What is Brand Experience?
The best way to understand brand experience is to break it down: “brand” is the company, as perceived by the world. Your brand defines why you are in existence, your raison d’être. “Experience” on the other hand describes how you live and grow.
Therefore, brand experience quite literally describes how the brand is experienced by potential and existing customers before, during and after any and all interactions, throughout its existence.
How is brand experience different than user experience?
Brand experience is a larger concept that contains user experience within it. Part of brand experience is creating a memorable user experience that is in line with the entirety of the brand experience.
The most well known brands that exist today place strong emphasis on brand experience. Apple is an obvious example. From the retail store, to the packaging, to the interface, all the points in which we interact with Apple are curated and harmonious with the overall brand experience.
What creates a successful brand experience?
Our interactions with the brands we love — and with new ones — have become much more complex than ever before.
Previously, we only came in contact with a brand through print, radio or television advertisements — and then with the product itself. Now, we experience ads on social media, we receive marketing emails and visit various online stores featuring the products. Most brands also have their own apps and social media accounts.
A solid brand experience requires that you turn the entire experience, well, into an experience. Therefore you need to make sure you take all the different elements that make up your brand into consideration. Some of the most important of these elements are:
- Brand design
- Brand voice
- User experience
- Brand image, and
- Customer support
All of these elements become significant parts of a whole under brand experience.
6 steps to creating a memorable brand experience
Emphasizing experience over all else is the key to creating a memorable brand with repeat customers. Some of the most well known brands today create experiences that are aspirational, that stir feelings in potential and existing customers.
When thinking of Netflix, do you think of a specific show or even “streaming service” or do you think of content source that is familiar, that is easily accessible, that offers comfort and keeps you engaged by frequently offering new material? By paying attention to how the users experience their brand and what they look for, Netflix has become a household name that is shared by many across the globe.
So how do you make sure all your various interactive elements leave a positive impression? How do you create a great brand experience for your customers? We’ve made a list of some of the essential factors.
1. Discover your purpose
Who are you? Being able to answer this question matters profoundly for your brand experience. Nike, for example, does not answer this question with: “I sell shoes.” Nike is a purveyor of ambition, athleticism and determination. Nike’s purpose is solid and all facets of its brand experience say so.
Defining who you are will set the tone of the type of experience you want to create. In an oversaturated market, products that are connected to a bigger purpose can stand out from the crowd—the purpose often has more value than the product itself.
What is your brand’s higher purpose?
2. Focus on storytelling
Some of the best brand experiences are those that highlight storytelling.
What’s your brand’s story? How did you come to be? How are you improving lives?
Sharing your brand’s story encourages continuity, fosters curiosity and suggests a living, growing entity rather than a static product that solely exists to make money.
Through blogs and social media, brands have the capacity to share their stories and really inspire people in the process.
3. Be consistent
It’s essential that the different elements that make up your brand speak the same language — inconsistency can damage your brand image and overall customer experience.
Brand assets and brand guidelines cover visual consistency — this includes your brand color palette, typography and logo. How strange would it be to see a brand you’ve turned to many times and notice that something is off? It would be an instant breach of trust.
And what about communication and attitude? Does your customer support employ your brand voice just as your store personnel do? What about your social media posts? Are they in line with your overall brand personality and approach?
4. Find opportunities for engagement
An experience requires the engagement of our senses. Does your brand offer customers opportunities to see, hear, read about and talk about your product or service?
Your visibility, audibility, and accessibility offer multiple opportunities for engagement. Sending customers contests and surveys, sampling your products at a stand at a grocery store and creating pop up shops are all common ways to create opportunities for engagement.
These opportunities are best tackled with knowledge of your digital sales funnel and how and where your customers are more likely to engage with you.
5. Put experiences over sales
What happens before, during and after the sale are the most memorable parts of the purchasing experience for a customer. This is also described as the three-stage model of service consumption: pre-purchase, service encounter and post-service stage.
The customer will remember whether the pre-purchase experience was simple and enjoyable and whether the post-service stage also gave them good feelings. The positivity of these experiences is crucial to the brand experience. If you have a brick and mortar store, is it easy to navigate?
Think of a popular store that sells soaps and scents. Think of the aesthetic, the many ways you can sample the products in store, think of how the sales staff approaches you, think of leaving with samples even though you haven’t purchased anything. Now, that is an experience that does not prioritize the sale. Same goes for online stores. Do customers have to work through lots of irritating pop-ups? Is the color scheme soothing? Is check-out a breeze? There are many details to consider — but for good reason.
It’s commonly believed that there are two types of ‘self’ in us all. One is the ‘experiencing’ self; the other is the ‘remembering’ self. The experiencing self is the one that tells you whether you are feeling pleasure or pain when you experience an event. The remembering self is the one that tells you whether you felt pleasure or pain after the whole event. It’s the self that controls our memories.
In his book, Thinking, fast and slow, Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman described his findings about research conducted with 154 patients undergoing a painful colonoscopy – the procedure was carried out in the early 1990s, with neither anaesthetic nor amnesic drugs administered, since the use of these was not as widespread as today. The patients were prompted every 60 seconds to indicate the level of pain they experienced on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 representing ‘no pain’ and 10 representing ‘intolerable pain’. The shortest procedure lasted 4 minutes, the longest 69.
Summarised briefly, what Kahneman found was that the duration of the treatment didn’t affect the patient’s perception of the pain endured. Even when there was a similar perceived pain intensity by all patients, if the treatment ended with a high pain rating, the patient with the shortest treatment time retained a much worse memory of the event. Kahneman wrote that: “the retrospective assessments are insensitive to duration and weight two singular moments – the peak and the end – much more than others.”
Kahneman observed that:
1. People only really remember the peak moment of an experience and its end – he calls this the peak-end rule.
2. The duration of the event had no effect on the memory of the experience – he calls this duration neglect.
What this all means is that even though the remembering self may recall the event incorrectly, it remains the self that selects, memorises and makes decisions about the experience. The experiencing self has no influence on this decision-making process.
Kahneman wrote that: “Memories are all we get to keep from our experience of living, and the only perspective that we can adapt as we think about our lives is therefore that of the remembering self.”
In their book Brand romance, Neil Gridley and Yasushi Kusume described the importance of fully understanding the experience you want to offer by defining four aspects – people, activity, location and time. In the case of the colonoscopy Kahneman studied, the experience consisted of patients (people), the colonoscopy itself (activity), the examination room in a hospital (location), and the duration of the colonoscopy (time). And to be able to apply the theory of ‘two selves’ effectively, you need to clearly understand the end-phase of your particular brand experience.
If, for example, the experience involves renting a car, the end-phase comes when you return the vehicle. It consists of finding and driving to the drop-off location, handing over the key, unloading your belongings and heading for the exit. If the experience is having dinner at a restaurant, the end-phase consists of finishing your meal, paying the check, putting on your coat and leaving. If you’re staying in a hotel for a few nights, then the end-phase consists of checking out and leaving the building.
In all three examples, the ‘two selves’ theory suggests that it will be the experiences during that phase that will have more influence on the ‘remembering’ self than any activities in earlier phases (such as searching for, selecting and using a service). The memory of the service will control the experience of it.
Roughly speaking, the time spent by the customer looking for the right product is the pre-purchase phase. The purchase phase comes when they buy it. And the post-purchase phase arrives once they get it home and start to use it. This last phase also includes what is called the end-time.
The end-time of any product comes when you stop using it. When it does, your memory of the brand experience will be highly influenced by ‘why’ and the ‘how’ your product’s life ended. It may well be negative, since a product’s end is usually caused by something unsatisfactory: it broke down or it didn’t work as expected. It’s worth noting, though, that if this were due to something you the user did, the experience might wind up as an overall positive one: the product worked well until it was misused.
6. Adapt and evolve
The way we make purchases, find information and seek experiences is constantly changing. The influx of customer reviews has greatly influenced how brands do business and social media is everything, and ever-evolving. Adaptability is more important today than ever before. Adaptability includes a keen awareness of popular culture and trends, integrating your customers’ feedback and generally keeping up with the times.
You may have put much of your marketing efforts to highlighting your product’s organic ingredients, but now you feel that it’s more timely to focus on your efforts to decrease waste in your manufacturing process. Being in tune with the zeitgeist, and your customers’ changing needs, support your brand experience and increase growth.
Make experiences with customers
A brand experience is the symbiotic relationship between a brand and its customers—you can give your customers a fantastic brand experience by taking the time to deeply understand all that it encompasses. Now, go get ’em!