Back down or pop up? – How your brand can harness transience to drive long-term engagement

Back down or pop up? – How your brand can harness transience to drive long-term engagement

Everything is getting smaller, closer, sooner. If tradition were a thoughtful, leisurely stroll through the countryside, progress is a walk through the loud, wild sprawl of city life, with every new corner turned offering distraction and demanding your attention.

The truth is, we’ve seen this attention-grabbing progress coming for a long time now. In a previous piece, we discussed how the shortening of attention spans due to the prevalence of social media has led to superficial relationships between people and the world around them. Perhaps unsurprisingly, that trend continues to build momentum.

The way that we, as consumers, navigate the world around us is being shaped by a pull between two planes: the physical and the digital. Both demand our time, and both have their own ways of dividing it up.

To many of us, with our hands ever entering our pockets in search of an instant, social media driven dopamine fix, it may seem like technology is winning the fight for our attention. In fact, as is stated in this Harvard University article, “in the US spend an average of 2-4 hours per day tapping, typing, and swiping on their devices – that adds up to over 2,600 daily touches.”

But, as technological innovations continue to pander to immediacy, with new products and features simultaneously democratising information and content and condensing it into smaller, more digestible forms, we’re seeing an interesting opposing force come to the fore: the deepening desire for long-term emotional impact.

In this piece, we’ll ask whether there can be congruence between these two forces, and whether transience should be viewed as a curse, or a tool to be harnessed in live relationship marketing.

The case for immediacy

In today’s marketplace, any conversation about the growing immediacy of the consumption of information has to begin with the meteoric success of uber-shortform social platforms such as TikTok and YouTube shorts.

These technologies, designed as a hyper-visualised, ultra-consumable form of social media, allow users to engage with a never-ending, algorithmically targeted stream of video content.

So popular have they become, that views per day are far exceeding the entire population of the earth. In fact, at present, YouTube Shorts has 1.5 billion monthly active users and more than 30 billion daily views. Some quick arithmetic will tell you that that translates to each user consuming roughly 20 shorts per day on average.

Given that each short is between 15 and 60 seconds long, it’s safe to assume that this type of content is priming consumers to shrink their attention spans well below the one-minute mark.

This brevity has bled into a demand for immediacy within traditional consumer experiences, too. In the Harvard Business review, Janet Balis writes, “Consumers today expect that any experience will be frictionless, anticipatory, relevant, and connected. In other words, they are concerned only with getting what they want, when they want it.”

Such high levels of engagement through transience demand brands pay attention, but can this trend be translated into more meaningful physical marketing moments? And are such fleeting engagements feasible when trying to nurture long-term relationships with audiences?

In it for the long-haul

The kind of long-term engagement that audiences are seeking today has also been codified by a desire to connect with the wider world. Major world events, from the Covid-19 pandemic through to recent geopolitical struggles have seen people’s resources deplete, and their lives encircled and reshaped by several lockdowns.

This has led to the ubiquitous technologisation of people’s lived experiences, a tradition stemming from rapid innovation in digital connectivity by the likes of Zoom, Instagram Live and TikTok Live.

As the world shut down, these platforms dominated, and people grew used to working, playing and connecting in virtual environments. In fact, TikTok usage alone grew by 180 percent among users between 15-25 during the pandemic, according to Statista.

Fast-forward to post pandemic, and consumers are demanding an end to the distance imposed by technologies through personalisation and the reflection of individual values. As Balis goes on to state, “marketing messages need to be personally relevant, aligned to an individual’s situation and values, as opposed to demographics, such as age and gender.”

This has led to widespread awareness of the need to centre emotional brand building, with 83% of CMOs listing this as a top priority in the coming year, according to a survey conducted by Marketing Week.

We used the example of UK based pharmaceutical brand Boots, who launched an affordable range brand with a huge, value driven advertising campaign in support, to demonstrate this.

Given such drastic responses from the likes of Boots, many brands may be left wondering whether such drastic measures might have to be taken in order to meet the emotional demands of their audience, and whether that’s totally at odds with the short-form revolution.

Togetherness through transience – the power of the pop up

It’s understandable that most brands might feel these two conflicting forces make for unlikely bedfellows.

Indeed, within a window of less than a minute of attention, and in the hopes of reaching an audience primed for distractibility, made complacent by an algorithm that cherry-picks content of interest, it might seem that the only answer is to back away from immediacy altogether when looking for lasting connections with audience members.

But what if immediacy, specifically the flippant, transient form stemming from the development of the short-form revolution, could become a tool for deeper engagement that aligns with the long-term emotional value audiences are looking for?

The ability for brands to be flippant and flexible – to step away from the traditions their audience have come to know them for in order to strike up new conversations – is one with its roots in practices such as the limited-edition product line or, in the live experiences market, the pop up.

Both practices allow brands to manifest themselves in new spheres, augmenting the familiar with the striking and temporary. They boast intense immersion and the kind of distraction that people have come to expect from their time on socials, whilst possessing a tangible, physical quality that can secure your brand a position in their consciousness.

Take, for example, Anya Hindmarch’s Ice Cream store pop up. As a well reputed fashion designer, one might wonder what the relation to relation to ice cream might be. But dig a little deeper into the activation and one can see all the cornerstones of Hindmarch’s brand begin to appear. Britishness, the amalgamation of classical and eccentric. These values were playfully communicated through the dulcified classic British condiment flavoured ice creams.

Not only does this kind of activation lend itself to social media marketing on the very short-form platforms we’ve discussed, (the activation received 30,000 views on its Instagram launch post alone) it also shares in many of the same characteristics.

It epitomises the transient nature of the short-form video. It possesses a succinct, symbolic and self-contained narrative which showcases the brand’s core personality. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, its disruptive enough to be utterly memorable.

In this sense, Hindmarch’s activation tapped into the spirit of the short-form zeitgeist in order to create a long-lasting impression. This goes to prove that, when harnessed, immediacy and transience can be a road to long-term engagement, rather than a roadblock.

So, with all that said, how can your brand harness the short-form revolution and create meaningful moments with similarly lasting impact?

Immediacy marketing – mastering the moment

When optimised to operate as condensed moments that encapsulate the values your brand is trying to express, short-form live activations can be particularly effective in driving long term engagement.

Whilst we aren’t suggesting that all brands launch a pop-up store or event, we are strongly advocating for the playful and immediate, backed by solid insights and a tight omnichannel network as an antidote to the conflict between short term and long haul.

By temporarily organising your brand around a concrete moment and breaking away from the confines of your traditional marketing output, whilst centring an issue that’s important to your audience, you can present a fresh, memorable access point to your brand.

Of course, executing this requires a high degree of adaptability that starts from within. Your brand will need to have access to deep, emotionally informed data insights, as well as the capacity to interpret them and act upon them quickly.

From there, coordination is key, and you should approach your ‘moment’ from all angles, spanning from the activation itself through to social media campaigns, social media management, advertising, logistics and more.

At mci group, we leverage our broad network of agencies to facilitate the creation of such coordinated moments in real time. We lead with smarter insights that get to the bottom of what your audience members truly need, before working together with our clients to ensure that we deliver the most dynamic, engaging and on brief omni-channel activation possible.

This way, instead of viewing flippancy and immediacy as obstacles, we can help our clients to envision them as a means through which they can secure a lasting position in the imagination of their customers, and the wider public.

To find out how mci group can help you cut through the noise and tap into the shortform revolution, call +41 22 33 99 500 or Email:

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Back down or pop up? – How your brand can harness transience to drive long-term engagement

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