On the occasion of my 8th year of "BRAND INNOVATION," I'm looking back at the key concepts that influenced my perspective on power branding.
According to findings published for the Event Marketing Institute (www.eventmarketing.com), these are key principles of a well-crafted brand experience.
- Authenticity. This is a critical foundation on which experiences depend. Just one moment of damaged integrity can create a disconnect from which it is hard to recover, especially in a world so abundant with choices. This means a brand experiences must be true, honest reflections of the brand, the marketplace, and the context in which the customer will need or want them in real life.
- Customer-centricity. A necessary condition for authenticity, truly customer-centric experiences are derived from the target audience’s perception of their world and their behavioral habits and preferences, accurately reflecting and heightening their viewpoint in the context of the brand. Such an experience crystallizes and positively reinforces an individual’s sense of certainty and confidence in their decision-making abilities and life choices.
- Brand personification. Interactions that amplify brand values by providing a heightened sensory experience of them can impact deeply. These are iconic moments that form indelible and clear impressions of what a brand stands for that resonate with what an audience needs.
- Interactivity. Interaction – as direct, relevant and personal as possible – with a brand is most likely to engage the audience. Adults learn best by doing and interaction supports the natural quest for self-expression and self-directed discovery.
- Immersion. Enveloping the participants in a live experience has the potential to filter out the distractions that get in the way of the level of focus required for full engagement. In turn, heightened focus provides the opportunity to create the deepest level of understanding. It improves information absorption.
- Ego-satisfying stories. Experiences that not only engage but do so in a way in which the participants can see themselves in an unfolding story, and in the process, triumphing over their challenges (whatever they may be) via affiliation with the brand, drive commitment. This requires a deft handling of psychology. The one question we human beings ask ourselves a hundred times a day – the question that spells the difference between success and failure – is “is this for me, or against me? And to what degree?” says Nathaniel Branden. Therefore, our ability to immerse participants in ego-satisfying stories is key. This requires the fundamental skill of storytelling too. Story is the most powerful communication construct for taking people from where they are and bringing them to the point of where you want them to go. Effective stories have a well-defined plot, antagonists and protagonists. Pacing is key, as is tension and myriad other storytelling techniques. And the effective communication of stories requires a multidisciplinary approach that collapses length of term and geography into multisensory representations of authentic applications of the brand offerings and values.
- Sustainability. Great brand experiences are large or powerful enough to sustain engagement over time, as opposed to momentary interactions that only skim the surface. This is one of the key differentiators between product sampling and true Experience Marketing. In the former, you might get to sample how a new health food tastes while walking down the aisle of a store. In the latter, you live the experience of the benefits of a life fueled by more healthful choices. Sampling can be a component, but it’s not the totality. Moreover, in today’s world, live experiences can be extended via a variety of Internet mechanisms for enhanced sustainability.
- Intimacy. A skillful orchestration of the qualities of customer-centricity, interactivity and ego-satisfying stories must generate an experience of intimacy by which each participant feels that even through the event is attended by many, it speaks personally and powerfully to the individual. This is key in this era of self-authored and co-authored content.
- Measurement. Effective experience marketing acknowledges that audiences and markets define brands. Individuals empowered by brands to author their experiences volunteer opinions, critique and participation that allow marketers to mine much deeper and more substantial intelligence that can be used to refine live experiences, which should be done on an ongoing basis during an experience marketing campaign. This same information allows marketers to glean insights that help shape products and services and fully meet/exceed individual needs and expectations.
I'm grateful for the many clients and colleagues who have help create great brand experiences over the years.