Into immersive experiences? Here are three tips from a brand doing them well

Eindhoven – For a brand focused exclusively on sound, Sonos has an impressive track record delighting every other sense whenever they leave the house – that is, in their brand installations at major art and design events. At New York’s NeueHouse there were mylar panels devised by The Principals that reacted to Dev Hynes’ custom 15-minute composition. At this year’s Fuorisalone, they had WeWork and Stefan Diez transform the entirety of the Palazzo Clerici into a series of hybrid scenarios that colourfully mixed business and pleasure. Here in Amsterdam, they allowed local rapper Faberyayo to turn the canal-facing brand house into an homage to millennial homebody tendencies.

You’re probably noticing a thread here: Sonos tends to choose unexpected collaborators and lets them have a go at redefining what their spaces mean to them.

So it wasn’t surprising when they asked us, a publication focused on the great indoors, to come up with an installation proposal inspired by the five shades of the new HAY for Sonos Limited Edition Collection. The Sonos x Frame Sound Challenge would then be presented at the 2018 edition of the Dutch Design Week. We selected a series of spatial design studios based in the Netherlands and asked them: What does home sound like? And what does that sound look like? How does it feel when you take it with you?

The winning proposal came from Studio Lonk, who created a series of overlapping soundscapes titled Space Here Becomes Sound. The catch? The loops could only be activated if the visitors were curious enough to play around with the concentric-square structure. The results? Quite unpredictable: some people almost asked for permission to touch it, while others just blasted through. There was a mix of childlike joy in adults and adult-like caution in children, who formed unexpected teams among strangers and provided relay advice to the sound explorers standing in line after them. Everyone, in the end, experienced the sounds in their own terms – a core matter essential to the company’s DNA.

What did we learn from Sonos throughout this process? Here are three tips about brand-experience installations from a company that has been consistently delivering and surprising on that front.

[1] Seize the un-Instagrammable

Multi-channel sound experiences are one of the last frontiers of the un-Instagrammable – due to the current audio setup of phones, you simply cannot convey the full sensory experience through a video post, which in turn decreases the shareability of these immersive installations. But instead of seeing it as a hindrance, brands should embrace the fact that this seeming limitation forces visitors to be more present – something screen-saturated audiences are now appreciating.

Sound has been quite overlooked in the past, but we are catching up: look at how interior design companies are increasingly considering the role of sound in a home

‘This is a visual era, yes, but it’s also a very sonic era: just think about how much content we consume beyond music and the radio – think of the massive growth of podcasts,’ explained Francesco Sala, the marketing director of the brand for the Benelux and France.

‘Sound has been quite overlooked in the past, but we are really catching up: look at how interior design companies are increasingly considering the role of sound in a home,’ agreed Cynthia van der Moolen, Sonos’ PR manager for the Benelux.

 

[2] Leave some room between the spreadsheets

The way Sala sees it, a traditional ad campaign has its place and value. But one of the key takeaways of the brand’s Music Makes it Home study is that it’s the musical element brings joy and allows for connection. ‘So there are things you can’t put on an ad campaign, that you need an experience to convey,’ he explained.

But how can you quantify the effects of such an investment? ‘ROI is important, but you want to evaluate this as a whole,’ he replied. ‘You really need to make sure that you leave the space for creativity and inspiration… you need to allow yourself some room between the spreadsheets. Make sure you also do projects that bring people together.’

[3] Speaking of sound, make sure you get the tone right

‘Having people sitting on a sofa in a demo room is one-dimensional. How do you tell them more? How do you let them do it in their own way?’ Sala asked.

Dutch Design Week proved to be a particularly good occasion to demonstrate the importance of asking these questions. The event cannot be equated to its global counterparts, as it focuses on innovation and experimentation instead of commercially ready proposals – it’s basically apples and the kingdom of orange. That’s why the Sonos team was bent on keeping the spirit of the event in mind. ‘I liked the way our partners kept the tonality right: it wasn’t a big company talking to the audience, but it was a design conversation with them,’ he explained.

In other words: a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t truly work. Your brand can be all about helping people to listen the way they want… but it also helps if you listen to the people and the venue.

sonos.com

For more on the Space Here Becomes Sound installation at DDW 2018, you can read more about our process with Studio Lonk here.

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