The Importance of Brand Experience

Your brand is only as good as its last customer interaction

Think of a brand you hate. What made you hate it?

Now think of one you love. How did it win your heart?

In either case, chances are it had little to do with the logo.

When we have strong feelings about a brand one way or another, our reasoning tends to run much deeper than what we can see on the surface. This is because a brand’s impact goes far beyond its visual identity, its name or its latest ad campaign. A consumer’s perception of a brand comes from the experiences they’ve had each and every time they’ve interacted with it.

At Saffron, we think of elements like visual identity as a promise a brand makes to the world; they tell audiences what to expect. Whether or not a brand then keeps that promise depends on the experience it delivers.

Brand experience is the holistic sum of all of the interactions a customer has with a brand. Each moment contributes to a lasting overall perception, be it that positive, negative or neutral. Brands need to work hard to ensure these experiences are as cohesive as possible, or else run the risk of appearing inauthentic.

Brand experience has become more important than ever before. Historically, living up to a brand’s promise depended almost purely on product. If a customer had a positive experience of a product (a washing powder left their clothes bright white or cornflakes tasted great) they would have a good impression of the brand. That was enough. Nobody really thought of ‘designing’ experiences to create an ongoing relationship and interaction with the customer.

Today, it’s a different story. Forces of convergence have blurred traditional limits on brands, making them at once physical and digital, global and local. Brands have more places than ever to interact with their customers: in store, online, through print and digital media, and even through wearable technology. On the one hand, this convergence presents a wealth of opportunity. But it also makes crafting a consistent experience of paramount importance.

With more touchpoints comes more potential for a brand’s strength to be eroded. It’s no good if your website is slick, user-friendly and beautifully designed if your delivery process is an utter headache. Similarly, you can spend millions on advertising campaigns to entice shoppers into your store, but if poor retail design forces people to queue for hours on end, your brand will ultimately suffer.

A person doesn’t even need to be a customer to experience a brand; driving past a billboard or scrolling past an Instagram post will also shape their perceptions. Designing great experiences therefore means considering the many ways audiences will come into contact with a brand and ensuring these moments are consistent and holistic. This leads to a stronger brand.

As an example, let’s consider LEGO. The world’s premier purveyor of little coloured bricks is a world-class example of a consistent brand experience. Every one of their touchpoints is designed with their brand purpose “Inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow” in mind. Lego stores feature Pick & Build walls, LEGOLAND has child-powered rides and LEGO even has a Serious Play™ business facilitation methodology they sell to corporations looking to think more creatively. By diligently applying their brand idea across every touchpoint, LEGO has created one of the most effective, powerful and holistic brand and user experiences on the planet. And it has paid off: in February 2015 Brand Finance named LEGO the world’s most powerful brand.

So how to act like LEGO? What steps are required to design great experiences? First, brands – be they airlines, museums or even cities – need to define exactly what makes an experience their own. This means deciding what they want their audiences to think, see and feel at every step of their journey. From there, the brand can develop a set of principles that can be used to streamline every part of the experience.

Why is consciously crafting a brand experience so important?

It provides consistency – Experience principles ensure that every part of an audience’s interaction is “on brand”, whenever and however it takes place. They allow brands to deliver on the promises they make the world.

It is channel agnostic – A cohesive brand experience works across all channels and touchpoints. In a world where brands are at once physical and digital, experience design ensures a seamless experience from start to finish.

Potential to scale – Experience principles act as a blueprint for expansion, whether that’s into new geographies or new industries. Once the brand’s experience has been defined, it can be rolled out everywhere.

Leave a lasting impact – A customer’s perception of a brand is the sum of the experiences they have had across all their interactions, whether those are positive, neutral or negative. When designed well, the experience has the potential to leave an excellent perception that can turn the customer into a lifelong advocate for a brand.

By Claire Huxley, Strategist

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