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Sunday, September 10, 2006

Brand Experience Lab's Experience Manifesto

Retail Outlet originally uploaded by yendluri69.
As promised in my last post, Highlighting Blogs: Retail Experience, I am focusing here on Experience Manifesto.

Experience Manifesto is the work of David Polinchock, the founder and chairman of Brand Experience Lab in SoHo. [He also contributes to FutureLab.] David pushes the edge of the brand experience envelope and stretches the reaches of your brain. No surprise, he teaches at Carnegie Mellon University and NYU.

I first met David in May, 2005 during a seminar at the Brand Experience Lab - it included a walking tour of SoHo - on building a branded retail experience. Sponsored by POPAI [point of purchase advertising international], the session was based on the premise that of the $900+ billion spent on marketing, $18B is spent at retail because traditional advertising no longer works. With power shifting to the consumer, the consumer is responding at the point of purchase, where the brand experience becomes critical for success.

Here follows a summary of the presentation, which remains more than relevant today:

In today's marketplace, many products/services are becoming commodities. The consumer has become increasingly knowledgeable and comfortable making purchasing decisions, relying less on traditional marketing and sales efforts. As a result, it takes more effort/resources/etc. to create a compelling brand identity. The challenge becomes how to ignite passion, and inspire loyalty for your brand.

Success calls for integrating all brand elements as none can be viewed in isolation. Each represents one piece of a larger brand story that needs to be told with passion and consistency, starting with the company itself. The challenge a brand marketer faces is breaking through the visual 'war zone' [i.e., clutter], to consistently present the brand's identity and connect with consumers in a meaningful way - that recognizes that they are time stressed yet want/need to feel good about their purchase decisions.

At the same time, retailers are becoming dominant brands. In order for marketers to retain the full support of retailers [and access to valuable real estate in-store!], they must demonstrate that product and/or displays sell, match the retail identity, are easy to use, etc.

Ultimately, the overall emotional satisfaction with a brand is more important than the features, benefits, customer service or quality alone. Brands must engage and captivate with sensory, interactive, authentic and relevant elements. Brand loyalty is driven by the delivery of valuable experiences, consisting of the sum of all of the brand elements.

A compelling brand experience includes the following:

  • Culture - need to thoroughly understand cultural trends, customer needs, and knowledge of what is coming in the future
  • Creativity - need to take customers beyond a brand's features/benefits to create a visceral connection via storytelling
  • Technology - today's audience is accustomed to technology being a part of one's daily life; so can you find relevant new technology to help tell your brand story better?

Defining the brand experience: A product/service is nothing more than an artifact or an act around which customers have experiences. Over time, your brand will be defined by a total impression of those experiences rather than the products or services themselves.

The right experience set creates a strong, emotional and consistent connection with the consumer. This is the force that captivates your audience and arouses an anticipation of benefit upon recognizing the brand. The various brand elements such as advertising and marketing contribute to this group of experiences, but they are rarely the sum total of brand identity.

Expressions of the brand story include the following. Note that they must all be integrated to deliver a single consistent message.

  • Promotion and advertising
  • Retail -- lotsa breakdown here!
  • Customer service staff
  • Web
  • Brand advocate communities
  • PR & events
  • Corporate communications
  • B to B communications
  • Display and package design
  • Product Features & Benefits

Never underestimate the degree to which your customers and consumers will go out of their way for a better experience. Similarly, never underestimate the degree to which one bad experience can undo all other positive efforts. In short, develop a compelling story, and you have the basis for turning consumers into evangelists!

This certainly parallels Patrick Hanlon's comments referenced in Creation Stories, Alain Thys' comments in The Power of Stories, Customer Service Matters!, and I Can't Get No Satisfaction.

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