The day marketers start to understand people’s relationships with rituals is the day they apprehend the notion and impact of meaningful customer journeys with impactful touch-points. Or in other words, what a holistic brand experience really means.
Today’s consumers choose a way of life that emphasises collecting memorable experiences, slices of life and humanised moments. In the 21st century, experimentalism is the way to live. In order to explore the multifaceted ritual component inherent within holistic brand experience, it is worth taking a look at the key methods that map the way to achieving it.
Culture Par Excellence
If holistic brand experience is an effect, then its cause is the cultivation of an inner culture par excellence. The near-recession-proof world of luxury can teach us a thing or two about building an internal culture in which experience, a higher purpose and relationships operate together in a well balanced and mindful mode. In the light of the bridge between experience and relationship management, for instance, Ritz Carlton is worthy of attention. The luxury brand’s internal culture is cultivated with the principle that could be summarised as “ladies and gentleman serving ladies and gentlemen.” This principle creates a culture in which the quality of the relationships between employees and customers increases. Consequently, the quality of experiences elevates, too. We call this ‘the high mirror principle’. It is the reflection of the higher selves – of both the guests and the team.
Professor Chris Roebuck, a British economist who advises top organisations on maximising performance through effective leadership, asked Markus Kramer (at the time Aston Martin’s CMO) about the company’s Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system in order to better understand the link between CRM and effective leadership. The answer was as unexpected as it was candid, “We don’t have one – yet it works.” In other words, successful relationship management is not about the system, the infrastructure or technology only ; it is first and foremost about the internal mindset that lies at the heart of an organisational culture.
The catalyst of the mindset, the guiding compass and the path to an interconnected culture is rooted in the brand’s inner purpose. Technology can certainly add value in terms of empowering people with tools and information, but it can’t replace the deeply ingrained purpose that radiates from within. If shared and aligned internally and externally, purpose has the power to unleash the type of passion, cohesion and consistency no CRM system has yet managed to replicate.
In today’s competitive environment, it’s almost impossible for brands to get a second chance to make a first impression. In addition, brand managers need to take into account the peak-end rule, which explains how consumers tend to judge an experience based mostly on its peak and its finale, rather than on the sum or average of every moment of the experience.
There are numerous scientific studies that provide evidence on how people tend to remember negative experiences rather than positive ones. Bad memories tend to stick better than good ones. It’s called negativity bias and it can lead to loss aversion. Or as Andrea Soriani, former Director of Marketing of Maserati, North America put it: “Clients will always remember a negative experience no matter how many positive moments have been shared.”
Many of us have experienced the tension between essence and appearance throughout our lives. Things may not really be what they look to be, and all that glitters is not gold. Much of the strength of experiences related to a brand today depend on this factor. When the essence of a brand turns out to be less than its appearance, the experience is memorised as a disappointing one. One way to master holistic brand experiences that enable strong emotional, deep, near-therapeutic ritual bonds, is to look at how some of the truly purpose-led luxury brands practice it.
Flawless service is not about doing personalisation. It is about doing it right. The idea is to elevate and build a holistic brand experience to the level of becoming, to some degree, a holy ritual. Orchestrating frictionless, delighting touch points as part of a brand experience has the same effect as a therapeutic ritual, increasing brand advocacy, referrals and loyalty. What pain-points can you transform into meaningful moments for your customers?
Purposeful Relations (PR)
Forward thinking and purpose-oriented brands are aware of the fact that there is a growing segment of consumers who prioritise ‘being and feeling’ (inner) over ‘having or consuming’ (outer). This growing demand led niche and luxury brands to offer memorable moments, experiences or rituals rather than mere commodities or episodes. Rolls Royce, for instance, organised a free exhibition in Saatchi & Saatchi London in which visitors could interact and experience the technological expression of their Spirit of Ecstasy.
Holy brand experience is one of the most powerful components of brands guided by an innate, shared and aligned purpose. It builds strong and lasting emotional bonds with customers that are perhaps best described by the words of Holly Gollightly, the protagonist from Breakfast at Tiffany’s: “…the only thing that does any good is to jump in a cab and go to Tiffany’s. Calms me down right away. The quietness and the proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen to you there.”
Brands with clarity of purpose are changing the world. The leaders, marketers, entrepreneurs, and individuals who understand this will be the positive change-makers of tomorrow.