Why Brand Experience is the new X factor
I know what you’re thinking. We’ve talked UX. And CX. Plus, a fair bit of EX. Do we really need another X? Of course, my answer is going to be yes, and it’s got nothing – and everything – to do with our hiring earlier this year of Mitesh Solanki for the newly created role of AFFINITY’s Head of Brand Experience.
Mitesh is currently in the process of writing a piece that unpacks this new expanded practice area, but in the meantime I wanted to share a little bit of the origin story. A bit like what Wolverine was to the X Men.
I’d like to start this marvel-lous story by posing a question to all of the Marketers, Brand Managers and CMOs reading this: does every touchpoint your customer experiences of your brand truly reflect what you’re about – your values, your purpose, your mission – whatever you want to hold up as the touchstone for your product or service?
If the answer’s no – and let’s face it not many marketers can truthfully say yes – then you may have a Brand Experience challenge ahead of you.
The Stark (pun intended) truth is that most marketers have a remit that extends to what the ad says. They have no control of the product experience, nor the delivery of it. Case in point: I feel pretty safe in assuming your last Uber Eats order wasn’t speedily delivered by Bindi Irwin’s pet falcon. I’m just happy if it arrives looking vaguely like the picture.
Your “Brand” can be many things. At AFFINITY, we look at brand as the core articulation of why a business exists, their belief system and therefore how this will impact on what you say, what you do, how you look, how you act. The net sum of this equals the Brand Experience.
BUT – and this is a big BUT – it’s not just about what your customer experiences. A critical aspect of AFFINITY’s Brand Experience practice is the crossover between your Customer Experience, Brand Comms and Employee Experience. Without a core brand strategy guiding every aspect of how your product or services is experienced – including from the inside – you could be missing out on an important competitive advantage.
To that end, I want to share six simple questions with you so that you can do a to help you run a quick brand experience diagnostic.
- Ask yourself – and answer honestly – does every touchpoint of the current customer experience for your product or service truly reflect what you’re about as a brand? Yes, this is a repeat of what I posed earlier, but it’s so important it’s worth saying twice.
- Does pretty much all of your brand investment or time investment go toward outward facing communications such as advertising? If yes, then there’s a good chance your brand expression is over-indexed, and you’re in danger of losing that brand equity immediately when a customer, prospect, or employee has a sub-par experience of your brand in some way.
- What proportion of your marketing team's time is focused on how your brand acts? I’m talking about things such as management policies, approach to recruitment, establishing a purpose-led culture and even day to day activities like your internal communications. It’s not about ‘doing’ all of these tasks but about inputting in a way that ensures your brand experience is consistent across every touch. If you’re like most organisations, the answer is probably less than 2%, which means there’s a good chance you could be struggling to retain and attract talent.
- How integrated is your marketing team with what’s going on through other areas of the business, such as product/service development, market expansion, sponsorships, customer support or sales? Your answer might be a little or a lot, but the crux of this question is to determine the effectiveness of that integration. Is it a token gesture that results in a ‘tick the box’ for the sake of process? Or is it unified and meaningful?
- Do you have a brand strategy and implementation plan that has buy-in from all senior stakeholders across the key facets of the business including People & Culture, IT, Product Development, R&D, Distribution, Operations etc?
- And finally, do you choose partners by their ability to meaningfully add to your brand experience or are they just cost and efficiency metrics? Thanks to the pandemic, ecommerce has exploded in a range of categories, but many brands are now experiencing brand damage and poor reviews because of the practices of third-party delivery drivers. Here’s a good (bad) example: a friend of mine was sitting on her front veranda and watched as a vase she’d ordered from a homewares company was literally thrown over her fence by a delivery driver who didn’t even attempt to ring the bell or open the (unlocked) gate.
At AFFINITY, we talk a lot about connecting the experiences that matter. And the real challenge – as I’ve tried to highlight in these preceding questions – is that many of those experiences operate in a siloed existence from each other. But the good news is you don’t need to call in the Incredible Hulk to smash those siloes to bits. You just need a partner whose done it before.
AFFINITY’s Brand Experience practice was born from a growing demand from all of our clients looking for more integrated thinking in this space. We’re already working with clients to articulate how to leverage brand experience for a commercial return on investment, and positioning the benefits of brand beyond traditional creative communications; extending it to, and integrating with employee experience and customer experience. If you’d like to discuss how our BX practice could assist you, get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org
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