Marketers that fail to address brand experience will see loyalty drop

Customer experience may be high on the agenda but many brands are neglecting to look more broadly at the overall brand experience, which is impacting consumer loyalty, new research finds.

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Many marketers are undermining their brands’ ability to attract customers and grow in value by neglecting certain areas of the brand experience, new research suggests. The first Brand Experience Index by creative agency Rufus Leonard finds the strongest brands are those that think “holistically” about the experience they offer, ranging from the emotional effect they deliver to the sense of social identity they create among customers.

Rufus Leonard took as its starting point an academic paper published in the Journal of Marketing in 2009 entitled Brand Experience: What is it? Using this research, the agency has identified five core facets of brand experience that have a direct impact on customer loyalty.

These include ‘think’, which refers to a brand’s ability to communicate its purpose; ‘sense’, where a brand engages customers through the five senses using immersive experiences; ‘feel’, which involves creating emotional impact; ‘do’, whereby a brand facilitates behaviours and solves problems for consumers; and ‘connect’, which involves inspiring a sense of belonging.

Rufus Leonard then conducted a survey of 2,000 UK adults to gauge their views on 30 preselected brands across the retail, telecommunications and airline sectors. Around 200 respondents were allocated to each brand on the basis that they had been recent customers of the company. Respondents were asked to rate the brands according to the five facets using a seven-point scale. The agency used the findings to create its Brand Experience Index, with 140 being the highest possible score and 20 the lowest.

Top brands for experience

Singapore Airlines tops the ranking with 96 points, followed by Lycamobile (94 points), giffgaff (92 points), Ikea (91 points) and Emirates (90 points). Ryanair comes bottom of the index (66 points), while TalkTalk (67 points), BT (68 points) and EE (71 points) also perform poorly.

The report claims Singapore Airlines’ performance is down to its strong showing across the five facets. For example, the brand’s score for the ‘think’ metric is 20% higher than all other airlines in the study. Rufus Leonard attributes this to Singapore Airlines’ commitment to service over the past 40 years, which it says “places no doubt in their customers’ minds about why they exist”.

The airline’s score for ‘connect’ is 17% higher than the sector average – a result partly attributed to the quality of the brand’s frequent-flyer programme. It is also rated 18% higher for ‘do’, with the report praising the airline’s digital innovations such as an app that allows passengers to review, prepare and control their in-flight entertainment from their phone.

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Laurence Parkes, chief strategy officer at Rufus Leonard, argues that too many brands look exclusively at customer experience, rather than thinking more broadly about the overall brand experience. “Because of the fragmentation of marketing, you have agencies that focus on particular areas – the experiential agency focusing on ‘sense’, the ad agency looking at ‘feel’ and ‘think’ and the social agency looking at ‘connect’,” he says.

“The challenge is to pull those elements together and say that a brand should be thinking about all five areas if it wants to create a deep connection with customers.”

In addition to the index, Rufus Leonard asked respondents questions about the brands related to customer satisfaction, their first-choice preference and their advocacy for the brand based on the net promoter score (NPS) metric.

It finds that for every 10-point increase in the Brand Experience Index, there is also a 13% increase in agreement with the statement ‘this brand will be my first choice in the future’ and a 9% increase in agreement with the statement ‘I will be loyal to this brand in the future’. A 10-point index rise also correlates to an 17-point increase in NPS.

Furthermore, the study incorporates a partnership with brand valuation consultancy Brand Finance that is aimed at exploring the effect of the index on the bottom-line value of a brand. Although Rufus Leonard states that this cross-analysis is at an early stage, it claims to have found a correlation between its index scores and the brand value of low-cost airlines.

“[Brand Finance] postulates that a one-point increase in [the Brand Experience Index] score could lead to a business value increase of as much as $99m (£74m) in the case of Ryanair,” the report says.

Parkes argues that the rising importance of brand experience is reflected by changes to the role of marketing within organisations. “We’re witnessing the rise of the chief experience officer,” he says. “Whether the CMO gains more power and has that cross-channel and cross-business view of the brand experience, or whether it is placed with the chief experience officer, it’s important that brands think about that holistic picture.”

Festival

Visit the Customer Experience stage at the Festival of Marketing, which is running on 5 and 6 October at Tobacco Dock, London. For more information about the event, including how to book tickets, click here.

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