For many people, the interaction with a brand and the emotional connection they form towards it as customers are extremely important. How can you nurture positive feelings in customers and gain as a brand via brand experience tactics?
In this article, we will try and explain the meaning and importance of brand experience, as well as how it is different from user experience and brand awareness. We will dig deeper into the strategies to create a successful brand experience, and how you can use them to market your overall brand better.
What is brand experience?
The emotions, sensations and memories the customers have towards a brand, is the best way to summarize the definition of brand experience. It is the long-lasting impression a customer gathers after being in touch with the brand in any environment or any stage of their customer journey.
Here is how researchers J. Joshko Brakus, Bernd H. Schmitt, & Lia Zarantonello define it in the paper “Brand Experience: What Is It? How Is It Measured? Does It Affect Loyalty?”:
Brand experience is conceptualized as sensations, feelings, cognitions, and behavioral responses evoked by brand-related stimuli that are part of a brand’s design and identity, packaging, communications, and environments.
So, any brand strategy should have the creation and nurturing of positive experiences into account. Good customer experiences are the way to create customer loyalty and turn target audiences into loyal customers.
Brand experience vs user experience
A common mistake you will encounter is that people often think that brand experience is the same as user experience. Even though both deal with the sensory reception of a brand, they are quite different.
User experience relates to the way customers navigate through the customer journey and how easy they find using products and services.
Sometimes, when people say user experience, they even mean user experience design, which is the way websites, apps, gadgets and other products are made in the best way possible for users to find them intuitive and easy to use.
Brand experience, on the other hand, is a type of experiential marketing. It relates specifically to the way people perceive the brand story and vision, the people behind it and the overall impression from being users of its services or products. It is more related to customer satisfaction and acts that help build trust, than to the ease of use and intuitive setups.
Brand experience vs brand awareness
Although a great brand experience ultimately helps with brand awareness, these two terms also don’t mean the same thing.
Brand awareness is how aware customers are of a brand and its services and products. So, it is the knowledge and perception of the brand, not necessarily as a customer, but also as a potential customer.
Brand awareness is at the top of the customer funnel: people are still learning about the company and its products, and then decide to make a purchase. That is where their process in brand experience begins.
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How to design an unforgettable brand experience
There are many ways and good ideas on how to create a memorable brand experience for your customers.
Whether it is by learning from companies that did it well, brainstorming, or simply asking existing customers about what they value most from your brand, you can create a strategy that will help you take it a few steps further.
Here are some of the best steps you can take to make sure you provide an amazing brand experience.
Be part of events and engage the customers
Whether you create events from scratch for your own company or invest by taking part in a manifestation where you can promote your brand to the right people, events that take place offline are a great way to involve many senses and feelings for people.
For example, I remember once being at a music festival and a local beer brewery had a small shed you can enter by buying a beer. And, lo and behold, inside the shed, there were darts, play stations, ice hockey and many other interesting games and activities that the festival-goers could enjoy. Together with a cold one.
Engaging the audiences to take part in an interesting activity helps your brand be connected to experiences and positive memories, not just products and services that will quickly vanish.
For example, Red Bull sponsors all sorts of events that promote adventure and extreme sports, that fall perfectly within their brand mission and story. And the slogan too: Red Bull gives you wings!
Ask your customers to give you feedback
There is no better way to learn about what you should improve, than from your existing customers. They can tell you what makes them remain paying customers, and what they would like to change. They could tell you what feeling they connect with your brand, and that will be a base for your experiential marketing in the future.
For example, if customers perceive you as a family brand, you probably wouldn’t want to take part in a festival. If they connect your company with feelings of loyalty, tradition and trustworthiness, then Red Bull-style events wouldn’t really fit your brand experience strategy.
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Be part of pop culture
Some pop culture phenomena are so important that riding the wave of their popularity can bring a brand a lot of buzz. Offering a community that is passionate about a TV show, musician or release of a new product can give your brand a chance to be remembered easily.
Here is a great example of brand experience marketing in pop culture: REI (Recreational Equipment Inc.), a brand specializing in outdoor equipment, used the popularity of the TV series The Walking Dead, to publish a Zombie Apocalypse Survival Kit. The kit, essentially an infographic, displayed individual tools and equipment that could help a person survive a potential zombie apocalypse breakout.
They took the idea one step further, organizing Zombie Preparedness courses across the US, in which customers could interact with the brand online or in-person in stores and “learn” how to kill zombies. It might be extreme and not everyone’s cup of tea, but it helped REI with sales, and they didn’t even say “Walking Dead” once.
Personalize your marketing
While businesses must figure out how to communicate their own stories, they must also figure out how to become a part of their customers’ tales. Marketers may achieve both of these aims and win their consumers’ confidence by stressing personalization in their brand experiences.
The ability to personalize marketing messages with automation nowadays gives advertisers a lot of new opportunities. But, sometimes brands take this even further and adopt technologies in experiential marketing too.
An awesome example of a personalized marketing campaign with the use of AR technology is L’Oreal’s ModiFace. It is an augmented reality tool that helps customers ‘try on’ products before deciding to buy.
IKEA did a similar campaign in which customers could upload a photo of their home, and add furniture from the Swedish giant to see what it would look like before committing to buying it.
Stick to your values
A company with strong values that manages to offer an experience for its customers that is according to them can leave a long-lasting impression.
Here is a recent experiential marketing example that impressed many participants, but also created buzz on social media: the Adidas swimmable billboard.
The brand set up a billboard that is actually a water tank that calls for people to dive in it. It was a campaign to revolutionize its product offerings with the aim of making sports more inclusive for women.
The billboard was set in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, where plenty of women do not attempt to go to the beach or swim because they feel like unrealistic media portrayals of female bodies and pop culture are judging burqa wearers.
Adidas calls women to “take a dive”, with the idea to offer them freedom and liberation. The campaign is aptly named “Beyond the Surface”.
Invest in your employees
For a company to offer a great brand experience, each and every one of its employees should firmly believe in the brand’s values and story.
Make sure you hire the right people and nurture your employees properly. There is nothing as hurtful as second-hand gossip about a company that claims to value its employees, but never really does that.
Stick to the brand story
Just as with your employees, your campaigns and investments also need to be in line with your company’s values and story.
Brand experience can be many different things that you decide to offer for your customers, so make sure you don’t confuse them with various messages and beliefs. Stay consistent for a much bigger impact.
Brand experience design
Since brand experience is evoking a response in viewers connected to brand-related stimuli, brand experience design is a type of design that has the goal of including these stimuli within the look and features of products.
These stimuli can be brand identity elements such as logos, colors, fonts, backgrounds, patterns and slogans, or marketing messaging and tone of voice.
Other stimuli include product experiences such as packaging, personalizations, and the way the product interacts with users.
And finally, the environment in which the product or service itself is used can be a type of stimulus. Conferences, events, pop-up shops, etc. all happen in a different environment.
Brand experience design is a method of creating products and features with an approach that puts the brand first and has strict knowledge of how to incorporate marketing into product experiences without interfering with the user’s experience.
Designers that specialize in brand experience have generally worked on both digital goods and brand systems. This designer should be knowledgeable about the company’s mission and branding approach.
Why is brand experience the future of marketing?
Brand experience is seen as one of the most effective strategies that help convert audiences into long-time users and loyal customers. But why is it so effective?
One of the main reasons is that it helps build memories and creates empathy.
Through empathy, brand experience marketing strengthens the bond between your brand and your target audience, allowing you to have a true and genuine discussion with your consumers and aligning your company and marketing techniques to meet their requirements.
Another great perk is that it reaches a wider audience. Brand experience marketing happens on both digital and offline channels, making it easy for people both online and in real life to access these well-thought-out and unique campaigns. By taking part in events and engaging audience participation in public spaces, brands can convert passers-by into customers.
Good brand experience also builds trust. A trick as old as time is to give the audience a slice of what they could buy, and then they feel like they know what they are investing in. By participating in live events, whether it is offering a free product or immersing the audience in a multimedia experience, it will help put a good name to the company.
Finally, brand experience helps you see the results of the campaign simultaneously. You get the opportunity to interact with the audience and see their feedback. Contrary to this, traditional and even digital marketing efforts take a long time to plan, optimize and gather data that you can then analyze.