For business leaders looking to accelerate the growth of their business, few tools are more powerful than a superior brand experience.
How your customers experience your brand determines the actions they will take with your brand. Whether they’ll become purchasers and loyalists or lost customers and critics.
With this in mind, we take a look at some of the key factors of brand experience:
- What is Brand Experience?
- The Benefits of Brand Experience
- How To Create A Powerful Brand Experience
- Brand Experience Examples
- The Takeaway
What follows will help you understand why brand experience is the secret to business growth, and how to ensure your brand’s experience is one to be remembered.
What is Brand Experience?
Brand experience refers to the many ways a brand can be experienced by customers. This includes how a brand looks, sounds, feels, smells, and tastes, from its website and mobile experiences to its in-store and product experiences, and everything in between.
The best experiences are born from brand purpose and inspired by brand design. They are meaningful, memorable, authentic, and consistent. Effective experiences elicit customer delight and reinforce customer loyalty.
Every customer touchpoint is an opportunity to strengthen your brand’s relationship with that customer with a recognizable experience that caters to their needs in unique and memorable ways.
The Benefits of Brand Experience
More than simply the emotional response your brand elicits in customers, brand experience is a critical metric for brand positioning. The way your customers experience your brand can literally make or break your business’s success.
Powerful experiences influence purchasing behavior and stoke customer loyalty. Let’s take a brief look at some of the most valuable benefits of brand experience.
Effective brand experience enables you to:
Increase Brand Awareness
The more memorable your experience, the more likely your customers are to talk about it with friends and colleagues. The more consistent your experience, the more likely your customers are to recognize it and identify with it.
Increase Perceived Value
Consistently executed brands with appealing experiences are perceived as more valuable than those with confusing or unimpressive experiences. Higher perceived value boosts your brand equity and enables you to command higher prices for your products or services.
Foster Customer Loyalty
There’s nothing more effective than a meaningful, memorable experience to keep customers coming back for more. Brand loyalty is built on customer trust, and customers trust brands whose experiences are consistent and relevant.
The ultimate upshot of a powerful experience is an increase in sales. When customers experience your brand in an impactful, memorable way, they’re more likely to tell their friends and colleagues about it. And few things are more effective at attracting new customers than personal recommendations. Word-of-mouth referrals have a measurable impact on your business’s bottom line.
How to Create a Powerful Brand Experience
Powerful brand experiences clearly have a range of tangible benefits for companies who are willing to invest in them.
So, how do you create the type of experience that leads to customer loyalty, increased sales, and a better bottom line? Here are a few pointers:
Know Who You Are
As we mentioned earlier, the best brand experiences are born from purpose. Your brand’s purpose is the answer to the most fundamental question it faces: why?
Why do you get out of bed in the morning? Why do you do what you do beyond making money?
Have a clearly defined answer to these questions and ensuring that answer informs every aspect of your brand is the best way to create meaningful, memorable experiences for your customers.
Customers, after all, appreciate a brand with a clearly defined purpose, especially in times of economic and political turmoil. That’s why the idea of purpose is so popular these days.
But just because it feels trendy at the moment doesn’t mean purpose isn’t an endearing, essential component to an authentic, well-executed brand experience.
Make a Strong First Impression
The initial impression a customer has of your brand goes a long way towards defining their overall experience of your brand.
Whether it be the launch of your brand, the homepage of your website or app, the entrance to your office or store, or a label on your product or packaging, ensuring your customer’s first impression is seamless and impactful is a powerful way to shape brand experience.
Regardless of whether your brand sells shoes or insurance, your customers’ first impressions should be frictionless, easy to navigate, and driven by purpose.
Delightful, surprising, or otherwise pleasantly unexpected first impressions—like free samples, custom packaging, or personalized experiences—are they types of things that create positive associations in the minds of your customers. And positive associations can go a long way toward fostering brand loyalty.
Focus on Storytelling
Beyond your brand purpose, the most important thing to understand when it comes to brand experience is your story.
Few things are more powerful than a good story. As humans, we innately resonate with stories—we have ever since the days we painted on cave walls by firelight.
When your brand experience is part of a larger, cohesive storyline that is meaningful and relatable, your customers are more likely to understand the significance and value of your brand.
Blog posts, social media, advertising, emails, in-store experiences, events, tradeshows—each of these touchpoints represents a valuable opportunity to share a piece of the story of your brand, and inspire your customers in the process.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of consistency when it comes to your brand experience. Your brand should be instantly recognizable wherever and whenever your customers encounter it.
Your brand exists in an integrated ecosystem of touchpoints. Failing to ensure a consistent experience at any one of these touchpoints has the potential to undermine your customer’s perception of your brand.
Inconsistent brands feel sloppy and unorganized. They create confusion and alienate potential customers who question their trustworthiness.
We learn through repetition, after all. It’s how we become familiar with the unfamiliar. When we encounter positive experiences, we seek them out again and again. They become part of the routines of our daily lives.
When you throw a wrench in the familiarity of your customer’s routine with an inconsistent experience, they get frustrated and, whether consciously or not, associate your brand with that frustration. Negative associations like these can be the death knell for a brand.
Identify Opportunities for Engagement
Being proactive about cultivating a consistent, meaningful brand experience is all about meeting your customers where they are.
This includes your website or app, search engine marketing, email marketing, sales and customer support interactions, conferences and events, in-store experiences, and more.
Which channels are your target audience most likely to be found? What types of messages, images, or sounds are most likely to resonate with customers in each of these unique spaces?
Effective brand management considers all the opportunities your customer has to engage with your brand, and ensures your brand experience is recognizable and impactful at every turn.
Think of Sales in Terms of Brand Experience
The classic three-stage sales model includes what happens before, during, and after the sales experience. Customers will remember the experience they had at each of these three important stages.
Thinking about sales in terms of experience means taking into consideration how your customer feels not just when they buy from you, but before and after this pivotal moment as well.
Is your website, app, or physical store easy to navigate? Or are there barriers or areas of friction preventing customers from finding what they need?
Brand architecture and user experience are critical to the pre-sales experience. Intuitive, easy-to-use experiences—whether online or in a brick-and-mortar store—often define whether or not a customer will buy from you again.
The post-sales experience is just as important as the pre-sales experience. Follow-up emails and text messages are a valuable opportunity to ensure your customer got everything they needed out of their encounter with your brand.
Cultivating a helpful, recognizable brand experience at each sales stage ensures customers will remember your brand in a positive light.
Adapt and Evolve
Finally, when it comes to brand experience, consistency does not mean stagnancy. The ways your customers seek out experience, find information, and make purchases is constantly changing.
Adaptability is more important than ever in today’s dynamic marketplace. Effective brand management includes keeping a close eye on industry trends and the shifting needs of customers.
As your customers’ needs evolve, so must your brand experience. Many pre-pandemic experiences, for example, are simply no longer relevant to customers whose habits and needs have fundamentally changed because of COVID-19.
Brands who failed to update their experiences in response to the pandemic soon felt hopelessly out of touch with the needs of their customers.
The next shift in the cultural zeitgeist may not be as dramatic as a global pandemic, but you’ll need to update your experience nonetheless. The changing world—and the changing needs of customers along with it—waits for no brand.
Brand Experience Examples
So, what does a powerful brand experience look like? The world’s top brands have mastered the art of cultivating meaningful, consistent, and authentic experiences.
Let’s take a look at just a few.
While Virgin is among a crop of airlines that are struggling because of the pandemic, it still represents a hallmark example of how to successfully execute brand experience.
Virgin is the classic outlaw brand archetype. Its goal is to disrupt every industry it enters, and its airline arm was no exception.
Never before has an airline brand been based on style and fun. From customer support to booking to its in-flight experience, every phase of the Virgin Atlantic experience is designed to make its customers feel like rock stars.
Cabin lighting evoking a nightclub ambiance, in-seat video game entertainment systems, complimentary designer toiletries—Virgin Atlantic spared no expense in ensuring every last touch of its experience was unlike any other airline brand.
Virgin identified a target audience whose needs weren’t being met by any of its competitors, and meticulously crafted an experience to cater to its every whim.
Like Virgin, Starbucks identified a unique need among its target audience and built a brand experience to accommodate it.
For Starbucks, it was the “third space,” a place between home and work where its customer could congregate and relax around their shared love for fancy-sounding coffee drinks.
Starbucks’ experience comprises a place to meet with friends, relax for an hour with a book, or get some work done remotely.
It has replicated this experience with remarkable consistency in each and every one of its locations, so that, no matter where they were in the world, brand-loyal Starbucks customers can find a comfortable place to meet up or escape from the world—a place that is as familiar as their living room at home.
Nationwide’s experience is best embodied by its renowned customer service. When it comes to B2B clients in particular, Nationwide has come to be known for its commitment to meeting the needs of its customers, no matter the cost.
How have they cultivated such an impressive reputation? By devoting an entire department to customer care, the Office of Customer Advocacy.
Dedicated to assisting its customers in navigating policies and payments, the department ensures continual improvement by collecting customer feedback and distributing key findings throughout the organization.
The shared data allows the company to implement large-scale changes, ensuring all departments work towards common objectives and strategies.
The upshot of this diligent internal commitment is that Nationwide’s experience has come to be synonymous with unmatched customer service. The brand is consistently ranked among the top insurers for small businesses and their yearly revenues reflect the distinction.
When they’re not positioned around customer service, B2B brand experiences are often tied to thought leadership or education.
Such is the case with IBM, which has leveraged its decades of industry experience to offer its customers an experience centered on expert industry insight.
The brand’s award-winning quarterly publication, Industrious, published as both a digital and print magazine, features top content from the IBM Industries blog as well as insights from a range of industry experts.
Industrious is just one example of how IBM engages its B2B audiences with an agile experience informed by dynamic industry changes.
The company’s B2B solutions are backed useful, intelligent content segmented by industry and technology and developed to address the specific needs of its many audiences.
Brand experience includes all the ways a customer can experience your brand. How it looks, sounds, feels, smells, and tastes. From your website and mobile experience to your in-store and product experiences, and everything in between.
The best experiences are those born from purpose that are meaningful, memorable, authentic—and, above all, consistent.
Cultivating an effective experience is the most powerful way to stoke customer loyalty and set the stage for the ongoing growth of your business.