Chapter Twenty

The Brand Experience

Brand experience has emerged as an innovative and compelling way to build a brand in the minds of consumers. The brand of the future is patient, consistent, connected, and trusted. The new brand is based on the truth that only comes from experiencing the product, not just yelling about it. Brand experience can be thought of as sensations, feelings, perceptions, and behavioral responses evoked by brand-related stimuli. The more powerful the experience is, the stronger the brand impression. Brand experience also affects consumer satisfaction and loyalty; it allows the brand to sell products at a premium and to create competitive entry barriers.
Experiential branding is a process by which brands create and drive sensory interactions with consumers in all aspects of the brand experience to emotionally influence their preferences and to actively shape their perceptions of the brand. Interactions involve communication, brand space, and product and service elements. These elements work together to affect brand equity.
Josiah Wedgwood and Sons, commonly known as Wedgwood, is a fine china, porcelain, and luxury accessories company founded on 1 May 1759 by Josiah Wedgwood. In 1987, Wedgwood merged with Waterford Crystal to create Waterford Wedgwood, an Ireland-based luxury brands group. This video assists the viewer in experiencing this long time luxury brand.

 

Marketing is changing from the seller’s market to a buyer’s market to a connected community. The connected community provides the notion of customer experience. It's not enough to define a brand in terms of a clear and concise brand mantra and a clear and concise brand positioning, but you also have to define all of the experiences that exists around the brand behavior. In this new experiential world that we live in, the brand experience can be thought of as sensations, feelings, perceptions, and behavioral responses evoked by brand-related stimuli. 
Logo for the NFL
A sporting lifestyle brand
The more powerful the experience is, the stronger the brand impression. Brand experience also affects consumer satisfaction and loyalty and allows the brand to sell products at a premium and to create competitive entry barriers. Experiential branding is a process by which brands create and drive sensory interactions with consumers in all aspects of the brand experience to emotionally influence their preferences and to actively shape their perceptions of the brand. Interactions involve communication, brand space, and product/service elements. These elements work together to affect brand equity.
Quote Icon Fundamentally, branding is a profound manifestation of the human condition. It is about belonging: belonging to a tribe, to a religion, to a family. Branding demonstrates that sense of belonging. It has this function for both the people who are part of the same group and also for the people who don't belong. Quote Icon Wally Olins - quoted in “Brand Thinking

 

One way brands are connecting with their tribe is through Content Marketing, “a technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience with the objective of driving profitable customer action. Basically, content marketing is the art of communicating with your customers and prospects without selling. It is non-interruption marketing. Instead of pitching your products or services, you are delivering information that makes your buyer more intelligent. The essence of this content strategy is the belief that if we, as businesses, deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to buyers, they ultimately reward us with their business and loyalty.” reference — The Content Marketing Institute.
Ford Times cover
Quote Icon Although marketing continues to evolve, some things remain the same. No matter what your brand is, creating content that is useful and valuable is the best way to engage and delight your customer. Learn more lessons from Ford Branded content. Quote Icon
Column Five

 

Patagonia is excellent at content marketing. Their web site and print mailings promote their story and conviction found in their mission statement; “…use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”
An experience is an event or occurrence that leaves an impression on someone. It is not just a moment in time; it's a dynamic notion where you sense or feel the event or occurrence. It involves all the senses; it's social, behavioral, cognitive, and emotional. It involves stimulations that trigger the senses that cause you to think and feel. The experience we deliver is the sum of a series of separate interactions. They connect the company and the brand to the customer, and they place the individual's actions and purchase occasions in a broader social context. The experience includes all of these things. Successful brands are not just differentiated by product or a single promise, but also by a relationship. Our experience at a restaurant is more than the food; more than the service; more than the wine list or the decor. It’s each of those things, and all of those things, and it’s the way in which each is choreographed with respect to the others. An example is Shake Shack.
Your brand is defined by those who experience it, you need to empower everyone in your organization to give your customers positive experiences to talk about. Learn how from Johnny Holland
If you're a Tom's, Krochet Kids or Warby Parker lover, you have a relationship with that brand; it's developed over time and it is part of your persona. It’s not just brand attributes, cognitive/performance attributes, or product attributes, it's a personality, and you consider the brand almost as a friend. It is not static, it's dynamic. The brand becomes individualized and relevant to you personally. You're not just aware of this brand, you're aware of how this brand fits into your life. By the types of words being used to describe the brand, really strong brands embody emotional experience.
Life style picture of a Rolls
A life style
When these terms are defined, you're not just thinking about brand positioning, you think about experiential brand positioning. What does the brand stand for? It should be a multi-sensory strategy. What's the smell of the brand? What's the color of the brand? What's the emotion you feel when you think about the brand? That's brand positioning and experiential brand positioning. It needs to be distinct from everybody else's. You don't want all hotels to smell the same. Their soaps don't smell the same to evoke different experiences.
The brand promise or mantra is not just three words. It needs to describe what the brand promise is in experiential terms. It needs to impact the senses and drive sensory interactions. It needs to evoke a vision. What does it look like? What does it smell like? What does it taste like? What does it sound like? Is there music associated with it? What does it feel like? What are the senses? How do you emotionally feel about it? Is it a happy brand? Is it a sad brand? Is it a tragic brand? What are the emotions that are evoked by the brand? How does it make you behave or act?
Image of a coke ad emphasizing happiness
Bubbling with emotion!
The experiential aspect of the brand should be in all channels; all channels should have an experiential component to it. You want to have a consistent experience across the five senses. You should appeal to the customer's inner feelings and build strong emotions to it. The brand of the future is patient, consistent, connected, and trusted. The new brand is based on the truth that only comes from experiencing the product, not just yelling about it. Word of mouth is more important (by a factor of 20) than TV advertising, and the remarkability word of mouth demands comes from what we experience, not from spin or taglines or a campaign slogan.
It affects the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding. Thoughts, experience, intrigue, surprise, and inspiration affect how people behave. It is the part of the social system, the culture that surrounds the brand. Experiential functions should be delivered through the four P's; product, place, promotion and price. I'm sure you've seen this self-designed and personally customized Nike shoe. It's not just a product attribute anymore.

 

Nike custom shoes

 

It's a shoe that you can co-design and co-create. The customer is part of the process and that makes it very experiential. Millennials are very much thinking like this, they want to be the designer and co-create the product.
One of the first companies who began to really understand this was Apple. Apple showed the iPod when they were first coming out with a very experiential ad. It was music, it was dance, you felt it. The little earbuds that came with the iPod were highlighted in white. Certainly online advertising and mobile advertising is very experiential and interactive. People are now just assuming that most advertising is interactive. When you're watching ads during the Super Bowl, you have your second screen, and you're interacting with the game. That's an experiential interaction.
Medium, an Internet publishing site, launched its first sponsored “collection,” a term used to describe one of its curated sections or publications, with BMW on its renowned blogging platform.
Picture of a BMW
BMW is a brand that produces these feelings with it's customers; "I feel young, I feel stylish, It‘s just great to drive and a BMW is the symbol of my success." BMW has partnered with Medium’s design hub, re:form, to explain how its design process works, and bring you an unrivaled insider’s look at the evolution of BMW’s iconic driving machines. The article Click, Clack, K-thunk includes samples of different door closing sounds and includes an audio fingerprint of the sound of the door closing in an early prototype of the 4 Series Gran Coupe. BMW involves the viewer suggesting they click on the audio sound bites of the door closing and comparing the sound to the audio fingerprint. The Medium collection demonstrates the attention to detail and craftsmanship of BMW. The customer feels the love that the BMW Engineer has for the design of the vehicle and for the customer experience. This allows them to obtain a premium price.
What does it mean to experience price? Well, eBay certainly demonstrates that, with Auctions. Sometimes people will give you a bag and say, anything you can put in this bag you'll save 20%, it makes price something that you're creating. I'm not deciding what you're going to save 20% on, you decide what fits in the bag. Or even the concept of priceline.com where you effectively name your own price, that's very much an experiential notion around price. Even something as cognitive as price which is numbers can be experiential.
View of a Ralph Lauren store
And finally, in the retail channel, you see stores, become very experiential. Beautiful flagship stores. Ralph Lauren's mansions in New York City, Paris or Milan. Ralph Lauren built an whole house, the entire lifestyle. People who wear Ralph Lauren clothes. What kind of house would they live in? What kind of furniture would they have? It's very experiential, it's not just a store with clothes on a rack, it's stores that immerse you in the experience, and context where you will be going to live and wear them.
Consistent, clear promises are what make very strong brands. The other characteristic of great brands, is consistency. Every time you have a product experience with this brand it's the same. You expect it. It is very important that it meets your expectations. Branded products tend to be superior products. You're delivering something that meets specific customer value. It's distinctive. A strong brand doesn't melt into another brand. There's a very big difference between Disney and McDonald's. You don't get them confused. You don't get Coke and Pepsi confused. They have very distinct brand positioning, and distinct customer experiences, even if the product itself might be somewhat similar.
Brands are aligned, what is shown externally is aligned internally in the organization. When you have a market leadership strategy, it not only indicates what your market strategy should be going forward. It also indicates what kind of organization you're going to have, what the priority of your resources are going to be and how you allocate those resources. It's essential for your brand to stay relevant. Markets change, times change, customers change. Retailers want cereal innovation — think gluten-free, protein and granola. “US cereal sales continue to decline, but retailers know the category is still important and want innovation around prevalent consumer trends, says the CEO of General Mills.” from: Kacey Culliney, 07-Jul-2015 Baker and Snacks
Great brands like General Mills are flexible and adaptable and change with the customers.