In Part 1 of the Customer Experience Management series, I talked about how Williams-Sonoma won me over with their in-store Nespresso brand experience. It was immersive and filled my senses to the brim--a page right out of The Sensory Brand experience playbook.
While satisfying the senses is important in any business, not every brand or customer responds to the same marketing experience.
As I was walking down the street the other night, I couldn’t help but overhear brother and sister banter over some summertime ice-cream cones. The sister accidentally spilled a drop of ice-cream and asked her brother if he noticed the stain on her shirt.
“It’s tie-dye,” he said.
I had to laugh, as it reminded me of how people can perceive things so differently. One person thought the stain stood out, and the other person thought it blended in.
According to Merriam-Webster, perception is “awareness of the elements of environment through physical sensation.” It’s the ability to notice something through our senses. So, when it comes to engaging customers, make sure to create experiences that tap into your brand’s personality, inking those traits and memories in the minds of your audience to create a visceral connection.
To break down how businesses can leverage customer interactions, the following abbreviated Brand Experience Scale(1) outlines the dimensionality of brand experiences. This scale has proven consistent and reliable across a number of studies testing individual differences between brand experience responses.
By identifying which category is best suited for your brand, you can pinpoint how to properly position your business in the marketplace and connect with your audience on a deeper, more engaged level.
BRAND EXPERIENCE SCALE
The Sensory Brand: This brand makes an impression on the senses. A spa or coffee shop, for example, would be prime examples of businesses that could pepper sensual experiences into the customer’s interaction with the brand. When visiting Dublin, we noticed a candy store pumping sweet smells from a tiny hose onto the city streets. Many luxury hotels even create signature scents to customize their brand.
The Affective Brand: This brand is an emotional brand and affects feelings and sentiments. A children’s business, cosmetic brand or healthcare company are examples where emotion could be woven into the fabric of the brand. Dove proved that you are more beautiful than you think in their Dove Real Beauty experiential marketing campaign. By making consumers feel part of the movement, Dove was able to give them an emotionally-invested experience that left a positive stamp, positioning the brand as the moral product choice.
The Behavioral Brand: This brand promotes physical actions and behaviors and results in bodily experiences. An outdoor adventure store or fitness studio can find opportunity by tapping into the behavioral marketing to amplify consumer experience. When I lived in Santa Barbara, I was drawn to a local community-based group fitness program that built brand awareness by hosting popup workouts around town, eventually opening its studio doors with the same bonding behavioral experiences, such as encouraging group 5ks, giving out high-fives and meeting someone new at the end of each workout.
The Intellectual Brand: This brand stimulates thinking, creativity and problem solving. A professional services firm or art studio, for example, could benefit from sharing educational information or facilitating events that spark imagination to differentiate and position the brand. Google Pixel 3 brilliantly crafted “The Curiosity Rooms” to ignite surprise and interest. The layered experiential strategy can be celebrated here.
Managing customer experience is important for every business. People walk through their days encountering ordinary brand experiences all the time. But to offer someone a uniquely-styled experience will strongly resonate and make a lasting impression.
Knowing your customer, understanding your brand personality, creating meaning through engagement and shaping a unique brand experience will deepen consumer relationships and grow your business.
(1) Brakus, J. J., Schmitt, B. H., & Zarantonello, L. (2009). Brand experience: What is it? How is it measured? Does it affect loyalty? Journal of Marketing, 73, 52-68.
More often than not, I can resist the upsell, especially when I’m corralling two small children in an oh-so-breakable store like Williams-Sonoma. But not this time.
Experiential marketing won me over.
Armed with a bit of background research and a solid idea of what I wanted to spend, I walked into the store and asked for the specific make and model of our soon-to-be shiny new Nespresso machine for my husband’s birthday. I should have handed the associate my card and walked out.
Instead, I was approached from all sides—one associate who happened to be a grandmother with a secret stash of cookies to sugar my children while I shopped and a second associate, the manager (ok, John), who asked if I would like a cup of coffee to try out the machine. Of course I craved someone to fuel me with a cup of coffee while my children were being entertained with kitchenware.
As John was showing me the interworkings of the upsell—the “Plus” model—I was convinced that I only wanted the perfectly-constructed cup of coffee and would stick with my original choice. I didn’t need an automatic open and close lever or a milk frother. But then, out comes the Aeroccino. The milk swirled around in an almost-silent capsule and transformed into a velvety liquid pour, layering the drink perfectly.
How could I get a Nespresso machine without a milk frother? Or clear mugs? Or a couple of extra capsule flavors to try? The experience was immersive…and lovely.
By giving me an experience, John was able to tap into my senses and my emotions, immersing me into the buying process and convincing me that I needed the other elements to complete our at-home experience.
[He saw me coming from a mile away.]
CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE MANAGEMENT
There are two schools of thought surrounding buying behavior—the consumer who processes information and the consumer who experiences information. While some people make rational purchase decisions, many more are motivated by emotions.
The information processor marketing approach concentrates on the utilitarian functionality, namely the features and benefits of a product or service. And while some consumers may start there in the buying process, many don’t end there.
It is the experience—a perception, feeling and mental models—that convinces a consumer to buy and remain brand loyal. Even framing purchase situations differently through branding and marketing communications alters the way someone looks at the brand. For example, instead of focusing on specific categories such as a haircut, highlights or shampoo + conditioner, widen the lens as a consumption experience, such as “a day at the salon.” For the business owner, this image ignites opportunities to involve and engage with the customer with various touchpoints, opening the door for increased sales potential. For the customer, this image creates a sense of immersion into the experience, broadening their desire for relaxation and full service beauty treatments, inviting heightened impulse buying for a richer experience.
Brand experiences are more than just associations; they are feelings, thoughts and behavioral responses generated by the experience. Think about Apple’s brand experience—from its packaging to the user interface and device functionality to communications and customer service interactions—Apple dips its users into a pleasure state, immersing them into experiences that heighten the sensual, intellectual and emotive states.
I’ll discuss the Brand Experience Scale in PART 2 of this post and show how small businesses can apply these customer experiences into their own brand.
Your brand identity is what makes you unique.
Being identifiable in the marketplace will help create brand recognition and allow consumers to clearly decipher your offerings. From the look of your visual designs to the scent of your business space and products you use, consumers are drawn to the sensorial benefits of your brand and will relate the look, flavor, smell and texture to their physical experience of your business.
Before a customer steps into your business and experiences all the services and senses your brand has to offer, your prospect is likely to visually associate a name or image with your company, such as a logo or picture. When it comes to developing a business name and logo, remember that nearly 50% of our brain is devoted directly or indirectly to vision and visual processing. Consumers are flooded with visual stimulus and are therefore forced to sift through the content and make complex processing decisions. What elements are necessary in your brand identity to attract your customers and influence their purchase decisions?
10 Key Ingredients in Your Brand Identity:
Our brain makes decisions based on what information will grab our attention, if the information is easy to comprehend and if the information will encourage action. Sometimes even the youngest audience is the most aware of visual brand recognition and persuaded to act. As young as two years old, children are able to detect logo recognition, such as Disney, in different contexts including on television, in a book or on a product. Starting at a young age, our brains are wired to construct our reality and make sense of the world by visually interpreting its surroundings. Since we have stored information based on personal experiences, some logos are able to resonate meaning without a customer stepping foot into your business. Take for example the Apple and Microsoft brands. Just thinking about their logos or recalling their advertisements, the essence of their brand is clearly conveyed even before using their products. One is “hip” and one is “square.” (We’ll dig deeper into brand meanings later…).
The old adage “Pictures are worth a thousand words” rings true. Consumers do not passively absorb coherent images; it is an active process of constructing and interpreting our connection with visual stimulus. Word marks, font types, symbols and colors all hold distinguishing characteristics that resonate meaning to a consumer, as everything we see is a personal, subjective experience, where we transform our understanding of reality into actual reality. That is why business owners develop target markets—to attract the people that will resonate with their brand and its offerings. Check out the graphic below on color meaning to ensure that your color palette is visually communicating your message clearly.
How healthy is your brand identity? No matter the size, location or service offerings of your business, the strength of your brand identity will have a direct impact on your bottom line.
Customers crave a personalized experience and want to feel a sense of belonging. In an increasingly competitive and noisy marketplace, even small businesses need to have brands that feel big. Whether your business specializes in the accounting or hospitality industry, the same rules apply—the power of branding spans across industries, countries and company sizes to create meaning larger than its offerings.
While often overlooked or neglected, branding is just as important, if not more so, to smaller businesses. Relationships are key. Branding is your identity and reputation. It is the connection you have with your customer. Branding is how customers feel about you and what they say about you to others—a cornerstone to your business.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that branding is only reserved for the big companies with big budgets, branding is even more important for smaller businesses because customers expect it. And you depend on their business.
One of the biggest concerns of small business owners is finding their next customer. While Starbucks can afford to lose a few of its customers, a small business owner relies on new business and customer retention to maintain a successful operation and lifestyle. Losing customers could mean the loss of a much-needed vacation or the inability to hire extra staff. It is important to offset attrition with growth and actively pursue new business. Active branding, engagement and marketing will ease your worries and give you the assurance you need to differentiate and build your business.
If you want to take your branding to the next level, deepen relationships with clients, grow your business and stay true to your core values and mission, subscribe to get these posts in your email. It will lay the foundations of branding and show the power of building a clear brand. You will learn new ideas for your business that will make a difference almost immediately.
I'm glad you stopped by! It's time for an adventure. This blog is going to weave you through branding, take you over the hill to storytelling and make a pit stop at experience management, with many other destinations along the way. Are you up for it?
Before we dive right in, let me be clear; it does not matter if you are a solopreneur, small business or someone from Coca Cola reading this post. You have the power to build a big, meaningful brand, filled to the brim with purpose, great design and lots of stories to tell.
When I was thinking about my own brand the other day, I had an epiphany. The reason I love all-things-marketing is because I believe everyone has a unique voice, and it should be heard and understood. That is my why.
I never want a business owner (or anyone for that matter), who pours their heart and soul into their business, to feel that their brand is not being heard; that their voice is being muted by the big box stores; that they can't reach their audience; or that they don't have the tools to differentiate their brand. Or, that they don't deserve one... Believe it or not, your business means much more to your customer than your product or service offerings.
In my blog, I'll give you the tools. I'll take you through the ins-and-outs of infusing meaning into your brand, understanding the social motivations behind brand loyalty and how to tell an engaging story, all while staying true to your core values and your why.
I've got so much good stuff to share with you and hope you keep coming back for more, because you deserve to have a big brand too.