When people think of branding, they usually think of design, logos, typography and although these are all important components of good branding, the often overlooked part of the branding is the customer experience itself.
We fall in love with a brand because of how we feel about it. The most successful brands go beyond a logo and work extremely hard to create a valuable, emotional experience for their customers.
Great brands understand that when you develop an emotional connection with a consumer, you create a customer for life. If you want to create a great brand for yourself or a client, considering the customer experience as part of the branding strategy is crucial.
If we have a great experience with a brand such as a restaurant, hotel or a coffee shop, we are far more likely to want to go back there. Not only will we go back there, but we will pay more for the experience because it resonates with us in our values. We will want to share the experience with our friends and family online and we all know that 'word-of-mouth' promotion is the most powerful and effective way of spreading awareness about a brand organically.
So how do we get started?
People want to come for the whole experience that a brand offers, not just it's product or service. To be successful and more and importantly, stand out from your competitors, your values have to align with those of your customers.
It's simply not enough just have to have a great product or service, people want and expect more. They don't just want to sample what you have to offer, they want to experience it.
Why is this so important?
Experiences and memories last longer and are far more cherished. When you are having an enjoyable experience, you completely forget that you are being sold to. As mentioned before it encourages organic word of mouth promotion through the sharing of photos, videos and conversations.
You have a chance to create a deeper more meaningful bond with your customers and that will result in a lot more repeat business as people will come back for more. This experience with your brand will become part of the customers lives and routines (a morning coffee from your favourite coffee shop), it will become tradition (the annual family trip to Cornwall).
This can be seen when we go to places like theme parks. In his book the Experience Economy, Joseph Pine talks about Disneyland, more specifically, the experience of going to Disneyland.
We have all watched Disney movies, but actually being in a world with those characters brought to life, is so much more immersive and visceral. It stays with us for our whole lives and is something we want to share with our families and an experience we want to pass on to my children.
This branding approach is particularly applicable to businesses in the service industry such as hotels restaurants and coffee shops. Starbucks, as Joseph mentions, gets this.
The whole experience of going into Starbucks is designed to convey authenticity. They want you to know the story of the beans, where there are sourced from and how their roasted. To do this they put beans everywhere. You can touch them, smell them being roasted, hear them being freshly ground.
Alongside this they incorporate natural branding, using green and brown everywhere. But it goes further, hand written signage, relaxing music and even the attitude of their staff who cheerily write your name on your cup, it all adds to the experience of authenticity.
Starbucks branding taken to another level with multiple layers. All these layers combine to give the consumer and deep and rich experience that keeps them (and me) coming back. I know it's a huge multinational chain, but I like the feeling I have when I get a Starbucks. The experience is one that I would get from a local coffee shop and I can have that same experience every time I see one, no matter where I am in the world.
That's powerful branding.
People will pay more for an experience
Another reason to create customer experiences as part of your branding is that not only will they come back more often, tell all their friends about you, but they will pay much more for a experience over a regular service.
A fantastic example of a brand creating an experience for their customers and being able to charge a premium for it is Secret Cinema. For those of you who don't know, Secret Cinema is a group of people put on famous iconic movies, but they do it in such a way that the whole experience is a cross between a theme park, a play and a movie.
They are wonderful, so immersive and the atmosphere is phenomenal. I've included a couple of videos to show you what they do and every time I watch them, I get goosebumps.
Sadly I haven't had a chance to go to secret cinema they don't happen very often, but I do know about them because my friends have told me and next time it's on I will go. But it will cost me almost £100 a ticket.
So here we can see exactly what I just mentioned, by making it an experience, an event instead of just a movie screening, they can raise the prices.
If I were to rent Back to the Future at home it will cost me £3. If I went to the cinema (comfy seats, better sound, big screen and popcorn all add to the experience) I'll pay £10. But if I want to watch the Secret Cinema version, I will have to pay around £100 for a ticket and do you know what, I won't think twice. I'd happily pay £100 for the experience alone.
This doesn't even factor in travel, hotels, costume hire and then money for food and drink. But I don't care, I want the experience more than the movie. I've seen BTTF loads of times and have the DVD at home, but that's not the point, I'm willing to pay hundreds of pounds to experience it.
This system can be replicated with any movie and as they grow in size and stature, the warmth and love for their experiences doesn't diminish. They know that they are creating huge brand loyalty with their fans. They know that the word-of-mouth promotion, love for secret Cinema and it's legacy is far more important and outweighs the amount of money they will make.
So how is applicable when it comes to branding for you or one of your clients?
Start thinking beyond a logo. Think about the experience the customer is going to receive. Evoke their senses, start treating your customers as unique individuals and creating something that resonates with their values.
If you can create branding it goes far deeper, your clients will love you for it because you're going to help them build their business that is on it's way to being unstoppable.
When you build a brand that creates experiences, people will pay more, they will share that experience and they will keep coming back.
Next week I will be digging a little deeper and specifically breaking down how you can start to build experience into the branding of your business.
If you'd want to build an experience into your branding, I'd love to talk.