We discuss the Experience Internet and distinguishing the hype from reality with Dr Rolando Zubiran, Founder and CEO of MESMR, an Experience Economy solutions company
that leverages technologies used in filmmaking, blockchain and AI to create immersive data driven experiences.
What do your first 30 mins of the day look like, your morning routine?
Never past 5:30am waking up, I’ve been fortunate to have been given the gift of being a morning person, so it’s the time I feel the most connected to myself. Cold shower, coffee, small Twitter (now X) content binge and I begin checking all the activity that transpired overnight. Having multiple teams across multiple time zones is a double edge
sword. Streamlined execution, always on.
How did you know it was the right time to launch your business and what made you finally take the leap of faith?
I believe the ‘why’ overpowers the ‘when’. Timing is incredibly important don’t get me wrong, but the true variable thatdetermines meaningful change is when its deeply rooted in a specific purpose. I think many people look at the ‘what’ and ‘when’ rather than actually searching for what truly drivesthem. It is simple to get lost in the comfort provided by certainty and complacency. Borrowing from Nassim Nicolas Taleb, there are many addictions in life, the worst being a monthly salary. When purpose aligns with the right product at the right time, wonderful things happen. Nevertheless, it is hard until it gets easy. As with any leap of faith, great things happens when you share. I am a true believer that finding the right partner both in life and in business is extremely important. I was very fortunate to find a business partner that shared the same vision of how execution should always be beneficial for both engaging parties, but as an exponential means of creating value. In any business decision we make 1+1 always has to equal 11. MESMR is now part of Beacon Media, a Global Film and Entertainment Company, Co-Founded by Deepak Chopra which is disrupting the industry by leveraging the power of IP, through technology.
What were the key pillars or the DNA of the platform since you launched and have these evolved since then?
Stories constitute the foundational layer of knowledge. It’s a fundamental part of being human. We learn, live and love through the stories that are passed on by those before us. But perhaps more important is that EMOTION is universal. It knows no race, gender nor has geographical constraints. Emotion is the true universal language of stories. When you anchor a value proposition on such a powerful constant, you can connect on a very deep level with your stakeholders. When launching MESMR it was clear that technology had allowed for people to express themselves through multiple channels, but perhaps most importantly it fundamentally taught us that people learn and process information differently. Some are more visual, some prefer it summarised, while others might prefer it narrated. What is undeniable is that all of us, regardless of how we process the information we are given, we all want to “feel” it. That is why the film and entertainment industry has been able to ‘mesmerize’ audiences by leveraging our most primitive senses. Everything we do in MESMR has three fundamental aspects: (1) It is IMMERSIVE, which breaks the barrier of the traditional notional barrier between interest and depth we often see lacking in younger generations. (2) It is EMOTIONAL, as every project we deliver leverages sensorial activation. (3) Its DATA & TECHNOLOGY driven. Every aspect of the solution must be grounded on research, backed by data, and efficiently executed by technology. Our value chain is dependent on the appropriate articulation of these variables. We are professional thinkers and occupational dreamers.
What is The Experience Economy and how is it changing the way new generations interact with brands?
As an economist, trying to avoid the pitfall of being an expert who will know tomorrow why the things he predicted yesterday didn’t happen today, it is quite complex to affix a unique definition to this evolving economic construct. It involves a shift in how human beings value material assets in relation to consumable experiences. Placing a higher utility value in experiences, is paving the way for entire new markets, from travel, to leisure, to finance and investing. Personalised, memorable, technology enabled which at the same time carries values of generational relevance, such as sustainability, legacy, uniqueness, inclusivity. This is drastically changing how new generations are interacting with brands. If as per a recent article of Fast Company, humanity is experiencing an evolution in consciousness, and we are starting to process differently how we envision the concept of ownership, then there is bound to be a fundamental change in the patterns of consumption. This change is transforming the way new generations interact with brands. Instead of being solely focused on the functional aspects of a product, these consumers seek out brands that provide immersive and engaging experiences. They want to connect emotionally, be part of a story, and engage in experiences that resonate with their values. Brands that create memorable experiences, whether through innovative marketing campaigns, personalised interactions, or unique events, are more likely to capture the attention and loyalty of these newer generations. In essence, the Experience Economy has raised the bar for brands to deliver not just products, but also captivating and meaningful experiences that build long-lasting connections with their target audience.
When advising brands, what behaviour do you notice in how new generations of consumers are responding and does brand loyalty still exist?
Brand loyalty is changing, and every CMO knows it. It is even more profound than that. The entire discipline of marketing is bound to change. There is a phenomenon I’ve seen these past few years in working with multiple C-Suite teams from Fortune 500 companies, and it is that the role of the CMO has become the most volatile position within the C-Suite. It’s become a position that’s struggling to defend its current relevance as new emergent positions challenge its niche of competence. And the fault (so could think a CMO) is not isolated to the consumer. There is a new generation of CEOs which are replacing legacy leadership, for data-driven execution. This new generation of CEOs, most of them former CFOs, are not afraid of the Excel, and are demanding actions anchored on data. The CMO is effectively competing now with the Chief Revenue Officer, the Chief Innovation Officer, the Chief Technology officer to drive business growth. Relegated to a comfort zone for many ‘golden’ years of marketing, SEO driven advertising had been the primary mechanism for Costumer Acquisition, then to be tracked across the lifetime value of that interaction. The problem is that new generations of consumers are not responding to brand loyalty and consumer repeat mechanics. The coveted KPI of CAC/LTV (ratio of how much it costs me to onboard a consumer to the lifetime value of it within my value chain) is not yielding results, forcing CMOs to reinvent themselves. This calls for a new way on envisioning how you treat and engage with your consumers, starting by not calling them as such. Brand loyalty will only exist when its reciprocated, aligned in values, but flexible in how it communicates with its stakeholder. It’s a partnership, which evolves into a community. Buyer beware… you can betray a consumer and he will stop buying from you. But betray your community In a new setting where experience and stakeholder engagement is key companies need to adapt, by leveraging existing services as their base platforms to curate experiences, having the goods they offer as the props used within the story. Its making a movie, where the viewers actually interact and define the outcome.
How is IP changing the game as it relates to the Ownership Economy?
It is here where the magic happens. A concept so challenging for the discipline of marketing, given it challenges many of the foundational covenants that dictated decades of communicational and brand theory. Just as there is a shift from material possessions to experience driven consumption, there is a shift from brand value towards IP augmentation. At first it might seem as unrelated concepts, as brands communicate values, emotions, traits and characteristics, and as human beings, it enables us to establish relative hierarchies amongst social-economic structures, while IP relates to the ownership behind a specific construct of the latter. For younger generations, there is a different appreciation regarding the concept of ownership, which spillovers into multiple verticals, from data privacy all the way to how our financial system is currently structured. In the age of experience internet, ownership takes a preponderant role, given it empowers individuals to be self-governed and empowered. It would almost seem counterintuitive, talking about newer generations valuing experiences over ownership of material possessions, then to talk about the rise of the ownership economy across that same demographic. Nevertheless, ownership can take many interpretations.
How do you distinguish between the hype versus transformational changes in how we interact in the digital space and how do you advise clients, such as with the future of the Metaverse?
As with all technological trends, we must be able to distinguish the hype, from truly disruptive technologies which are transformational to society. Additionally, hype carries this negative externality of ascribing subjective interpretations to specific concepts rather than whole technological constructs. I believe the Metaverse as we were introduced to it, and how the narrative was framed around it was the genesis of a true technological revolution, despite it lacking the ability to deliver on its early promise. When we stop thinking of the Metaverse as a platform (META), dressed in a Neil Stephenson novel and begin conceptualizing it as THE Internet of Experiences, things begin to drastically change. Any revolution or truly transformational disruption must achieve three things at its core. It must disrupt the way social-economic actors exchange information and value. Secondly, it must gradually replace old markets but create new markets for value to be created. But most importantly, it has to fundamentally change the way human beings experience life. Most transformations from the industrial revolution to the information revolution, have in some way or another managed to achieve this thing. I believe that the experience Internet allows for exactly that. In this journey towards a semantic and ubiquitous web, the Internet has just been given a new dimension for us to interact. It is as relevant to the use of the Internet as gravity is to physics. It’s a new space that exists with us being in it or not. Thinking of a SPATIAL Internet requires a new mental architecture to process its potential. Once we define this new dimension, we can begin envisioning how multiple technologies integrate to provide a seamless user experience. How blockchain fundamentally changes the way people exchange information and value, how AI begins enabling us to semantically interact with the Internet, how IoT can help us bridge that which is digital to what is physical. I believe the Spatial/Experience Internet will be transformational, yet there is much ‘Spatial Computing’ yet to come.
How is technology changing how we experience our relationship with brands and what should brands be doing to drive success in this market?
The rise of digital platforms, social media, and mobile apps has brought brands closer to consumers, enabling real-time interactions and personalised experiences. Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are transforming how consumers interact with products and services, making experiences more immersive and tailored. To thrive in this evolving landscape, brands must prioritize several key strategies. Firstly, they should embrace technology to create seamless and personalised experiences. Utilizing data-driven insights, brands can tailor their offerings and messages to individual preferences. Furthermore, brands need to emphasize authenticityand transparency. In the digital age, consumers value genuine connections and ethical practices. Brands that demonstrate their values, engage in purpose-driven initiatives, and communicate openly build trust with their audience. Lastly, continuous innovation is vital. The technology landscape is ever-changing, and brands that stay at the forefront of emerging trends and technologies will stand out. By blending technology with creativity, brands can craft experiences that captivate and resonate with their audience, fostering long-term loyalty and success in the market.
How do you scale without compromising on quality?
We live in a highly complex interconnected world. Scalability at the expense of quality is at the heart of every potential scale up. When businesses shift from focusing on the ‘fun’ stuff, to getting the ‘boring’ stuff right, it is imperative to assess your organization’s execution capabilities, but it’s even more important to look deep into the executive profiles who are running your company. This includes you. When you scale globally, the rules of arithmetic are defied. Today, one must be able to source talent and resources from multiple location in an articulate and well-coordinated, cost-efficient manner. Having worked closely with RR Donnelley, one of the largest Fortune 500 Business Communications companies, which is specialized in sourcing complex supply chain, technology and creative solutions across the globe provided me with great scope on how to scale and execute highly complex projects. Today BEACON/MESMR has a well-established global presence with high value locations across strategic geographic locations, which allows for the implementation and execution in a 24/7 follow the sun model which makes us extremely reliable in our scalability, but yet remaining agile and being able to pivot according to fast paced, volatile environments.
What advice would you give to your younger self starting out?
Learn to say no earlier. It’s at the heart of leadership. Being aggressive and exploring your boundaries and pushing limits is a wonderful test to help any young entrepreneur dive into the deep. Saying yes to every opportunity and possibility opens your vision to multiple and exciting paths. However, it is very important as you earn more experience to become much more selective in the projects you chose to involve yourself in. Learning to say no is one of the most important actions that powers the few selected yes. Oh, and buy a thing called Bitcoin.
Have you had any mentors to date and if so, what advice did they impart?
Multiple. Mentors & inspiring figures from the most unpredicted places. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and I think many of us begin by emulating
certain leadership or organizational styles when we are starting up. As with poets and great writers, finding one’s voice is perhaps one of the most challenging endeavours any aspiring leader can achieve. Sometimes you have to replicate, before you can innovate. I’ve always been passionate of Karate, since very young, I understood early that more than a sport, it was a discipline of character formation. It is repetition that cannot be perfected ever. Even now as a blackbelt with many years of experience, we do the same basic exercises I did when I was 10 years old. Its Malcom Gladwell’s rule of 10,000 hours, expressed as an infinite loop. Finally, I would say that the biggest advice I’ve ever been imparted has to do with never conforming with what you are not. To inspire, first we need to be inspired. We need to instill confidence and security to our children to make them grow into confident, independent human beings. As Nietzsche said, ‘Be careful, lest in casting out your demons, you exorcise the best past of yourself’.
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