Payne, Through the Loop, shows how developing a brand experience can
help a brand broaden its franchise and fight off competitors.
Loop has been researching how brands would have to change as we enter
the next millennium. One of the areas identified is the Brand
Experience. This extends beyond brand values to introduce new
associations and to allow the consumer to become more immersed in the
experience. When we move beyond the brand, we enter the Brand
Experience. Brand Experience delivers new colours, shapes, sounds and
sensations that embody the brand.
that surrounds the brand is designed to enhance the total "brand
world." Consumers no longer consume a brand but they start to live
it. This takes the product or service further than traditional brand
values and opens up new areas of association and engagement for the
Experience can operate on a number of levels, such as:
experience adds a new communications channel that surrounds the
experience adds a service element to the product providing a
experience allows the brand to be extended across seemingly
unrelated products and services as the brand is more important than
the individual product or service capabilities.
Experience is all the more important when one considers that in many
developed markets, consumers are becoming increasingly disenfranchised
from traditional marketing. This has been identified for developed
markets such as the UK. The Brand Experience represents a means to bring
consumers back to the brand and provide a greater degree of relevance
for them. Brand experience can allow the consumer to develop a closer
relationship with the brand.
development of Brand Experience as a communications channel spans the
area from factory visits to event marketing. The most obvious example of
this experience is Disney’s development of theme parks. However, it is
important to note that not everybody can visit a theme park regularly.
Therefore, the establishment of the worldwide chain of Disney stores
enables the Disney experience to be enjoyed locally. The Disney stores
are about far more than selling merchandise.
In the same
way, the growing number of NikeTown stores represent more than an
additional retail channel. NikeTown stores provide a stronger frame of
reference for the Nike brand than traditional marketing communications.
The communications elements of NikeTown present Nike products in a more
appropriate setting than where many of the marketing communications are
opening tea shops using a new brand "Cha". Nestlé has opened
Nescafé coffee houses and these are now to be extended into motorway
service areas, Café Nescafé, and inside retail outlets. Like the
Disney stores, these coffee and tea shops represent not only a new
distribution channel for hot beverages but they also allow the
development of the Brand Experience. Witness here the success of
Starbucks and other quality coffee shops that have transformed coffee
drinking from a mere activity to an emotional experience. Consumers are
not simply buying a cup of coffee. Lyons understood this many years ago
and it is interesting to note that in the UK, Paulig is returning the
Lyons coffee brand to its roots through the opening of Lyons coffee
of social values also adds experience to the brand. In this way, both
The Body Shop and Ben & Jerry’s offer more than their products but
they allow the customer to participate in a social and ethical marketing
programme. The consumers become part of the programme and ambassadors
for the social values.
Motors has opened Europe’s first automotive theme park in Germany.
Opel Live has forecast 1.5 million visitors for its first three years.
The theme park includes a 3-D cinema, car simulators, interactive
exhibits, a themed ride and a tour of the manufacturing facility. While
this may be the first of many such parks in Europe, the next stage is to
follow the Disney model and make the Brand Experience locally relevant.
This could include extending it to other General Motors plants and,
undoubtedly, its dealers. For most consumers, the only contact with the
company is through the dealers and so this is where the experience needs
to be developed.
can brand-focused theme parks like Legoland and Cadbury World reach a
wider audience? In fact, all retailers should
be able to add experience to their offer. Music retailers offer the
chance to listen to music in the store. The latest Virgin Megastore in
the UK has taken this further with vibrating floors around the listening
points and in the games area. This adds a whole new experience to music
offer an experience that is not available when eating at home. Witness
here having meals cooked at the table. This suggests that manufacturers
can add brand experience to their products by looking at areas such as
restaurants. Surely, it is a fairly simple move for makers of oriental
ready meals to provide a pair of chopsticks with each meal to add an
aura of authenticity. This could be taken further by offering whole meal
concepts, combining ready-made products from different manufacturers.
the service element
service element is added to a product, it allows an area of experience
to be developed. On-line retailers such as amazon.com and CDnow are able
to utilise technology to provide recommendations for their regular
customers and so generate a stronger relationship and, presumably, more
sales. In fact, any business using the Web should be able to learn about
its customers and adjust its offer accordingly.
the nature of the Web makes it a perfect way of adding customer
experience. For example, SmithKline Beecham’s Web sites for smoking
cessation products provides far more than simple product information and
represent a service element for smokers wishing to give up. Nicorette,
NiQuitin CQ and Nicoderm CQ move away from providing a product to
providing a service. The Committed Quitters Programme is a course to
help people stop smoking, of which the patches or gum comprise just one
part of the solution.
possibility of continuous updating, discussion forums and e-mail
correspondence make the Web a natural partner for launching books, films
and TV programmes. Existing media channels have the possibility to
express the Brand Experience through a variety of different delivery
channels that compliment each other.
and mortar retailers are able to improve the customer experience.
Witness here the growth of coffee shops within bookstores that encourage
customers to stay longer and look at more books. Car dealers again have
an opportunity here. They are in the fortunate position of having a
detailed database of their past customers. This gives them the potential
to target car buyers at appropriate intervals to remind them of service
intervals, new accessories an, ultimately, prepare them for the next new
are starting to realise the importance of keeping customers in their
stores. Many book stores now offer additional service elements such as
coffee shops, often operated as a concession by companies such as
Starbucks. This acknowledges the fact that buying books is a leisure
pursuit. Developing a greater level of in-store experience transforms
the book buying process while at the same time offering a defence
against Internet booksellers. The likes of amazon.com and bol.com have
clear advantages in some areas but they cannot replicate this type of
shopping, pleasure shopping
the issue of chore versus commodity shopping to the forefront. There are
two types of shopping, that which you have to do and that which you want
to do. These two distinct shopping occasions may be referred to as chore
shopping and leisure shopping. In the first instance, consumers will
look at such issues as price, convenience and time. When shopping for
leisure purposes, these issues are replaced by experience. You may or
may not buy anything but you are looking to enjoy yourself during the
expect stores, either on-line or bricks and mortar, to increasingly
divide along these lines, catering for both markets with distinct
offers. A grocery retailer, for example, may address chore shopping
through easy-to-use on-line ordering facilities, possibly direct from
your fridge, or a convenience store format. The same retailer can
develop other outlets that cater for experience, somewhere to go when
you are shopping for a dinner party or other special occasions. This
would carry a wider range of items, possibly more "exotic"
ingredients and bring in the service dimension through the offer of
cookery classes and other demonstrations. There will be somewhere for
the children to have fun while their parents browse the aisles. Quite
different from shopping for bread, milk, kitchen towels and the standard
weekly family shop.
be able to leverage the data gained through their "loyalty"
schemes to offer tailored packages to its customers. These are not just
related to product areas but also service concepts, perhaps wine tasting
courses for those who usually buy wine. This encourages them to trade-up
to high quality (and higher profit margin) wines. Car dealers can offer
basic car maintenance courses, DIY stores could be offering lectures and
other advice-oriented programmes.
use of one-to-one marketing can enhance the Brand Experience which
retailers can offer, retailers are also faced with an increasing threat
of manufacturers selling direct to consumers. They need to take the
opportunity to provide a layer of differentiation that gives them a
raison d’être in the eyes of the consumer.
already have a service element are tapping into customer experience
whether they like it or not. Every contact with the company represents
interaction with the brand. This highlights the importance of
consistency across all commercial messages. The driver in the company
lorry or the operator on the end of the telephone communicate just as
much as a major advertising campaign. Each point of contact should act
to enhance the Brand Experience. Again, Disney may be viewed as an ideal
work looked at how the Disney, Virgin and, more recently, Cosmopolitan
brands were being extended into new categories. Under this scenario, the
company’s manufacturing operations are less relevant than its ability
to manage a brand and develop properties that allow the brand to be
transferred. Virgin may have started life as a mail order music retailer
but today it has become an experience that can be transferred across
seemingly unrelated categories. A recent survey by J Walter Thompson
identified Virgin as the company with the greatest capacity to
"bounce" into new sectors.
operating in a similar way. The low-priced airline has a very clear
focus on what its brand values are. The company has recognised that
these brand values may be transferred into other product and service
categories that will reinforce each other. Recent new ventures from the
group include Internet cafés, initially in Central London but planned
for other countries, car hire through EasyRentacar and banking through
EasyBank. Like the Virgin group, EasyJet makes extensive use of public
relations featuring the group’s founder, Stelios Haji-Ioannou.
product or service launched will start with the existing brand values
and should be managed so that it enhances them. However, many brand
extensions are little more than variations where the core brand has
merely been "tweaked." All too frequently, brand extension can
effectively fragment the main brand rather than take share from
competitors, build the category or develop a new category.
Experience allows marketers to undertake genuine brand extension that
takes them into new profit areas. No longer should one consider new
segments that the product can address but whole new categories where the
experience can be applied and an appropriate product or service offer
developed. This then opens up new profit areas and new groups of
consumers are introduced to the brand.
important to recognise here is to recognise the company’s competencies
in terms of Brand Experience and not its products or services. To return
to the Virgin example, it was able to launch into the soft drinks market
because of the development of the Virgin brand. Virgin did not need any
competencies in soft drinks manufacture or marketing or even in the FMCG
Boots did not need special competencies to extend into opticians or
dental care. Its principal competency is that it is highly trusted by
consumers and it is highly authoritative within the UK healthcare
sector. EasyJet is now in the same position. It’s competency is the
delivery of a highly focused, low cost and reliable service that can be
transferred to others sectors. This provides the opportunity within the
car hire sector more than the obvious link with airlines. Fortunately,
it also has the ability to cross-sell in this case, less so with banking
and Internet cafés. The latter two examples though do leverage the
of the Brand Experience represents an area that companies will have to
address in order to provide sustained differentiation for their brands.
At a time when consumers are becoming increasingly disenfranchised from
many marketing activities and many marketers are finding it difficult to
differentiate their brands through "conventional" means, the
Brand Experience can represent the way forward. The Brand Experience
seeks to immerse the consumer in the brand and connect rather than
Experience is a wide concept that runs close to event marketing at one
end and relationship marketing at the other extreme. It looks beyond the
brand to identify and develop values that have a greater degree of
relevance for the consumer. In doing this, it moves much close to the
consumer in terms of immersion, engagement or individual relationships.
This is where brands can start to develop a competitive edge. The Brand
Experience enables marketers to provide genuine and sustainable
differentiation which, in turn, provides a strong defence against
"me-toos" and other competitive threats.
Loop is tracking the development of Brand Experience. Our Brand Positive
programme to analyse the management of leading brands through times of
slow economic growth has already shown that many marketers are looking
to surround their brands with a greater level of customer experience. It
is this Brand Experience that will provide differentiation in the future
and will guard against commoditisation.
Experience offered will be unique to that brand and it cannot be
replicated by a competitor. This is the key issue. There is nothing to
be gained by producing me-too brand values, even if you are
first-to-market. The Brand Experience must provide an cast iron bond
between the product and the consumer. In this way, each brand
interaction, whether it is actual consumption or the receipt of
marketing communications messages, will continue to enhance the
brand’s values and strengthen it.