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It’s All About the Brand Experience

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In an age where consumers are fickle and brands often find it hard to gain meaningful cut-through, the brand experience they give customers has the potential to be the most powerful tool in a marketer’s armoury, writes Karleen Smyth.

Do you find yourself, like me, wondering why a brand did ‘that thing’?

Why did they think it was a good idea to spend their hard earned money on something that looks like a watered down version of a good idea twice removed?

Obviously, there is nothing that some agencies or clients like more than to snark at competitors’ work, but the reality is the majority of what passes for brand experience is, and unfortunately, a wasted opportunity to have a uniquely memorable experience between your brand and a consumer. And this is at a time when Brand Experience has been ear marked as an increasingly important part of Irish CMO’s plans for 2018.

Powerful

The simple truth is that now, in a time of massive explosion of media channels and the rampant state of digital ad fraud, brand experience has the potential to be the most powerful tool in a marketer’s armoury, one that can create a deep and lasting impression of their brand. Offering that killer combination of one-on-one engagement and brand loyalty, making experiential the next battleground for consumer attention.

Think of some of the very best work from the last 5 years, Burger King Proud Whopper, Fearless Girl, Tomb Raider Survival Billboard, Snickers Hungerithm. These campaigns all had incredibly positive effects from a commercial and brand perspective. Also, it’s worth noting that none of these are so budget intensive that they couldn’t have been produced here in Ireland.

No Excuses

So, enough of the excuses. Why is there still so much ill thought out, badly badged and downright lame events that are being cheaply disguised as brand experiences? Why are brands still investing in things that aren’t showing an acceptable level of engagement or return? Forget your old ROI measurements, it’s all about the ROE2(Return on Engagement x Experience).

It’s mind-boggling. How do they get to this point of producing luke warm, vanilla flavoured shakes? Are they simply ignoring some or all of the core fundamentals of producing an effective brand experience?

The idea, the strategy and a genuine understanding of the brand are fundamental in creating an effective brand experience.

Sounds obvious. That’s because it is. In practice, brand experience has often been treated as the runt of the litter – left with scraps of time, attention and budget. Too often brand experience is given the task of taking an execution from some other channel or worse given no brief at all. A final thought in the process, in many cases trying to shoe-horn an experience into an exsisting campaign. It’s just not good enough anymore.

Strategy

Brand experience needs to be built into campaign strategy from the get go. This is the only way brands will get the true value and connection with their campaign and be able to measure genuine effectiveness. And this is where many agencies fall down. They play the guessing game. They think they know their audience and they think they know what they want, so they power ahead because deadlines are looming and they need to get some results to the client. And fast. And surely enough they will deliver something. However, it’s all well and good having an idea, making it look pretty and selling the dream. Without that solid strategy at the core, that good idea will lose its very substance and certainly won’t deliver the results you actually from the action. So what’s the point?

Of course, there are the few expections here on home soil where brands are clued in on what it is that their consumers want. The House of Peroni, Cute Hoor Snug, Heinz Meanz Beanz Café, Murphy’s When it Rains it Pours, to name a few cleverly executed brand experiences. These are all very simple ideas but brand experiences that understand their target market and are delivering an experience that their consumers want and will actually engage with, whilst staying true to who their brand is. They’re not perfect experiences but they are demonstrating that their brand is actually listening and delivering on what their consumers want.

Masters

It’s without surprise to see a long list of drinks brands listed in my examples. The masters of experiential marketing worldwide, always striving to deliver new experiences to their consumers.

Boys and Girls recently delivered a Global ‘Bare Your Soul’ campaign for Jose Cuervo. It was the perfect campaign in that it encompassed design, digital, social and experiential, each of which were built into the campaign strategy from the very start. No shoehorning and it paid off. There was continuity and strength in the messaging because all elements had been properly considered.

Final Thought

A brand experience can live in many different forms. From sponsorships to AR, pop ups to permanent installations, it’s all about that art of injecting life into a brand and making it more human so people can make that connection with them. Whether your brand experience is a simple on-street activation or a large-scale festival experience with thousands on your doorstep, you need to ensure who ever encounters it will walk away with a better understanding of who you stand for as a brand. Just make sure there’s some flavour in what you’re producing.

Karleen Smyth is Senior Experiential Director with Boys and Girls

First published in Irish Marketing Journal (IMJ March 2018)© to order back issues please call 016611660