According to JPMorgan Chase & Co., across products, consumers were spending at least 50% more money online in August 2021 than they were in February 2020, and spending remains high. With so many people shopping online, the competition is fierce. How do you differentiate yourself? With a positive brand experience.
Brand experience is the overall, lasting impression customers have of your brand after they interact with it in any way. BX includes thoughts, sensations, feelings, perceptions and reactions to everything from your marketing and advertising efforts to your social media presence. It is the entire emotional experience customers have that lasts beyond their interaction with your brand.
Take a moment to consider all of the ways a customer can interact with your brand. Is the brand experience consistent across all channels? Are you tuned in to how your customers are feeling about your brand? Are you equipped to act on what your customers tell you they want?
To win loyal customers in this increasingly competitive landscape, having a positive brand experience is key.
To understand this equation, let’s begin with defining each part:
Brand strategy is your plan to achieve long-term business goals. It may include entering a new market, launching a new product or refreshing your brand, but it’s actually more than that. Your brand strategy includes your purpose, promises to customers and a well-defined personality. It’s actually more art than science.
User experience (UX) encompasses the thoughts, feelings and actions taken by customers when they live, work or play with your product. It includes whether the customer’s needs and expectations are met by your product.
Brand experience is the sum of brand strategy, customer experience and user experience. It includes the entirety of the emotional, sensory and tangible experience a customer has throughout their experience with the brand. Your customers are not just buying your product, but they are also buying into your brand experience.
Both brand experience and user experience include sensory, cognitive and behavioural responses a customer has in response to an experience, but there are some subtle differences. UX speaks only to the feelings associated with interaction with your products. BX includes all interactions with your brand.
UX and BX are dependent on each other: if a customer has a positive UX when they visit your website or app, it has an impact on their positive view of your brand. And the UX should incorporate your branding throughout.
According to Shopify, direct-to-consumer competition is rising. Providing your customers with a positive brand experience is more important than ever, and it can mean the difference between being chosen or passed over.
Brand experience provides more meaning to your product offerings. It gives customers a holistic experience of what your brand represents.
Example: Red Bull is an energy drink brand. The product they are selling is basically a flavoured drink with high caffeine content. Red Bull provides customers with a brand experience associated with having “wings” that enable those who consume the drinks to generate amazing ideas, inspire others and enhance sports experiences.
Brand perception is what a customer thinks of when they see the brand. Brand experience helps make the association between certain keywords or emotions and your brand.
Example: Customers may think of Pampers when they see babies or equate happiness with Coca-Cola.
Your company needs to stand out in a sea of competitors. Your brand experience is critical to attracting positive attention, and customers, online.
Your customers want to connect with brands. Understanding the brand experience helps you engage in ways your customers need, emotionally, socially and meaningfully. Think beyond social media. Experiences can include competitions, surveys, sampling products at retail stores, pop-up shops and events.
Example: In 2017, streaming network HBO (now HBO Max) created a huge escape room experience at SXSW. Escape rooms are popular activities in which a group of people are locked in a room and must solve clues to escape. HBO recreated sets from three of its most popular shows – Veep, Silicon Valley and Game of Thrones – for attendees to interact with. HBO immersed participants in the worlds they had only experienced on a screen, and it solidly supported the brand experience of high-quality, cinematic aesthetics and world-class talent.
Monitoring brand experience allows you to interact with your customers in real time across multiple channels. This is great for customers who want to communicate directly with a brand about what they love and what they are concerned about. When you know something isn’t working well, you can improve things faster.
Example: In 2018, fashion brand ASOS printed 17,000 bags with the word “online” misspelled. They were able to react quickly to the error in real time by posting to Twitter with the fun message, “OK, so we *may* have printed 17,000 bags with a typo. We’re calling it a limited edition.” The tweet was liked over 43,500 times and retweeted over 7,000. They were able to handle the situation quickly and with a sense of humour.
The ultimate reward for a great brand experience is an increase in sales. Once your customers have experienced your brand in a memorable way, they are more likely to share their thoughts and feelings with friends and family as well as on social media. All of this results in customer loyalty and increased sales.
Example: Coca-Cola offers a brand experience that focuses on happiness, positivity and proud history. That brand experience shows in Coca-Cola’s brand value, which according to Statista, was $87.6 billion in 2021.
There are four key components of a good brand experience:
Do you recall McDonald’s “I’m Lovin It” jingle sung by Justin Timberlake (based on this song)? It still exists at the end of ads, but instead of the actual music or whistling, it’s now “Bada ba ba ba” spoken or sung to the original tune.
Google has great examples of participation. Their daily Google Doodle is often interactive, incorporating games with interesting information. Have you ever been kicked offline? Did you take the opportunity to play the Google Dinosaur Game to pass the time? Google really knows the value of participation.
One brand that does this very well is Amazon. Their e-commerce website has an algorithm that updates as customers make purchases and then recommends similar and related products.
An example of this is Victoria’s Secret PINK. While the main brand targets women overall, PINK prioritises teens and young adults in its brand experience.
Brand experience happens on an emotional level. Customers may not remember what a brand says or does, but they will remember how it makes them feel. It’s these emotions that trigger memories of the brand, driving brand awareness.
A great brand experience has a positive impact on brand image. The emotions evoked by your BX determine how customers view your brand image. Positive emotions lead to positive impressions, customer loyalty and increased sales.
No two brands are exactly the same, so developing brand experience cannot be explained as a specific process. Your brand must establish its own unique experience that customers will find appealing and relatable. While we can’t offer specifics to your brand, we can offer some guidelines to follow as you build your BX.
What’s your brand’s story? What are your brand values? A deep understanding of your brand’s purpose will help you build your brand experience.
For example, Red Bull sells energy drinks, but they also sell a lifestyle that’s focused on extreme sports, taking risks and accomplishing goals. Their brand experience is centred around who their customers aspire to be.
Companies like Apple, Nike and Coca-Cola know their audiences. With an intimate knowledge of your target customer segments, you can create a brand experience that works for them.
In her book, “Customer Sense: How the 5 Senses Influence Buying Behaviour”, Dr. Aradhna Krishna explains that appealing to two or more senses creates more memorable experiences. How does that translate into brand experience?
Consider Grainger, an equipment and tool company. They used 360° imagery to provide customers with every angle of some of their tools, which allowed them to imagine the experience of holding a tool in their hands and turning it over to observe every angle. Conversion rates increased by 47% when products were shown with the 360° imagery.
Dunkin’ took advantage of sound and smell in a 2012 campaign in Seoul, South Korea. Each time their advertisement played on public buses, the scent of coffee was sprayed into the bus. They reported a 29% rise in sales in stores near bus stops during the campaign.
Events garner public attention and offer brands the opportunity to engage with customers with powerful brand experiences.
Examples include booths at festivals, hosting conferences on a brand’s area of expertise or pop-up events. Events can also be online, like the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, where participants can ask questions and chat about special topics.
You know your brand’s story, but you need to work out how your brand fits into your customer’s story. Prioritise personalisation with your brand experiences. Be helpful in working on the problem they are looking to you to solve.
For example, IKEA has a home planner that allows customers to visualise how their furniture will look in the customer’s space.
Your brand voice should remain consistent through all points of customer contact. From social media posts to telephone calls, there should be consistency in communication.
For example, a brand with a website that’s friendly and accessible should not address customers on their helpline with technical jargon.
Keep an eye on competitors. What are their brand experiences like? How can you differentiate yourself from them? Start with our competitor research survey template to find out more about the competition.
Both pre- and post-sale experiences are as important as the sale itself. To boost your pre-sale experience, ensure that your website is visually appealing and easy to navigate. Post-sale, consider what a customer will need once they have your product: an FAQ section, video tutorials, easy-to-contact customer service, or other needs you anticipate.
There are just some brands that have definitely mastered brand experience. Let’s look at four of them.
The Toyota brand experience is focused on innovation, safety and environmentally friendly solutions. They share their brand experience with amazing images and videos on social media. They currently have 4,296,004 Facebook followers and 2,200,000 followers on Instagram. As of the writing of this article, it looks like Toyota has just created a TikTok account to add to its overall brand experience.
Starbucks identified an interesting need for its target market – a third space – and they built their brand experience around it. Customers needed a place between home and work or school to meet with friends, work remotely, relax in a neutral environment, or just sit down and enjoy a coffee. Whatever Starbucks you go to, you’ll find that feeling of a welcome, comfortable space just for you.
Nike, whether online or in-store, offers a brand experience for the athlete in all of us. Whether you’re into yoga, running or football, Nike has you covered with the gear you need. They have recently added extended sizing for men, women and children, empowering everyone to channel their inner athlete.
Apple has an amazing brand experience. It starts with their simple, sleek designs, right down to the packaging. Apple products are simple and intuitive to use, and the company doesn’t weigh down customers with a lot of tech jargon. Product releases are hyped as huge events, teasing more innovation and features that result in a lot of speculation and rumours beforehand. And of course, their customer service is unparalleled.
Now that you understand what brand experience is, why it’s important, what to consider and how to build it, it’s time for you to get started.