In an age where the customer is king and brands are plentiful, companies are clamouring over themselves to deliver the best possible customer experience – but with competition mounting, and the success of your brand dependent on your reputation and perception in the wider marketplace, delivering a solid customer experience is no longer enough.
Instead, savvy leaders are turning their attention to brand experience, and moreover, to creating the sort of brand experience that knocks spots off the competition and keeps customers coming back, time after time.
Let’s take a look at what brand experience is all about (and how you craft one to be proud of).
What is brand experience?
Brand experience is the culmination of every interaction a customer has with your brand – from direct contact with a customer services advisor, to the branded email that lands in their inbox. Brand experience is made up of thoughts, feelings, and reactions to everything your brand does (and doesn’t do), along with the perception of what you stand for, and how you operate.
When people interact with your brand, what do they think? How do they feel? What’s their lasting impression? These things – which combine customer experience, user experience and brand identity in one – come together to form your overarching brand experience. And it’s essential to get it right.
Brand experience is what influences a customer to keep choosing you, based on positive experiences – so a good brand experience is one of the defining factors in building a loyal customer base: a true marker of success. But it’s not only about direct interactions. Brand experience happens well before someone makes the decision to purchase from you: before that decision is made, consumers are factoring in your reputation in the market, your online reviews, what people are saying about you on your socials, and even how happy your employees are.
But if you’re hoping to be universally liked, you may be in for a disappointment. Brand experience is entirely subjective; so while you can tweak the circumstances and put your best foot forward, it’s about appealing to the largest number of your target audience, rather than garnering universal adoration.
Brand Experience vs Customer Experience
Brand experience and customer experience are closely linked but distinctly different.
Customer experience (CX) is about the thoughts, feelings, and reactions that people have when directly purchasing, consuming, or using branded products or services; brand experience (BX) is these same thoughts, feelings, and reactions, but they can result from either direct or indirect exposure to any interaction with your brand, or branded products and services.
It’s brand experience that ultimately influences whether someone will purchase from you in the future.
Customer experience is critical because, well, it’s your customers who really steer the ship and determine whether your business is a success or a failure – so creating a creditable customer experience, and one that you can easily monitor, is essential. In fact, our Customer Experience Survey Software makes the process of getting to the heart of what your customers think completely effortless, if you’re interested? But we digress…
Brand experience is perhaps a little trickier, but equally valuable.
Why is Brand Experience important?
Brand experience is important because the reputation of your brand is everything. Brand experience is what informs brand perception, and brand perception is what makes people want to buy from you. Get it wrong, and you may as well signpost all those high value customers straight to your nearest competitor.
When people have a positive brand experience, they’re far more likely to become customers (and loyal customers at that) than if they have a negative experience or remain ambivalent. In fact, ambivalence is hardly better than a poor experience: someone who feels completely neutral about your brand is never going to pick you from out of a line-up now, are they?
Get your brand experience right, and you’ll have customers for days (or preferably years, but that’s not what the kids say).
What makes a good brand experience?
A good brand experience is made up of lots of different factors; in other words, it’s never just one thing – meaning that your efforts must be widespread and all-encompassing.
Let’s look at some of the areas that influence brand experience:
Your direct marketing efforts will have an enormous impact on the perception that people have of your brand in the wider marketplace. When a potential customer visits your branded website, they’ll want to see beautiful design that reflects who you are; a good brand experience will also factor in ease of use, so you’ll want to get any snags ironed out!
Adverts should showcase your core values and create a clear picture of your personality, while the design of everything your brand lends its name to – from your logo and signage to your social media platforms and customer communications – should elicit positive emotion.
And let’s not forget customer service: while not marketing per se, this direct form of communication is crucial to get right, as customers will form a lasting impression of a brand based on treatment from and interaction with its employees.
Marketing comes from all manner of places – not least of which is your own employees. When you can boast highly engaged employees, they act as the best brand ambassadors you’ll ever have. Plus, they’re likely to tell their friends and family about how great you are, which does wonders for brand perception.
Your online presence also has a profound effect on brand experience: the way that you interact with people through social media and on your website can make or break a first impression. And don’t forget the value of customer reviews! Most of us research a brand before we buy from them these days, and the reviews that are waiting for us heavily influence our perception of that brand.
Customers like to feel valued, and a personalized experience is a great way to give the people what they want. While generic marketing campaigns are all well and good, a degree of personalization goes a long way. What you’re really looking for is to build a connection with consumers, and if you choose to leverage customer data – along with information gleaned from social media and other interactions – you can create a depth of connection capable of bolstering your brand experience.
Playing on the senses
The best brand experiences are always the ones that take us in; make us feel something. And the best way to do that is to appeal to the senses. From audio to visual to touch, smell and taste, branding that connects to a specific sense can form one heck of a connection. Take this into account when you’re developing your advertising, marketing, and customer communications, as senses play a big part in forming a positive brand experience.
As well as feeling valued, customers like to feel involved – so get them in on the action! If you have a physical store or pop-up, allowing potential customers to interact with your product and provide real-time feedback is a great option to increase participation. If you’re solely online, encourage consumers to do more than sit back and watch by making it possible for them to submit suggestions, have questions answered in real-time, or chat to other customers via a forum.
How to create a great brand experience strategy
Your brand is how customers – and potential customers – perceive you; your brand strategy is how you influence that perception. So now that you know what makes a good brand experience, it’s time to breakdown how you create a great brand experience strategy.
- Develop a mission statement
Before you can get where you’re going, you need to know where you’re heading. A mission statement should include your target audience, your values, and your vision. This can then be used as the foundation for your marketing campaigns, and as the basis for all internal and external touchpoints, communications, and interactions.
- Assess the current status quo
Are you meeting customer expectations? If not, why not? If you’re doing well, what could you be doing better? And what is it that people love? Before building a brand experience strategy, it’s essential that you gather a full and accurate understanding of how your brand is already performing.
- Pinpoint areas for improvement
Once you know what you’re doing well and where your efforts may be going slightly awry, you can put practical plans in place to make things better. This is one of the most crucial steps you can take when it comes to informing and improving brand perception: mistakes can be forgiven, but only if you learn from them.
- Tell your story
People find it much easier to buy into a brand when there’s an element of connection – and that requires the personal touch. So, what’s your story? How did your company come to be? What core values motivate you to do what you do? Telling the story of your brand can really help to make you more memorable, likeable, and relatable.
- Carve out a unique position
Brand experience is subjective, but you can give yourself the greatest chance of influencing a positive brand experience by putting something unique out into the world. Think about your story, your mission statement, your target audience, and what you want your brand to stand for.
- Get sentimental
Much like when you tell your company story, using sentiment and emotion helps you to establish a deep-seated connection with customers and consumers alike. With the right marketing team behind you, it’s easy to evoke certain emotions in your target audience through well-considered social media posts, advertisements, and customer comms.
- Tap into authentic customer feedback
Your customers have perhaps the biggest influence on your brand perception. Why? Because they’re the ones who write reviews, talk about you online (whether good or bad), and share their experiences of your brand with friends and family. Try to tap into the ways that your customers respond most authentically and encourage feedback at every turn.
- Measure the results
When you put any plan into place, you need to monitor the outcome – and your brand experience strategy is no different. Regular pulse checks are important, as is ascertaining your starting point. As you move through your strategy, keep an eye on customer and employee engagement, customer feedback, online interactions, website usage, and those all-important sales figures.
How can brand experience improve customer loyalty?
Loyal customers are worth their weight in gold (and considerably more than new customers), so it’s unsurprising that securing customer loyalty is one of the overarching goals for most companies. But did you know that brand experience has a major part to play in taking people from one-time or prospective customers to total converts?
Brand experience is all about creating positive associations in the minds of consumers when they encounter absolutely anything to do with your brand – from your website, online reviews and social media presence to your staff, your stores, and your products and services. And every one of these positive associations is a step towards customer loyalty.
It’s a no-brainer when you think about it: if people have a positive brand experience, they’re more likely to choose your brand again in the future. That’s why it’s so important to create an emotional connection between your brand and your target customers.
Brands live in the minds of consumers, so you need to do all you can to influence their perception. This is even more crucial when we consider that a bad brand experience (and therefore, a bad brand reputation) can be all over the internet in a matter of moments these days. Thankfully, creating an emotional connection through a series of positive brand experiences can garner the level of loyalty that allows consumers to look past minor transgressions when you handle them in the right way.
Building brand experience then is a form of future safeguarding: your customers are more likely to stick with you through the hiccups if your overall form is good.
Brand experience examples
Right then, which customer-centric companies are out there giving the best brand experience possible? Let’s look.
Not just a battery! Duracell has set its brand apart by establishing a true emotional connection with consumers (we told you that was important!) By playing on the ‘power’ of its batteries, the brand makes us feel like we can really trust in the product – making it the go-to for families that don’t want to be let down when it comes to powering up toys for Christmas! With inspirational adverts telling emotive stories, they’ve got us hooked.
Apple is the king of brand experience, and consequently, boasts one of the most loyal customer bases out there. Their stores work in harmony with their ads, which work in harmony with their products, their staff, and their socials: it’s a cohesive brand experience that speaks to its core values of style, innovation, and functionality. There’s no doubting that Apple is always top of mind in the market for the brilliant brand experience it brings.
Remember when we talked about the importance of increasing customer participation? Well, Nike has got this nailed. Nike By You gives its customers more control over the products they’re buying – allowing them to customize products with different color and style combos. What could be cooler? And by including a ‘sneaker bar’ in its NYC flagship store, the brand experience is carried from online to in-store – giving customers the chance to customize their kicks in person! Now that’s what we call a brand experience…
How can Forsta help?
When it comes to creating an effective brand engagement strategy, using the right software can take you far.
With Forsta’s Brand Experience Insights Software, you can effortlessly uncover what your customers really think about your brand – allowing you to cultivate a better brand experience by making the changes consumers actually care about. Because if you’re not listening, how are you going to know where improvements need to be made?
No brand is perfect, but that doesn’t mean you should be shooting in the dark. Our software can help you to remove the guesswork – allowing you to make the right call, first time around. We can give you a balanced view of your brand perception (from your biggest fans to those neggy haters), which means you can do more of what the people want, and ditch what they don’t.
Ready to find out if you’re fighting fit? Book a free demo to see what we can do.
Brand experience, revealed
Well, there you have it. Now that you know what brand experience is, why it’s important, what makes a good one, and how to create a strategy that delivers it, you’re ready to ride off into the sunset and start converting consumers into incredibly loyal customers.
Just remember to give us a call if you want to do it properly.
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