Wolff Olins UK
Wed, 19 Oct 2022 13:32:36 GMT
There’s so much opportunity to blow brand experience up and make it more relevant today - consumer behaviour shifted dramatically over the last couple of years, from the way we eat to how we fall in love. Consumers are forming affinities with brands in new ways and if we want to create experiences that add meaning, then we need to adapt to this new brand landscape and think and work differently.
Brand experience is often misunderstood - we only need to look at the varying interpretations from people and organisations to see the extent to which we are grappling with new thinking for tomorrow’s brand experiences. But there’s no doubt that senior leaders are taking brand experience and customer experience more seriously.
We don’t see brand experience as an activation or a service - it’s an expression, a mindset. But just how does this thinking relate back to the narrative, the promise and brand values and the audiences that brands want to engage with? We discussed all this and more at our recent Wolff Olins Brand Experience Summit, with our expert panel of speakers: Mélina Kacherou-Carage, integrated consumer experience director at Estée Lauder Companies UK&Ireland, Michael Mitchell, senior director at Brand Intuit Mailchimp and Ryan Sherman, creative & strategy at Ikea's innovation lab SPACE10.
How do you define brand experience?
Mélina referred to brand experience as the next competitive battleground, beyond price and product. “It’s any interaction a consumer has with your brand, across any touchpoints in their consumer lifecycle,” she said. “It’s building emotional, meaningful connections with your consumers, solving their problems, designing around them and establishing a long-term relationship. It’s how we make people feel rather than just the transaction.”
Michael added that it’s about finding those moments in the journey that show empathy and clear understanding of your customers and where they are at this moment. And if you show up in the right place at the right time, you can create a halo effect.
Ryan’s perspective touched on the idea of transformation. “It’s a moment that evokes emotion and ultimately in that moment you undergo a perspective change, something that stays with you or where you might want to return to later to explore further, or even something to avoid altogether. It’s being open to the influence of outside forces.”
And whose job is it anyway?
Is brand experience the responsibility of a particular senior C-suite member, or is it a role done across departments? Are we facing a situation where many companies still need to break down silos? Experience, by default, has been the domain of digital experience, which begs the question: has UX failed us, or have we failed UX?
“Tech companies have mastered simplicity, seamlessness and ease of use, and that’s all table stakes now,” said Michael. “There’s an opportunity to put emotion back on top. That is what will differentiate you from the competition. The race to simplicity has opened the door again for brands to have influence and opportunity on a fresh slate.”
Mélina believes the biggest question is not whether we have failed UX or whether it has failed us, but have we failed the consumer? “This is about putting the consumer at the centre of everything we do and not looking at it in a siloed way by channel or platforms. If we fail them, we are paying the price because they move on - today consumers have multiple choices: they have so many channels, products, brands to choose from. Gone are the days when you had just a few options. It’s the feeling, from a consumer point of view, that this brand gets me, it connects with me, it is an enabler, and its product is helping me on my journey.”
Have businesses shifted enough to address the changing face of brand experience?
It’s no longer business as usual. There is a need to build empathy, understanding and compassion, as a core company value. “This needs to live and breathe your brand experiences - you cannot really separate the two,” said Ryan. “You can’t expect your business to run without understanding the pressures that individuals are facing inside. We need a larger response internally”. Ryan pointed out how SPACE10 has undergone a number of business shifts, including introducing a four-day week and a menstrual leave policy.
Are we witnessing new levels of co-creation?
Brands increasingly are meeting customers where they are, but they are also allowing them to get further within the organisation. There’s a realisation that brands and customers need each other in different ways. Mélina said: “It’s not just about brands getting feedback from customers and listening to them; It’s about partnering with consumers, co-creating with them and letting them be part of your brand.
How do you make room for serendipity, those intangible areas we don't yet know how to measure effectively?
There are very clear KPIs for actions such as sales, but as Mélina outlined, it’s about moving away from the ‘last click attribution’. “We measure brand love, and we are looking at it across the funnel, so from the early stage of the awareness to the engagement, conversion and the repeat,” she says. “It's really looking at this first part of the funnel, at what are the triggers for consumers to engage with your brand. It’s also about making sure that these KPIs are included in the day-to-day business reviews and are deemed as important as sales KPIs. They need to be embedded and owned across functions and not just sitting with one team.”
Ryan highlighted the need to become evangelists of spontaneity, of surprise, of delight and joy. “It’s not easy to measure, it’s about measuring over the longer-term.”
If you’d like to find out more about why brand experience needs a rethink and how Wolff Olins can help, you can email email@example.com.