What is Brand Experience, and Why Does It Matter?
People have their attention fractured across more devices and channels than ever before. Every day they interact with brands on social media, see logos on digital billboards, and ads on YouTube. To get results in today’s digital landscape, it’s vital that companies understand the importance of brand experience and to create a consistent one at every touchpoint. The most well-known brands in the world use a combination of strategy and technology to build lifetime customer relationships and drive tangible results through brand experiences.
Let’s take a look at what brand experience is, why it’s so important, and what goes into creating a great one.
What is brand experience?
|Brand experience is the feeling or impression a customer has based on any interaction with a brand – positive or negative. Like any subjective human experience, it’s a complex bundle of sensory input (sight, smell, touch, hearing, taste), memory, and perception. A brand experience can be anything from seeing a logo flash by on a billboard to the first time someone touches a product delivered to their doorstep.|
A brand experience can also be a user experience, but a positive user experience without a brand’s voice and personality doesn't sink in the same way. Every little or big interaction with a brand feeds into a person’s overall brand experience. If they have a positive association, they’re more likely to buy from a brand, recommend it to a friend, and go to the company when they need questions answered.
Why is brand experience important?
Brand experience is important because it inspires audiences, connects companies with individuals, and delivers results. Positive experiences with a brand facilitates connections that can turn into long-term relationships (e.g., lifetime customer value). Just one positive experience can influence a customer to buy from one brand instead of a competitor. That’s why all the largest global companies invest in the development of impressive and attention-grabbing brand experiences.
But flashy and exciting interactions aren’t the foundation of an effective brand experience; consistency is the cornerstone. The most valuable brands in the world know that brand consistency creates lasting customer relationships and increases brand recognition.
Some companies ignore investing in consistency and choose to focus on flash. They burn all their resources on big experiences and wonder why their efforts aren’t working. Others only focus on consistency and never do anything worth mentioning. As always, the middle road is the way to create a great brand experience over time.
Here’s what goes into the world’s leading brand experiences.
What goes into a great brand experience?
A great brand experience starts with clear strategy and solid preparation. Before anything is built, companies need to understand what their audience wants and needs. From there, a brand can produce authentic, meaningful, and memorable experiences.
Engaging the senses
Understanding the science of audience behavior is critical, but it’s more about senses and emotions than logical steps. At least that’s what Dr. Aradhna Krishna, author and sensory expert, says. In her book, “Customer Sense: How the 5 Senses Influence Buying Behavior,” she talks about how appealing to two or more senses creates more memorable and compelling experiences.
Brands have known about the power of sensory engagement for a long time. That’s why the “scritch-scratch” of Sharpie markers is audible and why their smell is so potent. It’s also the reason Dunkin' Donuts launched its Flavor Radio campaign that pumped coffee smells into buses each time the company’s jingle played on the sound system.
The place where the five senses meet with a digital interaction is the ideal place to create an influential experience. For example, people love to hold products and see them from every angle. With 360° photography, brands can give customers the sense of picking up a product and spinning it around in their hands.
Participating in events
Events are one of the best ways for brands to create experiences that win audience attention and loyalty through sensory appeal and extended exposure. By inserting their brand into an event their target market cares about — or creating one of their own — organizations produce memorable brand experiences.
Take Instagram for example. The company used Coachella, the popular music festival, as a way to interact with selfie-loving influencers, artists, and content creators on the festival grounds. Together with experiential marketing agency Manifold, Instagram erected colorful, southwestern scenes for people to pose in. This marketing play delighted their loyal users while also reinforcing the values and voice of the Instagram brand.
One of the most well-known events in the technology industry is SXSW. Organizers attract global brands and influencers to Austin, TX, and use keynotes, film, parties, and musical performances to create impressions that last a lifetime. Brands from Amazon’s Audible to Volkswagen sponsor SXSW to connect directly with attendees’ senses and desires.
Participating in popular culture
Pop culture trends present endless opportunities for companies who want to use brand experience to connect with their audiences. However, the execution requires careful timing and attention to detail. When done right, it can pack a punch.
Remember when “The Walking Dead” was its peak in popularity? Outdoor retailer REI created a Zombie Survival Kit infographic to connect with the show’s millions of fans. They even added an education layer that’s important to their overall brand experience and created “Zombie Preparedness” courses at different locations across the US.
The infographic and courses gave people a chance to have digital and real life experiences with the brand. REI didn’t say “walking dead” in any of its materials, because the company didn’t have to. This is an example of how to ride a huge pop culture wave without paying impossible licensing fees.
Brands have to tell their story and find a way to be a part of their customer’s personal story. Marketers that prioritize personalization in their brand experiences can achieve both of these goals and gain the trust of their customers.
Modern technologies like a customer data platform (CDP), open up options for personalization beyond sending an email with targeted content. VR and AR technologies can bring a brand right into someone’s bedroom. Companies like IKEA use augmented reality (AR) apps to help online shoppers visualize how a product will look in their personal spaces.
Location-based tech also helps businesses deliver personalized notifications and information to event attendees based on their interests. This level of personalization simultaneously enhances the customer’s personal experience and communicates what the brand wants to share.
While personalization is important, being helpful is more important. And your ability to help your customers at each step of their journey is dependent on accurate product information. It’s not easy to deliver consistent and relevant product information in one place, but it’s worth the effort. Brand experiences built on inaccurate product information can cause more harm than good.
What can harm the brand experience?
According to the 2019 Acquia report on Customer Experience Trends, 76% of consumers will quit a brand due to a bad customer experience, so it’s vital to know what to avoid when building brand experiences. Even just a few negative reviews can seriously damage a brand’s reputation. Below are common ways that brands fall short when it comes to creating positive customer experiences.
Overlooking personalization opportunities
Your customers aren’t just faceless numbers, so don’t treat them as such. Most companies have access to more data than ever before and still don’t use it to personalize interactions with users. Our 2021 CX Report found that 68% of consumers said that brands “don’t make them feel like individuals,” and 61% said that “brands who should know them well, don’t know them at all.”
Brands can’t get away with displaying the same generic “Welcome!” content to shoppers who’ve been coming back for years. But they can’t try to get too familiar with demographic stereotypes either. Back in 2012, car company Kia was mocked for its hilariously out-of-touch “Seasons Memeing” campaign that imposed a Kia Sorento on popular memes . . . it didn’t go well.
But the personalization challenge isn’t hopeless. Brands that access user data in real time and learn about their customers can create experiences for the best opportunities. When they know how customers interact with them, companies can produce meaningful content that’s helpful.
Being too invasive
You know how Facebook will show you ads for an item you were just looking at on Amazon a few seconds ago? It’s a bit unsettling, right? That’s personalization at an invasive pace. Instead of encouraging confidence and trust, it opens the door for suspicion.
Target has an infamous personalization overstep story. The retailer used individual browsing data to determine if a shopper was likely to be pregnant in order to email them promotions for maternity items. This backfired when the company emailed the father of a teenager and exposed her pregnancy to her parents before she had told them herself.
It’s vital to understand when to step back and only approach customers when they’re given permission. If brands are too invasive, people won’t trust them, and they’ll shop at another company. Acquia’s 2019 Consumer Privacy Survey found that 65% of consumers would stop using a brand that was dishonest about how it was using their data. People will exchange personal details for better experiences, but they want to consent to and control what data they’re sharing.
These days, when someone doesn’t get a quick response to a message, they’ll assume a brand is ignoring them. People are used to immediate interactions on platforms like Twitter and live chatbots. Across all channels, your business needs to offer timely, relevant messaging and customer service.
For example, airlines are expected to have some of the best customer support in the world. When someone loses luggage or misses a flight, they want a helpful response right away. If they don’t get it, serious brand damage can occur, like when Hasan Syed paid for a promoted tweet reading, “Don’t fly @BritishAirways. Their customer service is horrendous,” after the company lost over $1,000 worth of his father’s luggage. Six hours after the tweet went up, it was viewed by thousands of people and gained widespread press coverage. Despite this public outcry, it took another four hours for British Airways to reply. The company didn’t do a great job at damage control, to put it mildly.
Social media is widely regarded as an “always-on” channel, and customers expect brands on these platforms to respond within minutes. Customers also expect proactive solutions, not a runaround; they don’t want to be pointed to complex policies or web pages. Earning and keeping customer trust by being responsive is a 24/7 job for brands.
One of the most fundamental components of getting customer experience (CX) right is ensuring that the experiences you offer are available to everyone. There are currently over a billion people worldwide who identify as having a disability. Brands need to make websites easy to use for people with seeing or hearing impairments or other physical disabilities.
A 2016 study by Essential Accessibility found that “more than 8 in 10 people with disabilities have chosen not to give their business to a service provider because of barriers [including] poor web accessibility.” Brands that ignore proper accommodations for things such as brightness, coloring, and image descriptions are basically communicating that they don’t care about meeting a potential customer’s needs and that some consumers matter less than others.
What DAM means for brand experience
Great brand experiences are built out of customer data and a wide array of digital assets. Digital asset management (DAM) software makes it easy to find and use images, video, and other marketing collateral to personalize interactions at every step of the customer journey.
With a DAM system to store, manage, and publish brand assets, any company can build personalized experiences that engage the senses of their audience. DAM tools are a key piece of the technology puzzle that enables global brands to deliver a consistent experience across all channels.