campaigns, they forget something—and it is the “experience” that lives in the world. Experience is connected to the physical and it’s still finding its foothold in the market. So aligning that to brand—experience is brand across all physical and digital, platforms, channels and mediums. Interactions are designed from brand in that sense, not just one-off tactics on a single place. Experience has to be holistic, and you have to ask yourself have you experienced the brand in the world, not just online. Most agencies miss that.
How are brands misunderstanding “engagement”?
Selina Petosa: Engagement is currently being based on old KPIs, clicks or a simple action, that we as marketers were left to deduce their impact and relevancy. Luckily, we have been moving into measurement based on sentiment so that we can gauge “meaning” on deeper levels. And the only way to do that is to listen thoroughly and more thoughtfully. Engagement for the brand comes from thoughtful listening and honest response as the brand is more than what it says through all the marketing jargon.
How dynamic should experiential or immersive experiences really be?
Joseph Debons: They need to be appropriate for the place in which the brand is meeting their target audience. You must first establish the goal, then establish the touch points, and then figure out where the brand is going to get the most reception. The right time coupled with the right place elicits the right response.
Should brands focus on more than one audience at a time?
Selina Petosa: They can, but we’ve found that the more direct focus, the better response and success. It’s why we say we design for human–to–human interaction. We choose one audience, say Latina millennial mothers, and then we use Joseph’s previous points to find the right way to develop and deepen brand affinity and relationship.
In Seattle, where does the use of story come into play?
Joseph Debons: Seattle is extremely focused on analytics because of our tech roots. Most brands focus on story, but brands here focus on data. Thus, we’ve had to reverse engineer story and creative into the mix. The use of story for connection has been intense, but as tech brands have embraced it, they have seen much stronger success in their campaigns.
What are three things agencies need to take into account to build brand successes?
Start From Strategy. Ask yourself what is the brand’s desired business impact?
Break Down Siloes. Culturally push large amounts of ownership. Work on an entire projects, not just one piece.
Take Big Risks. Get comfortable taking big risks. Be okay with grey and solve ambiguity found in challenges.
How did you apply your principles to the Amazon Fire campaign?
Selina Petosa: Amazon is transactional and sales are the ultimate KPI. We knew we had to change that. We added story to the brand proposition, we made it fun and immersive. Amazon was in a new category so selling could not be the go-to-proposition. We had to introduce Amazon Fire to the market, educate the customer as to what it was, what it did and how it differentiated from the competition. We used story to transition them into sales and we exceeded our goal 5x.
Overall, what have the sum of all your campaigns taught you about online consumer/audience behavior overall?
Joseph/Selina: We have learned two things: the first is that people have short attention spans. Entertainment is a great tactic but the entertainment for the experience has to be worth their time. The second is that people never behave the way you expect them to and they will never believe the brand as much as they believe their peer group. When you look at the behavior and learn how they speak in those peer groups, you can be successful. That’s what drives meaningful impact and results.
Boys staring at a large commercial ad promoting cosmetics via ShutterStock