Why brand experiences should end on a high

What is the best way to design a brand experience, in order to maximise customer satisfaction? Some answers to this question are given in another excellent paper from Phil Barden from Decode.

You might assume that the best outcome would come from having the most positive experience possible at each and every moment. However, this is not the case. The key to satisfaction comes from what is called the "peak-end effect", based on scientific research. This depends on two key moments:

1. The peak, i.e. the maximum pain experienced during treatment or the most positive experience during a commercial or a
customer journey.

2. The end: The more positive the end, the better the overall experience.

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The more intensive the peak and the more positive the end, the better the evaluation of the overall experience. 

So, what does this mean for brand experiences? Here is what Phil suggests:

Focus on the peaks: Often the aim of customer experience design is to try and guarantee that they run as smoothly as
possible. This leads to dividing the budget equally between all process steps using the ‘watering can principle’. A better approach is to aim for as positive a peak during the
process, as well as to make the end as positive as possible.

Positive surprise creates peaks: This works well if the customer receives, or comes across, something
that he did not expect, or with which he is familiar in other contexts. For example, Virgin Airlines gives out ice creams to passengers at the start of its in-flight entertainment programme. The only other place this happens
is in the cinema; it is unexpected and generates a positive peak

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End on a high: 
It is not only the first impression that counts, but also the end. Often little attention is paid to the end of an
experience, whether it be checking out of an hotel, unwrapping a newly bought product or the end of a commercial. But the
more positive the end – especially in comparison with the peak – the more positive the overall evaluation. For example, Apple's packaging surprises positively, making the opening of your new iPhone or iPad a pleasurable experience.

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Interestingly, the peak-end rule also applies to TV commercials. People preferred commercials with intensive/high peaks and a strong and positive end, in a study by psychologist Hans Baumgartner at Pennsylvania State University. The research considered which moments during a TV commercial had the greatest influence on the evaluation of the commercial
and the brand, as well as on brand recall.

In conclusion, the next time you design a brand experience, don't try the impossible task of making every moment amazing. Rather, ensure you have some peaks and that you end on a high.