As brands strive to stay front-of-mind with young audiences, the opportunity for connected experiences and products has never been more apparent. With Gen-Z averaging eight hours per day on screens in 2020, it’s only natural they’re seeking out more interactive and creative digital experiences. Yet many of the attempts by brands to service this need are falling short of this young audience’s expectations.

When Paco Rabanne approached Stink Studios to create a roadmap for ‘Phantom’, its first connected fragrance for the next generation, it was a challenge and opportunity we couldn’t turn down.

So what exactly is a connected product? Put simply, it’s a physical product that’s linked to the Internet so it can share exclusive content and experiences with customers. What follows is our approach to designing the world’s first connected fragrance.

Entering the Phantom Universe via RFID

Fragrance bottles can sit in the bathroom cabinet for years, so our starting point was longevity, and the need to create a recurring habit to keep users coming back for more. Each interaction needs to be easy to pick up and engage with while being super rewarding, and we’d need to regularly drop new content and experiences that are genuinely useful, entertaining and helpful to our audience.

Launch film introducing the Phantom fragrance

To guide users through the Phantom Universe, we developed a virtual 3D ‘wing-man’ inspired by the fragrances’ futuristic flacon. This character, and other 3D characters from the launch film, are used throughout the experience and have been adapted to create an exclusive series of interactive content drops.

The Phantom flacon brought to life as a 3D render

When the fragrance launched, our Gen-Z audience was introduced to Phantom and encouraged to discover the first two experiences in the Phantom Universe. Once the habit of repeat use became established, regular new ‘features’ were released every month. Each new feature is added to the platform permanently to enable repeat play, while seasonal and event-specific updates keep the Universe feeling live and up-to-date.

Characters from the Phantom Universe are recreated into AR experiences and games

To increase reach and give back to the Phantom community, the Phantom Universe was also connected to social networks (Facebook, Instagram & Twitter) and customers were rewarded with exclusive Augmented Reality (AR) experiences they could try-on and post directly onto social channels for bragging rights.

Once we had an annual roadmap of drops for the year, Phantom even branched out into the metaverse as a playable character in Curved Space, where players can select the character to travel to the deepest reaches of the universe.

For anyone looking into connected experiences for their brand or business, here are our top four learnings:

Keep it Rewarding
A great post-purchase experience can play a significant role in customer retention, and connected products are a great tool to build loyalty. But to do so, brands need to consider how they can service customers by investing in a long-term commitment to regularly dropping useful, entertaining and helpful content and experiences. Ordinary is the enemy. Strive to always surprise people with something new they weren’t expecting.

Personalised Comms
Having a direct, two-way relationship with your customers has its advantages. The ability to offer personalised deals and rewards in real-time, or send personalised comms about specific seasonal moments in an interactive way, offers a far richer storytelling opportunity than traditional mail-outs. Embrace innovative ways to connect with customers.

3D virtual assets
The creation of master, evergreen 3D assets goes a long way to ensuring an annual calendar of content is produced without breaking the bank. Once rendered, a bank of 3D assets can be used tirelessly throughout the experience. Models can be easily adapted for seasonal or promotional needs, and are easily integrated into existing and emerging channels — from augmented reality to games and the metaverse.

Data
Businesses can get a deeper understanding of their customers through the data that a connected experience can provide. This can inform future drops and create a better-connected experience, as well as influence future innovation and marketing plans.

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