Gianluca Cinquepalmi
Sep 16, 2011

How to create a compelling brand experience

Gianluca Cinquepalmi, managing director of design agency 1.618 discusses what goes into making a great brand experience.

Gianluca Cinquepalma
Gianluca Cinquepalma

There has been much talk lately about brand experience. It is seen as one of the most effective strategies for the creation, development and renewal of brands. However, less has been said about how such an experience is created, which elements are fundamental and which objectives it aims to achieve.

A recent study by the American Marketing Association showed that the best performing brands of the past few years are those that can be described as “experiential”.

Brand experience is not a single event or activity but rather a series of different elements that constitute a system. The stimuli can be a brand`s personality, design, identity, messaging or packaging. The experience associated with a brand is therefore the ability of an individual to live through a single event (either unexpectedly or intentionally) that will result in the acknowledgement of the brand itself.

Brand means a relationship
A brand is nothing more that an intimate feeling experienced by an individual towards a product, service or organization. As trust is the fundamental element of any relationship, whether it
be client-vendor, man-woman, consumer- supplier. If a client trusts your products/ services, the latter will have an impact on the public, who will then base their choice or preference on factors that go beyond the price itself. The objective of brand experience is to create a close, trustworthy relationship between the brand and the public.

Unfortunately, trust does not come for free, but it can be gained through experiences that
are worth telling. One must not forget that once gained, trust must also be maintained and constantly renewed. The process can potentially become very demanding and expensive, unless it is made sustainable.

The Invisible Army
Any salesman or marketer would agree with this statement: gaining public awareness, selling a product or service, is a war. If so, it is impossible to enter the battlefield without an army. Many companies tend to confuse tools with actual activities and end up focusing on technology rather than on the creation of their own army.

A brand should really focus on the creation of a real community before establishing a digital one. It should provide people with a motivation to gather, it should confer an identity to this community and take responsibility for guiding it. The community should be primarily populated by ambassadors
i.e. people who are devotedly interested in the brand and who strive to spread its message and values. These people will be asked to become brand ambassadors and will be given missions
to accomplish.

If you do not know where to start, start from yourself, from your employees from your customers, your suppliers. They are the first to want to be part of the success of the brand.

Back to Childhood
The main difference between adults and children are the price of their toys. That’s why having a good story to tell can make all the difference.

The story behind a brand is what distinguishes it from others, especially in a multitude of similar products and services. Creating intellectual and emotional links with the audience is indispensable. There is no use in focusing on technology or communication channels without first establishing
a solid brand identity.

The public can be reached by means of a fascinating story or experience. A story can spread the
message but it should be essential, concrete and credible. It should be solid enough to withstand word of mouth without losing its essence, and at the same time open enough to be personalized. It should stimulate the public’s curiosity and exceed their expectations.

The power of doing
The key is creating an authentic experience. It is not enough to deliver a standard response to the public’s requests based on the results of simple case studies. The brand’s values and characteristics should surprise the audience and stimulate their curiosity; that’s why the story should exceed rather than simply match their expectations.

However, the experience should be planned and developed based on the audience’s point of view,
not the brand’s. We should predict what the audience would like to see and experience, not assume that they will automatically understand and appreciate what we want them to.

In order to achieve this we should focus on these fundamental elements: the brand’s multi-sensory impact, i.e. its ability to stimulate one or more senses; the emotional link that the brand can create with the audience, thereby stimulating needs and loyalty; the ability to develop a cognitive relationship with consumers, by fueling curiosity and thoughts.

Learning from top brands

Companies like Nike, Apple, Nespresso and Nintendo have managed to increase their turnover despite the deep financial crisis because they created brand experiences. The 3 main qualities of an experiential brand are:

Charisma: a charismatic brand represents any product, service or organization for which the public cannot find a valid alternative or whose alternatives lack essential qualities.

Clients: a brand that centers its activities around its clients, creates products and services that cater to their daily needs. It shows an understanding of the clients’ requirements and aims to solve their problems and to simplify and improve their purchasing experience.

Coherence: a coherent Brand continuously fosters relationships based on loyalty. It achieves loyalty through the realization of intimate experiences that are in line with their values. Brand experiences can engage consumers by surprising them and exceeding their expectations, even if only slightly, every single time.

Brand experience is not a single event or activity but a system made up of different elements. If expertly combined, these elements can lead to the conception of an experience and therefore the creation of a trust relationship between brands and consumers.The brand experience is not a choice. The only choice is to define and manage the brand experience or let the public define it for us.

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