We’ve expanded our 37 year-old relationship with Audi by being asked to reimagine their complete digital experience. Our approach was to add the feeling of Vorsprung to the experience, not just make the Technik slicker, write Will Lion and Lilli English, Managing Partners, BBH.

Emotion works. We all know that. But 2 years ago when we took on the Head of Strategy role we felt we might have meandered from that a little as a business and as an industry, see here. So with a new vision around “feeling”, we did what we could to tip it back. And hopefully the work from the last couple of years has benefited from that. In our own testing of our work we find BBH ads rank 20% above the average on emotion (hat tip Tom Roach).

But the vision for feeling wasn’t just about communications. It was about how to create effective brand experiences.

So much experience design today is about taking things away: friction, time, effort. We’re all building waterslides to whoosh people through as fast as we can. But are those the waterslides people enjoy the best? Is that how to get the most value out of people? By getting them through the pipes as fast as possible? And what happens when everyone’s pipes are super efficient? Which ride do you choose? According to a 2015 HBR study, it’s difference and emotional connection that juice the most value out of people, 52% more than baseline. Turns out waterslides need bends and dips and thrills and anticipation and all that to actually be good.

So if growth is the goal, quietly seamless experience design is just the start. Experience design that makes you feel something is where it’s at. It creates more loyalty, share, profit  and it’s where we as agencies who should understand all this nuance and magic should excel. We call these enhanced brand experiences ‘Extraordinary Journeys’ at BBH.

When Benjamin Braun and Ant Roberts, Audi’s Marketing Director and Head of Digital respectively, gave us the ambitious brief to reimagine what the Audi digital experience could be, this is where we started – the special Audi feeling we wanted people to have. Luckily we had defined this for Audi’s brand already: the feeling of being ahead, excitement, charm and simplicity. That’s the feeling of Vorsprung.

So the pitch was about a simple shift: move the digital experience on from the dry air of Technik to the feeling of Vorsprung. That is, nail the functionality but elevate it all through a uniquely progressive Audi feeling.

Sure it was about a symphony of more connected, more data-powered, more efficient parts magically rearranging themselves for whatever device you were on: the shop, site, ads, mail, chatbots, customer service, in centre devices, all talking to each other via a giant Hal-like brain to provide people with a slicker service and Audi with more insight to juice. Sure it was about laying out a path to a completely voice-operated experience. Sure there was new functionality that made test drives, configuration and actual drives smoother and simpler.

But it was also about adding more bends in the waterslide, making the experience feel distinctly Audi.

We wanted it to feel ahead and exciting, blending engines, entertainment and editorial so that you were delighted as you learned and felt Audi was at the vanguard of culture and tech possibility. Music videos, celeb-powered configurators, charming copy, sweet animation, cars rendered into entertainment in real-time, articles, podcasts and music shout outs all swirled together to shout ‘progress’, all while getting you the info you needed.

Our sense is that this was a pitch won on feeling, not just functionality. The functionality is critically important, but it’s the feeling that makes the difference. And that’s only going to get truer as digital experiences reach functional parity.

As Ant Roberts, Audi’s Head of Digital said to us after;

It’s sometimes very hard to pin down a feeling or describe what constitutes a great experience. Have you ever tried to explain or justify what you think is cool or articulate a sense of where you think you should be, not in technical or physical terms but in perceptive, subtle and intangible ways? BBH not only demonstrated a keen understanding for these unreasonable musings but were able to pin ‘the feeling’ down, to articulate it with our customers as the sovereign focal point, develop the concepts further and show how they could be implemented technically. I have the feeling that this will be the continuation of a wonderfully long and fruitful relationship between BBH and the brand.

So, getting our hustle on for a moment – if anyone out there is thinking their waterslide’s a bit straight and samey, get in touch. We reckon we might be able to help. We’ll make your waterslide fast and seamless. But we’ll also make your customers feel something. And that’s where the gold should be.