Experience is the new…

Wait… that’s not right…

Experience isn’t new.

Let’s face it; people have always experienced brands, products, services, and organisations. What has changed is that marketers and business people have now become aware of – and more importantly, concerned with – those experiences. The focus has shifted from positioning ourselves in people’s eyes, to improving people’s lives, but the experience has always been there.

Great experiences can build an iconic brand – and a single bad one can ruin it even faster. With the power to attract and retain the most loyal of followings, this new-not-so-new thing called experience is powerful. So, let’s take a closer look at this new brand focal point.

First and foremost, it’s important to realize that experience and customer experience are not simply exchangeable terms. While the customer experience obviously falls under the umbrella of experience, there is much more to it than that. Employee experience is a big one – they deliver the customer experience and this also drives recruitment; many other stakeholders also have to be considered; shareholders, suppliers, potential customers, influencers, casual passers-by who may refer business or turn into future customers, the media, and your industry at large. That’s a lot of people (or a ‘system’ of stakeholders as Larry Ackerman describes it).

Let’s call it the overall brand experience then for clarity. The big picture. All of these people experience your brand in different ways, at different times, and for different reasons. But, as the old saying goes, you can’t please everyone, so how do you engage and offer a positive experience, to such a wide group of individuals?

You build your experience from the inside out.

It all starts from within. Why? That’s where your heart and soul are. They are the fuel that will drive an authentic brand experience. Without that authenticity, it’s just a collection of words, actions and treats that won’t keep a customer, employee, or stakeholder’s attention for long – and you can forget about loyalty. People can be susceptible to marketing hype or a great deal, but pretty quickly, they’ll see through the paper-thin image presented to the real picture below.

Having a purpose behind why you do what you do is a powerful loyalty driver , so take the time to get this right. Everything after this can be adjusted and improved over time if need be, but replacing your core purpose would require a complete reboot.

Once you have this core of your brand in place, it’s time to adapt and communicate it to each individual set of stakeholders. Your core purpose means different things to different groups of people, and offers them value specific to their needs. While who you are deep down is key, who you are to each individual is the deal breaker.

How does ‘who you are’ make their life (business and personal) better?

How does partnering with you make their life better?

What can you offer them to help them achieve their own purpose?

These are the factors that will drive brand choice and loyalty, so this must drive your brand experience as well.

But remember, while different groups of people will experience your brand in their own way, you’re not building a bunch of different experiences. You have to build a single, unified experience with each branch addressing a different stakeholder’s needs. How you communicate them may be quite different, you may use very different channels, the resources you need to allocate will vary, and specific areas of the brand experience will be a higher priority for your business, but the experience you build should be unified, authentic, and recognizable across the organisation.

Then, it needs to be delivered consistently over time. The most amazing experiences still have a shelf life – normally until the first bad experience occurs – so consistency is an absolute requirement for success. True brand management now involves the entire brand experience, not just some marketing and visual identity assets. All facets of how people experience your brand must be championed and protected by your brand guardian/s.

Design your experience as a whole, implement it as a whole, protect it as a whole.

‘So. I have a solid core to build my experience around, but how do I go about the different experience channels for my various stakeholders?’ I hear you ask. Well, that’s a larger topic than we can cover here in the closing lines of my quarterly thoughts. But, our Experience Issue is chocka-block full of wonderful thought-pieces (17 more in fact) that can help you to expand your knowledge in the Art of Wow, and work towards an experiential brand that attracts loyalty by default.