Bringing brand experience to life

Post by Prasad Narasimhan, Managing Partner based in Bangalore, India and Head of Brand Experience.

Today’s social world raises the bar for brands

The best brands today recognize the need to build distinctiveness across each element of the marketing mix in an integrated fashion. But in an increasingly social world, as consumers become more demanding, is this enough? Or has the BAR has been raised?

  • Brilliance: Brands are often only as good as the last experience they provided. Social media gives consumers unprecedented power to pull brands down, as we saw in the ‘United Breaks Guitars’ episode and more recently the Emirates Airlines service meltdown I posted on here. ‘Brilliant basics’ are now a necessary condition of business.
  • Authenticity: Millennials prefer brands that are seen as authentic. Increasingly cynical of advertising, they prefer to rely on how brands behave. They judge based on personal experience, and this is in turn depends on how authentically the people behind those brands showed up.
  • Remarkability: Given the abundance of choice in most categories, consumers increasingly look for brands that they can ‘weave into their social conversations’; brands that are remarkable in some way.

Acts speak louder than Ads

Communication continues to be important of course; what a brand says and how it says it matters. But brands that act in a consistent and remarkable way are not just more convincing, they also compel consumers to talk about them. So, how can brands think through their actions more strategically?

During the course of Brand Vision to Action projects, we encourage clients to think beyond a brand positioning tool and bring the brand experience to life. This goes beyond the WHAT a brand will offer to the HOW it will deliver this; and is especially important for service brands we work on, such as Standard Bank and MMI.

The Brand Experience Model below is rooted in brand positioning, but then explodes this to capture the desired customer response (how we want them to feel and think), the brand offer (how the brand comes to life for the customer) and also the brand delivery (what we do inside the company).

Brand Experience Model: example

This framework is best illustrated with an example. If one considers Club Mahindra, the world’s largest timeshare holiday company, the actions could be imagined as follows (hypothetical). This exploration stops at the first level of actions, but in reality, brands must work through the specifics in great detail.

Brand Promise: at the heart of the brand is the Brand Promise, which inspires and guides all actions and activities. For Club Mahindra this is to ‘Make Every Moment Magical’

a. Brand Positioning (this explores the ‘real estate’ we seek to occupy in customers’ hearts and minds)

What we do·  Timeshare holidays across the world

·  Fun, family holidays full of exciting activities

·  Club experiences that reward regular holidayers, including seamless upgrades

·  Bespoke food menus, attentive to individual needs

·  Encourage guests to try something new each holiday

How we do it·  Operate own resorts across the most desirable vacation locations

·  Cross-sell with global holiday aggregators like RCI for newer experiences

·  Tie-up for new holiday genres like cruises, adventure tours etc.

·  Explore new design concepts with each resort, create delight by design

Why we do it·  Create moments of magic for families everywhere

b. Customer Response (this explores what we want customers to ‘feel’, ‘think’ and ‘do’)

Behaviours·  Regular holidays every year; book in advance & enjoy as families

·  Seek newer experiences each time, broadening their ‘holiday horizon’

·  Find new things to do as families

·  Sample local nuances, delicacies, experiences

·  Sign-up for curated, story-able experiences

Attitudes – Category·  The holiday I deserve

·  Holidays as a ‘joint family of friends’ (or any new & fun definition of family)

·  The insurance of a great experience – the best my family can get

Feelings – Life·  Rediscover my family

·  De-age, be a child again

c. Brand Offer (this explores how the brand shows up & engages consumers)

Products & Services (more functional)·  Superb week-long family holidays in exotic locales every year

·  51 weeks anticipation-building: in-city experiences that keep the interest alive

·  Generous rooms with kitchenettes in expansive resorts

·  Premium spas

·  Kid Zones – play hubs that excite kids of all ages

·  Family fun activities, including immersion in local nuances

Brand Experiences (more emotional)·  Holiday ‘hosts’ who keep things friendly, personal & a little serendipitous

·  One buzzy week that feels like ‘7 Sundays in a row’

·  Exciting new experiences & adventures for kids of all ages

·  Specialists experiences for elders, millennials, empty nesters…

·  Help them create memories they’ll cherish

Brand Relationship·  Life-long (25 year) holidayers; addicted to great family holidays

d. Brand Delivery (this explores how we want ‘our people’ to bring the brand to life)

Service Promise, Artefacts·  Magical holiday moments you’ll remember
Service Culture·  Encourage discretion & decision making among staff

·  Encourage ownership of successes & results

·  Allow the ‘freedom to fail’

·  Celebrate those who go beyond the call of duty, create ‘legends’ within

·  Differential hiring from local communities, raising standard of life

Brand Culture (embedded as ‘winning values’)·  Proud to belong

·  Making smiles

·  Experience is everything

·  No room for the ordinary

Using the Brand Experience Model

We use this model to help brand teams creatively explore ‘remarkable’ solutions & experiences that consumers can’t help talking about. Each vector helps us brainstorm different actions, and collectively, teams can prioritize the most impactful actions that can resonate with customers. The output is:

Comprehensive:        More complete approach to action ideation & strategy

Creative:                      Brainstorming process & resultant choice allow for more remarkable actions

Collective:                   Involving teams in the process builds alignment & commitment

In conclusion, brand acts speak louder than brand ads. The more we ‘expand the box’ of brand acts, the more interesting the brand experience we can deliver.