Ed Pilkington: Put amazing brand experiences at the centre of your strategy for a lasting impression

The Oxford English dictionary defines an experience as “an event or occurrence which leaves an impression on someone”. What we experience is more memorable than something we simply see or hear because it taps into our human senses and we feel it.

Travel experiences– we tell our friends about holidays, festivals or great shopping experiences we have had, creating digital memories that reinforce our physical ones. And that is why us marketers, who are in the business of creating lasting brand impressions, need to put amazing brand experiences at the heart of our strategies.

Luxury retail understands and specialises in this, building experiences into every interaction and transaction. From the second you walk through the door, engage with friendly, well trained and well informed staff and leave with your goods beautifully wrapped in quality packaging. It all ladders up to your emotional and physical experience of the brand and becomes deep-rooted in your memory. There is a certain feeling when you walk out of department store Liberty’s with one of its purple bags, and you remember how it makes you feel.

When you don’t have a physical asset like a retail space to play with, creating an experience is more tricky, but from FMCG to beauty and everything in between, there are opportunities in each sector, and two main ways to capitalise on this approach.

Be part of the experience

Tapping into existing events or passion points for consumers is a great strategy, but your approach needs to be relevant, non-intrusive and add value. This is not about badging or making it all about your brand. You need to use your brand to make the experience even better for the consumer, becoming one of the components of the day that gets talked about, photographed and shared for the right reasons.

At Diageo, we have a strong presence in this space, whether it is Pimm’s and Wimbledon, Guinness and rugby or Smirnoff’s recent festival partnerships where we are activating the inclusive identity of the brand by bringing top DJs close to their fans in our Smirnoff House parties. Give your consumers a great time, respect the experience, and brand fame will follow.

Be the experience

A standalone brand experience needs to be totally aligned to what your brand stands for, how it looks, feels and, in some cases, tastes. The challenge is to create experiences that are both genuine and distinct to your brand. If it isn’t, it will not tap into the physical and emotional facets that create memories.

These experiences can be anything from outstanding education at point of purchase or a recommendation from an in-the-know bartender through to the masters such as Red Bull and its Music Academy. Diageo’s most successful and long-standing programme of this kind is Captain Morgan’s ‘Keys to Adventure’, which enables our target audience to experience what the brand stands for and how it tastes, leaving them with memories and stories they want to share.

Whether you are being part of the experience, or the experience itself, activation in the physical world needs to maximise the space where the physical and digital worlds meet. As marketers, we have the exciting challenge to experiment with where, when and how this convergence happens.

The key is to understand what experience your consumer wants and how your brand connects in a meaningful way through adding the magic at scale and always with a view to recruiting new consumers and converting to sales.

The great author Maya Angelou was certainly not talking about marketing when she said this famous quote, but for me it rings very true in our line of work: “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.”

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  • Caroline Lang 11 Sep 2015 at 3:51 pm

    Interesting read by Ed Pilkington! Having worked on smaller artisanal brands we found that finding a way to gain people’s buy in was the key and the biggest challenge. I think brand experiences with a solid story are a great way and don’t always have to break the budget and in the end, they create ‘anticipation’ moments and people wanting more of what they have just fallen in love with. A well known bear once said: “Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best,” and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.”

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