Brand experience is the sum of all the sensations, thoughts, feelings, and reactions that individuals have in response to a brand. Brand experience is not specific to channel or media type. Rather, it’s the result — or the lasting impression that remains after someone encounters or engages with a brand in any environment.
However, with more and more marketers recognizing the benefits of positive customer experiences, brand experience has taken on a slightly more jargony meaning. The fundamentals remain the same, but many marketers now think of it as an actual marketing strategy, sometimes referred to as “experiential marketing.” As such, they elicit the help of different tactics and experience-centric campaigns to create or reinforce their brand’s identity and values.
A brand experience can happen naturally, like with the business owner that greets each and every customer with a friendly smile. Or, brands can put a little rocket fuel behind their efforts and take steps to shape and nurture the brand experience. The warm smile is still effective. But, the business that supports this with a hands-on event exhibit, a helpful app, or free content might just give their efforts a much-needed boost.
Brand experience vs. user experience
Speaking of marketing lingo, let’s also take a moment to discuss the similarities and differences between brand experience and user experience. While both concepts speak to the sensory, cognitive, or behavioral response an individual has in response to an experience, there are some nuances.
Unlike brand experience, user experience speaks specifically to a person’s takeaway from their interaction with a brand’s products, services, people, software, or other offerings. For example, customers will have a positive user experience if they receive fast and effective customer service, a frictionless checkout process, or an easy-to-use product.
But here’s where things get confusing. Brands can’t really have one without the other. Positive user experiences also facilitate positive brand experiences. Think about it this way. If someone has a positive user experience every time they visit a brand’s website or app, isn’t that also impacting how they view the brand and their experience with it? And on the flip side, user experience should incorporate consistent brand voice and elements throughout. Otherwise, it’s pretty tough for people to recognize the brand within the experience.
Why is brand experience important?
Brand experience is important because positive experiences facilitate deeper connections, inspire audiences, and ultimately deliver results. A positive brand experience can often mean the difference between being chosen over another brand or losing the sale. Because of this, it’s easy to see why brands go out of their way to craft impressive and attention-grabbing brand experiences.
How to create a great brand experience
Creating a great brand experience takes preparation. Before anything can be done, brands need to ensure they have an understanding of their audiences’ wants and needs. Only then can brands create authentic, meaningful, and memorable experiences that will appeal to their audiences.
Engage the senses
While understanding key audiences is absolutely critical, it’s actually more scientific (or should we say sense-itific) than that. 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.
And this is understandable. Brands have known about the power of sensory engagement for quite some time. After all, there’s a reason why the “scritch-scratch” of Sharpie markers is audible and why their smell is so potent. Or why Dunkin Donuts launched a campaign that pumped coffee smells into buses each time their jingle played on the sound system. Senses go hand in hand with experience. Sync the two up in a symbiotic relationship, and it’s bound to benefit the brand experience. Luckily for marketers, there are a lot of tactics they can use to do this.
Participate in events
Events are a great way for brands to 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 are creating powerful brand experiences.
Take Instagram for example. During the popular music festival, Coachella, Instagram erected colorful, southwestern scenes on the festival grounds for their selfie-loving users. Since Coachella is an established event that many Instagram users attend every year, the social media brand took the opportunity to further enhance the experience for their users. This undercover marketing play delighted their loyal users while also reinforcing the values and voice of the Instagram brand.
Or look at Widen. We host a three-day Widen Summit for our customers each year. It’s packed with hands-on learning, inspiring speakers, networking, and other sensory-packed experiences that appeal to our digital asset management (DAM) community. By creating and hosting an event, we give customers a chance to learn, meet, and share ideas while also developing a stronger connection with the Widen brand.
Participate in popular culture
Although it’s focused on a moment in time, popular culture presents endless opportunities for brands looking to use brand experience to connect with their audiences. However, the execution requires careful timing and attention to detail. When done right, it can be pretty powerful.
Here’s an example. In 2007, 20th Century Fox transformed a dozen 7-Eleven convenience stores into Kwik-E-Marts, the shop run by Apu from The Simpsons. This experiential execution capitalized on the cult-like following of the popular cartoon series and also (not coincidentally) aligned with the launch of “The Simpsons Movie.” The timing was perfect. And 20th Century Fox navigated the execution like a pro, getting all the details their followers cared about right. From the Buzz Cola and KrustyO’s on the shelves to the Radioactive Man comic books being sold, there were plenty of authentic “look at this” moments to be had. A win-win for the brand and its followers.
Personalize the message
While brands must find ways to tell their story, they also need to figure out how to be a part of their customer’s story. By prioritizing personalization in their brand experiences, marketers can achieve both of these goals.
To illustrate this point, think about the level of personalization that modern technologies facilitate for brands. Many consumer brands, like IKEA, are using technology like artificial reality (AR) apps to help online shoppers visualize how a product will look in their personal spaces. Or how location-based technologies help businesses deliver personalized notifications and information to event attendees based on their interests. This level of personalization helps brands communicate what they want to share, but in a way that fits into and enhances someone’s personal experience and life.
Brand experience in the digital age
Brand experience isn’t limited to channel. Think about Lego, for example. They create immersive, hands-on brand experiences in their stores and theme parks. Their Lego kits come with instructions that are both age-appropriate and fun to follow. They’ve created movies, books, games, and endless digital content for marketing and consumer consumption.
Brand experience has no walls. But, with that said, most brand experiences have some digital component. Think about nonprofit organizations like the Alzheimer’s Association or American Red Cross. They host tons of in-person donor events to help raise money for their causes. However, they also support their audiences with digital content like event information, research, e-newsletters, quizzes, and other online resources. They leverage colorful and interactive imagery and video content to tell their story online. But, most importantly, they do it with content that appeals to their audiences’ senses and personal narratives.
Digital asset management and brand experience
Organizations that want to fuel strong brand experiences for their audiences need to have the right elements in place. They need digital assets, like imagery, videos, and marketing collateral to support their efforts and ensure their brand images and values are upheld across all channels and environments. Putting the right software in place can help organizations manage all of these elements and ensure a seamless and positive brand experience at each and every touchpoint. Learn more about how our DAM system, the Widen Collective®, can help.