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How Brand Experience Builds Brands

Brands Can Thrive by Focusing on Brand Experience

Two tales of brand experience.

In January 2011, a Southwest Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Denver was delayed by the pilot and crew so that a desperate grandfather could get to the bedside of his dying three-year-old grandson before the little boy was taken off life support.

In August 2017, an Air Transat Flight in Ottawa sat on a steamy tarmac for six hours as the flight crew and airline officials refused to let hundreds of passengers disembark to escape the stifling heat, screaming children and lack of water and power.  

Two airlines, two countries and two dramatically different stories of brand experience.

Ever been ignored when you were looking for help in a shop? Ever been harassed at a car dealer when all you wanted to do was browse? How about being kept on hold while trying to get help? Unreturned emails to customer support? All too common examples of a bad brand experience.

On the other side of the brand experience spectrum are the rare moments of delight, magic, smiles and sometimes tears. An email that makes you smile. A package that arrives exactly when it was promised. A no questions asked return policy. A contractor that gets the job done on time. Being greeted by your name and with a smile.  A charity that calls just to say thank you. Being treated like a human instead of a number.

Sadly, these kinds of positive brand experiences are the ones seldom enjoyed.

Lousy brand experiences kill brands. Great ones build brands.

What is a Brand Experience?

Marty Neumeier, author of The Brand Gap defined it as: “all the interactions people have with a product, service, or organization; the raw material of a brand.” However, it's a little more than that; it is the way each one of those interactions makes people feel. 

Brand Experience Happens 24/7

Whenever someone researches, buys and uses your product or service they are experiencing a distinct dimension, as Marty says the “raw material” of your brand. The same thing when they call, email, text, visit or talk to a member of your team. Odds are someone is experiencing your brand right now, in some way. Do you know where and how that brand experience is happening?

By Design or By Chance the Choice is Yours

Far too often brands overlook many of the ways that people interact with their brands. Powerful brands know and plan for these interactions. Mediocre brands don’t have an accurate handle on the where, when and how of their brand experiences. They leave them to chance, personality or technology.

Designing Brand Experiences

Designing and building powerful brand experiences can be fun and enlightening. It can bring your team together and, it can create an army of brand advocates inside and outside your company. They don’t have to be complicated and, sometimes the smallest experiences can generate the most significant brand building returns.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Conduct a brand touchpoint audit - document every point of interaction people have with your brand from website to phone system to email signatures and financial transactions. Understand the entire brand journey and look for ways to create wow moments.
  • Create a brand experience team made up of employees from different departments- empower and engage them in developing, designing and documenting the types of experiences that build brand fans.
  • Understand your audiences - learn what it’s like to be them including their likes and dislikes, fears and dreams. Start with your own people.

While we are sure she wasn’t talking about brand experience, we think Maya Angelou might have said it best when she said;

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

How does Your Brand Make People Feel?


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Unabashed words guy, branding evangelist and voracious reader of anything to do with marketing, branding, creativity and design.