Brand Experience (definition): “The cumulative brand impressions garnered from visual, verbal and experiential encounters with the brand. The brand experience encompasses a range of intellectual, sensory and emotional connections.”
Last month there were several stories in the news about fake Apple stores in China. Not only did these stores carry counterfeit Apple products, they also mimicked the architectural details, staircases, genius bars, graphics, employee uniforms and ambience of an Apple store. Unlike the myriad of brand knockoffs in China, though, these were easily detected because Apple has so scrupulously choreographed the brand experience within its stores.
All retail, service and hospitality businesses have a brand identity – an image of the business that is inscribed in their customers’ or prospects’ minds. Each identity is shaped by all that it is, says and does. An identity is more than a logo and a name, it includes location, products, staffing, design, service, amenities, architecture, signage, menu, music and more.
All these elements can be allowed to evolve tactically, with no particular plan, resulting in an undistinguished, contradictory and confusing place. Or, all of these elements can be orchestrated to create a coherent brand experience that provides a distinctive, appealing and competitive offering to its audiences. The latter is called a strategic identity, and it’s crucial for creating a distinctive brand experience. When it’s done well, it is memorable and unique. When it’s done poorly, it can be easy to imitate, or worse, confusing to the customer.
For example, Starbucks invested heavily in décor, product and personnel to create a distinctive brand experience within its stores. Customers know that wherever they are, whether travelling or close to home, they will always get their satisfying venti latte, served by friendly people, in a comfortable and familiar environment. The locations aren’t cookie-cutter in their layout, but they have an ambiance that their customers recognize and appreciate. A recently renewed focus on brand experience has been a key to Starbucks’ success.
By positioning a service business appropriately and focusing on delivering a meaningful and unique brand experience, a business can successfully increase visits, encourage loyalty and command a premium.