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Brand experience

X27_1_brand_experience_9601.jpg Brands can be interpreted as guarantees, as relationships, as personalities, as an image, as a set of values. Each capturing a different facet in which consumers react and think of of a product or a company. In some cases, consumers will have no view of your brand, in others they will queue for 24hrs to get your latest product.

For a brand to work consistently and successfully the brand as a whole has to work for the customer from start to finish. We describe this as the brand experience - how does the brand deliver through all it's touch points?

In purchasing, customers weigh up a lot of elements about the products they are about to buy. These include what the product is, what it promises to deliver to us functionally and emotionally, the risk involved with the purchase, and what we know and feel about the brand or product.

Consequently, a brand can be seen as a set of experiences and contacts with a customer at multiple levels, both direct and indirect, and mediated through presentation, communication, expectations and other people and other situations.

For something as simple as a bottle of water, the water itself is only part of the reason for buying. The bottle, it's packaging, it's advertising contains a set of promises about provenance and the experiences the water implies - the way it not only tastes, but the way it feels and looks, and the mood or emotional benefits of product and drinking experience, at different moments of truth - when the customer purchases, when they consume, and when the product is shown to friends.

As a result the brand experience starts before consumption, and is more than just consumption. It includes the way we experience the promotions for the product, where the product is bought, the opening of the packaging, after sales service and the website. All contribute to the brand experience. A useful metaphor is the brand as a journey. Strong brands ease and signpost the journey and deliver what is promised by managing the brand experiences along the way points.

As a brand represents values and relationships, the brand experiences need to be managed to support the core messages and promises of the brand. If the brand has simplicity as a core value, a brand experience that is complicated or convoluted such as having to negotiate a poorly designed telephone menu system through customer services, negates a core brand value and diminishes the overall reputation of the brand.

Many decisions that affect the brand experience are taken outside the marketing department. In a time of economic crisis there is pressure to reduce costs or change the way service is delivered. Operations may decide how a telephone call is answered, sales decide how strongly they keep their promises, manufacturing influence the end quality of the product.

For instance in financial services, a mortgage lender may spend many millions promoting how good they are and how they look after customers, but if they are slow in bringing their rates down, or just offer the best deals to new customers, this works against the brand values they are trying to promote.

Marketeers sometimes refer to this as the pimple problem. Marketing for many companies is something that the marketing department does and it is about advertising and brochures. These influence brand attitudes, but unless marketing thoughts are endemic throughout the company these are mere pimples compared to reality of the brand experience generated by the company as a whole. For this reason a brand experience is reliant on the culture and values of the organisation. High quality marketing cannot make up for slipshod production. Consequently ensuring that brand values are reflected throughout the customers experience means incubating those values with employees first.

As a result, it means specifying and understanding what the core elements of the brand are and how these are valued by customers and capturing and nurturing this within the business. Many strong businesses have strong leaders who themselves embody the values of their company and ensure that the brand is not weakened or tarnished by measures such as cost cutting or changes in personnel. Tracking and maintaining brand values and measuring new products and new services or product extensions against these values are essential if the core of the brand is to be sustained.

Central to developing strong brands is setting out what the brand stands for, ensuring this matches with customer expectations and values, and managing the experience of the brand to meet the values it conveys.

Working with brand managers, we provide research and monitoring to check brand experience, and to test brand value and brand delivery to show where investment is needed, and how the brand delivers to the bottom line.


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For help and advice on carrying out branding research and building brands contact info@dobney.com


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