Brand System – The Experience

As mentioned before, experience is the third step in defining Brand as a System. Brand experience is the aggregate of consumer perceptions that come from interacting with a brand.

The process of exposing consumers to the various attributes associated with a particular brand, a successful brand experience creates an environment in which the consumer will be surrounded by the positive elements attached to the brand.

The successful brand experience can operate on multiple levels, including adding a new communications channel to reach the consumer, adding a service element to the product that extends a stronger offer, and extending the brand across seemingly unrelated products and services. The overall brand experience represents a way to bring the consumer to the brand and establish a close relationship.

And a brand means much more even than its product and service features. Brands are built from nothing less than the sum of a customer’s experiences with a product, service or company. Customers’ total brand experience will determine whether they will buy anything more from the company and, just as importantly, whether they’ll spread awesome or awful word-of-mouth to friends and family.

The balance between expectation and experience is why I like to think of a brand as a promise, and the customer experience as the fulfillment of that promise. No doubt a customer experience that veers wildly from it’s brand promise will erode the belief in that brand promise pretty quickly. Companies that promise one thing through their advertising and branding and badly let customers down through the customer experience are undermining a huge investment and one of their most valuable assets. The difference between a brand promise and the actual customer experience is the “experience gap”, and that will erode your brand equity faster than anything else, no one likes to be promised one thing and delivered another.

Any company that wants to establish a customer experience strategy must do it with a full and realistic evaluation of what their brand stands for and what their brand promise is. Any company that fails to align their customer experience strategy with their brand strategy will be in danger of creating an “experience gap” that will erode any brand equity they have built in the marketplace.

To create excellent customer experiences, it’s essential to gain deep insight into customer needs and wants. Just as imperative is developing a core set of customer metrics that:

(1) accurately measure where your brand stands in areas most important to customers
(2) best reflect the health of your business.

In other words, brands are multifaceted and complex—certainly much more than a name or image. If you aren’t aware of a brand, you’ll never consider it even though it may be just what you want or need. First impressions and appearance are very important, and so is the quality of the foundation and building blocks, especially over the long term. Brands, like houses, have unique personalities. Customers develop relationships with brands that change over time as their needs and expectations evolve.

As you think about how your customers’ experiences add up to create their overall brand experience, it’s helpful to focus on the three most essential marketing objectives and the metrics that reveal how well you’re meeting those objectives:

1. Customer acquisition, with a goal of acquiring the right customers in a cost-effective way. Three critical customer experiences in the acquisition process are awareness, learning and persuasion.

2. Marketers must focus on product “wow” in delivering a “wow” customer experience that exceeds expectations. Three critical customer experiences required for product “wow” are great first-time usage, usability and benefit delivery.

3. Marketers must focus on customer retention—retaining and nurturing loyal customers, and turning them into advocates. Three critical customer experience elements in the retention process are long-term usage and satisfaction, the purchase of more products and services, and positive word-of-mouth.

Evaluating these essential business-building drivers within the customer experience framework will help you focus on the most important levers for achieving marketing results.

What metrics do you need to use to know how well you’re doing and where you want to go? How will you ensure that your customers’ experiences increase their loyalty so they will not only buy more from you but will also spread great word of mouth?

Brands are so much more than a name, logo or image. They represent nothing less than a customer’s complete experience with your product, service or company.

As Kevin Keller said: The power of a brand lies in the minds of consumers and what they have experienced and learned about the brand over time.

Readings on this:
Designing Brand Experience: Creating Powerful Integrated Brand Solutions
Experiencing the Brand – Branding the Experience (440K, PDF, registration required)

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