When we take a closer look at some of the biggest brands in the world, how do they stand out against their competitors? What differs Coca-Cola from Pepsi when they are both sugary soft drinks? Well, much of it has to do with marketing and brand experience!
Taking a closer look at Coke, much of their marketing is focused on experiences. This focus is reflected in slogans such as “Open Happiness” and “Together Tastes Better”, which emphasize not the product itself, but the positive emotions associated with the context in which the product is consumed, e.g. social settings, fun everyday moments. As well, Coke’s campaigns ‘Share a Coke’ and “Coca-Cola’s New ‘Hug Machine’ were notable because they focused on users at different touchpoints, and unconventional but memorable events. Positive user experiences help build positive brand experiences, and is a reason for Coke’s dominance in the market.
So how can any company build and leverage brand experience to generate brand awareness, revenue, and more?
Let’s run through the basics.
What is a brand experience?
Marty Neumeier, author of “The Dictionary of Brand”, defines brand experience as: “all the interactions people have with a product, service, or organization”. These interactions lead to the building of certain thoughts, feelings, reactions, and responses to a brand.
Here’s the challenge: these interactions can happen anywhere. Online on the brand’s website, social media platforms, through customer service representatives, and offline through in-store interactions with staff, the products/services, events, etc. Managing how customers perceive a brand is so important when we look at how vast and infinite the market is, and how different competitors approach customers.
Why is brand experience important?
Brand experience is important because it builds brand awareness, brand loyalty, and brand endurance. Positive experiences inspire and engage audiences to take action, and ultimately improves a brand’s competitiveness and longevity in the market.
Think about the negative brand experiences you have. Whether it was a poor customer experience, misaligned brand messaging or response, or a non-so-great product experience, you’ve likely stopped shopping with them since. Now imagine that on a larger scale—how many customers need to be lost before a company becomes unprofitable?
For companies who want to survive in the market long-term, creating positive and memorable experiences in the mind of the consumer is key to being chosen over competitors when completing the sale.
How to create a strong and memorable brand experience
Building a strong brand experience relies on a few foundational steps: consistent messaging, tailored touchpoints, and exceptional experiences.
1. Consistent Messaging and Storytelling
A common misconception about marketing is that it pushes products onto consumers. Well, the reality is that marketing finds consumer challenges and provides solutions! Marketing is very customer-oriented—understanding what information matters to customers, what their challenges are, what their interests are, and any other relevant information to help customers achieve a goal.
Brand storytelling must then not only reflect the company’s mission, but also the customer’s story. To build trust, customers should be able to resonate with the company’s messaging, and this messaging must be consistent throughout the company’s mission statement, business decisions, marketing, storytelling, and other touchpoints. A consistent message is a strong message, and builds trust and credibility with consumers.
Case Study: How LinkedIn Boosted their Platform through Consistency
LinkedIn’s mission statement is “to connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.” To their credit, they have introduced many features that have connected professionals, such as interest groups, events, LinkedIn Learning Solutions, efficient talent acquisition offerings that have made professionals more productive and collaborative.
LinkedIn is not the only networking platform available, but these additions have improved the brand experience, allowing the platform to grow to 690 million users in 2020 from 78 million users in 2010. Building on their mission statement, they’ve turned their words into action that consistently resonates with and serves their audience.
2. Tailored Touchpoints
How do your customers find and interact with your brand? Online through the website or social media? In-store and in-person through customer service representatives? Given the wide range of touchpoints consumers interact with daily, it’s important to identify the top and most effective touchpoints for your brand. This can be done through methods such as data and analytics, or customer/staff feedback.
Looking at the marketing conversion funnel, consumers typically go through several touchpoints before performing a desired action. Is your audience most active and engaged on Instagram? Or maybe they prefer communicating with an account manager? Whether your strongest touchpoint is Instagram, Twitter, or with a customer service representative, creating compelling content that guides consumers down each stage of the funnel is crucial in attracting and converting leads.
Case Study: How Mazda Drove an Increase in Test Drives through Retargeting Ads
There’s no doubt that the car buying experience can be stressful, time consuming, and costly. Mazda saw an opportunity to reduce this friction by getting more users to test drive their cars, with great success! Using site visitor data (aka potential customers in the “attention” and “interest” stages), they created retargeting ads that “inserted the specific Mazda model(s) the site visitor was interested in, and matched the inventory with dealerships that were local to them”.
The result? Visitors who saw the retargeting ads converted at a 53% higher rate than the control group, and they had an engagement rate of ~20% from the ads. These personalized and tailored ads effectively moved users down into the “desire” and “action” stages. This improved the chances of securing the sale and providing a seamless online and offline brand experience.
3. Exceptional Experiences
Building on the idea of developing tailored touchpoints, creating emotionally-charged experiences that engage two or more senses can be what sets you apart from competitors. Experiences can be created through events, or the products/services themselves. Events, whether self-hosted or through sponsorships, trade shows, or markets, are a great way for brands to insert themselves front and centre with a target market.
The key to an exceptional experience is to figure out what your audience expects from you, and exceed these expectations. While this is easier said than done, there are many ideas available such as launching unexpected collaborations or fun customer service experiments.
Case Study: Fire & Flower—Igniting an Impactful Collaboration
In an era of digital marketing, tangible marketing products can be more impactful because they can be used regularly, and can be woven into the daily lives of consumers, making your brand more memorable.
Our friends at Fire & Flower, a Canadian cannabis dispensary, developed a series of limited edition tote bags in collaboration with Indigenous artists Chief Lady Bird, Fallon Simard, CHIPPEWAR, Kyle Natkusiak Aleekuk, and Emily Kewageshig. The artists created artwork for the tote bags, with 100% of proceeds going to the artists’ choice of an Indigenous-led charity to support Indigenous communities across the country. This was met with positive response and support on social media, with some sharing emotionally-charged stories about how the art made them feel, and bags nearly selling out.
This initiative was not only a great way to promote both the brand and the artists, but also:
- provide financial support to Indigenous charities and do social good,
- partake in the ongoing cultural conversation on promoting and advocating for Indigenous voices,
- showcase Indigenous art that is intersectional with activism and other art styles,
- launch a useful product that will likely be used often due to what the totes represent, and
- increase brand sentiment and response to the brand.
Leveraging Promotional Products for a Powerful Brand Experience
Tote bags aren’t the only impactful project we’ve worked on with our clients, and we hear it time and time again about how having a tangible item can make a campaign more “real”. As well, not only are the promotional products being used regularly, but serve as reminders about the brand to both the user and those around them. Having a branded, high quality and useful product goes a long way in improving the experience of a brand and fostering stronger relationships with consumers!
Interested in learning more about how to build a strong identity using branded merchandise? We’ve got many reasons why you should use it, and the many ways you can leverage it to not only brand, but build a stronger relationship with staff and clients in our promo merch guide!
If you’re planning on incorporating branded merchandise in your next marketing campaign, but aren’t sure where to start, let us find solutions for you! With over 30 years of experience impressing clients, we carefully choose products with the audience in mind and how they will use the product.
To briefly summarize, brand experience is all the interactions people have with a product, service, or organization.
Building an impactful brand experience starts with reciprocity between the company and their consumers. Consumers need to be able to see themselves in the brand’s mission, and brands need to find relevant opportunities (whether in the product or service) to understand and engage their customers across multiple touchpoints, while moving them down the marketing funnel. To elevate the brand experience in today’s saturated market, creating memorable experiences that serve and connect emotionally with consumers is key to building an engaged audience that’s here for the long-term.
Brand experience is easy to discuss, but harder to execute. It can take years to perfect a brand experience, but when done successfully, you’ll be in good company with brands such as Coca Cola, LinkedIn, Mazda, and Fire & Flower.