Brand experience has been a popular, high-return marketing strategy for many years in the overseas market, but has it begun to gain serious traction in Australia in the last five years. As local brands start realising the value this strategic approach can bring to their campaigns, many are unsure how to incorporate it into their marketing mix. This article shares why brand experience is gaining momentum, and how much brands are investing in the space.
What is brand experience?
Brand experience is an experiential strategy that uses omnichannel touchpoints to build a sense of connection, affiliation, and trust between a brand and its audience. Chris Cavanaugh said it best; “[It’s] about designing a sensory experience that brings a person into a lasting and meaningful relationship with a brand”.
To understand what brand experience is, you need to step back and look at the bigger picture.
The strength and quality of your audience’s relationship with your brand will determine your future success. Think about all the interactions your audience has with your business through your brand touchpoints, these could be through;
- Website and social media
- Customer service
- Products and services
- Brand events
- Sponsorships and activations
- Digital content
These are all brand experiences. They work best when they’re used to tell a holistic story, helping build a long-term emotional relationship with your audience over time.
Why is brand experience important?
Your most loyal audiences have a strong sentimental connection with your brand. These relationships are developed over cohesive, meaningful interactions that revolve around personalised experiences and shared stories. Consistent brand experiences leave an impact on your audience, leading to long-term memories of your brand that, in turn, build lasting attachments.
It’s why Budweiser used universally delightful puppies in their ads, or why MECCA created a festival for makeup. It’s why Woolworths went from the backlash of plastic toys to the sensory, experience-based Discovery Gardens campaign. Sharing authentic experiences based on common values helps build real relationships.
That’s the goal of brand experience; to extend your existing marketing strategy to build affinity, ultimately leading to brand love.
Making a lasting impression
Short-term memory is great for short-term gains, but only focusing on quick metrics means that brands often miss out on the long-term impact of their campaigns. We’re not just talking weeks and months: brands should also measure in years!
Brand experience is about momentum and long-term market share. It’s like a tree – plant the seed of your brand into someone’s long-term memory with initial engagement. Then, you water the seed through ongoing, consistent experiences so that the tree grows stronger and bears fruit over time. According to Peter Pynta, Director at Neuro-Insight, “no matter what technique you use as a marketer, it will not be recalled unless you make it into [the consumer’s long-term memory].” This is backed up by data – according to the Event Marketing Institute, 65% of consumers say that live events helped them fully understand a product better than any other method.
For marketers under pressure to deliver immediate results, brand experience can also help them meet those KPIs. After an event, 98% of respondents agreed that participation in an experience made them more inclined to purchase a product.
Pynta also noted that “future behaviour is driven by past experiences.” We know that brand loyalty drives business referrals and that those referrals (aka word-of-mouth) give brands a 16-25% higher customer lifetime value.
How does brand experience work?
In a world that’s over-saturated with information, audiences are demanding more honest and meaningful content from brands.
In an interview with Adweek, Brian Icenhower, president of WME | IMG’s experiential agency said “what takes traditional advertising weeks, months or years to do, we can do in a moment… experiential is a uniquely fast and effective way to build brand awareness through one-to-one connections with consumers. It engages all five senses, sparking emotions that form lasting memories which have been shown to drive brand loyalty.”
Memories are tightly linked to our senses. It’s important to think about all the ways your audience sees, hears, touches, tastes, and even smells your brand. Imagine a unique, multisensory experience for your audience; how can you put them at the center of the activity? How can they discover your brand’s core values? How can they immerse themselves in a shared moment that they’ll remember? What will truly resonate with your audience?
Engaging with your audience through experiences that are captivating, powerful and aligned with their values is how you create strong associations with your brand.
How much are brands investing in brand experience?
The dust has settled from the digital disruption of marketing, and brands are beginning to re-evaluate digital ROI. For example, Adidas has begun rethinking their digital advertising spend, shifting to strategies that build brand desire after they discovered that despite their focus on performance marketing in an attempt to grow sales, the greatest influence on sales was, in fact, the brand. This reflects the recommendation of the Field and Binet model – that brands invest 60% of the marketing budget into a brand and 40% into performance.
Although there aren’t any firm figures from the Australian market to guide investment decisions, data from overseas indicates where the local market is heading. A Freeman Global Brand Experience Study reports that ‘a third of CMOs plan to devote 21-50% of their budget to experiential marketing efforts over the next several years.’
Getting started in brand experience
We get it – dedicating 21-50% of your budget to brand experience may be challenging to sell into the executive team! In our experience, brands will often dabble with a smaller investment that they increase over time as they learn from each campaign. It all comes down to what you want to achieve and what amplification strategies you’ll use to extend your campaign.
Here in Australia, Aesthetic has been leading the charge in brand experience marketing. Darren Natale founded the agency in 2007 when he recognised the potential of the strategy and became an early adopter. Since then, we’ve been working with our clients to deliver their brand experiences through strategically sound solutions.
Our award-winning brand experience team take a holistic approach to help you achieve your business objectives. Together, we’ll explore different ideas and tailor a strategy to suit your needs and budget, to help you achieve your goals. Most importantly, we make it our mission to deeply understand your business. Then, once we’re established where you’ve come from, we’ll get you where you want to be.
Maybe you have an idea that’s a little bit ‘out there’, or you’re struggling with how to get buy-in from your executive team? We can help you make the strategic connection between your business goals and your creative idea.
– Gillian Laging
Brand and Marketing Manager, Aesthetic