Our opinion on... Experientiall Branding and Experience
Over the past ten or fifteen years “branding” has developed into what can only be described as a process in search of an object in search of a definition. We know how to brand, we know why to brand, but we don’t actually know what a brand is. Or rather, we can’t seem to agree on a definition. While I, like everyone else, have a particularly interesting take on the idea of “brand, for the sake of clarity I suggest that most people in the branding world, while disagreeing on almost everything, would agree to two fundamentals: 1. A brand is more than the name, logo, or other identifying graphic treatment that helps identify the manufacturer or source of the product or service 2. A brand is a construct in the minds of consumers. That is to say, it is not tangible and to a greater or lesser extent, it is a “thought.” You might say that if we all agree on these two points then surely we agree on what a brand is. And you would be wrong – these two points are merely descriptions of the form a brand might or might not take. What is important is that there is common acceptance that what we consider the “brand” actually happens in the mind of the consumer, and therefore is, in reality, created by the consumer. We can no more create an image in another person’s mind (i.e. create a brand) than a stoplight turning green can make a car drive through an intersection. With this in mind, I go one‐step further and suggest that what we call a brand is, to all intents and purposes a judgment: an evaluation of a product or service that determines our response. “Brands” are never neutral. As soon as we have a sense of what something is, we form a mental judgment about it: it is good, it is different, I like it, I prefer it, and so on. We always have some evaluative opinion about everything, even if that opinion is no opinion . If this is so (and as I said, I believe it is indeed so), then you may well ask what the mechanics of this judgment could be. How, and on what basis, do people come to these judgmental conclu‐ sions? Glad you asked.
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We form these judgments, or opinions, based on the interaction of extrinsic (real‐world) encoun‐ ters and intrinsic (internalized) filters.
Extrinsic encounters are all the ways in which we are exposed to the product or manufacturer (read about, hear about, use, feel, see, etc.). The sum total of these encounters (again a subjec‐ tive analysis) is what we refer to as “experience.” Intrinsic filters are the expectations, history (previous experience), values, attitudes and world‐ views, that are the personal, subjective and unique lenses through which we see the world. Experience [filtered through] subjective lenses = judgmental evaluation = brand (or what we choose to call “brand”) In short : Brand = experience evaluated
Beliefs and worldview
History and memories
Sales person was smart and professional Received a discount coupon Used it before and really liked it Response TV News: Brand employs child labour Friend said it doesn’t work “The Brand”
Potential disengagement points
Extrinsic Encounters = Experiences
Our response, physical or emotional, to this evaluated experience is a result of our fundamental psychic make‐up (who we are as people).
The nature of experience We have seen that “experience” is the totality of encounters, essentially mashed together in our minds. And, in the same way that marketers cannot create brands, marketers cannot create (or even “deliver”) experiences. Definitively, experience is intrinsic: I create the experience in my own mind, made of components encountered in the real world that I choose to acknowledge
(we don’t notice most things that happen around us) AND associate convincingly with a unique product, name, or logo. (For a more detailed understanding of why we choose to acknowledge a few things when we don’t even notice many others, see our discussion on “relevance”). As marketers or brand merchants, all we can do is deliver the encounters that comprise the ex‐ perience. Moreover, obviously, we must do it in a unique, impactful, and memorable way. We need to ensure that the encounters we deliver are such that they seamlessly merge into a single, clear picture in the customers’ brain. "For heaven’s sake," I hear you cry, "If experience is subjective, then can there be such a thing as a common experience?” Actually, in principle, no, there cannot be a common experience, which implies there cannot be a common “brand.” Realistically, however, the same set of experience components delivered to a group of people who share similar sensory perceptions, emotional drivers, personal histories and living environments, will trigger effectively similar experiences in each one of these people. This is the objective of experiential segmentation.
Branding versus marketing Experiential branding is the discipline of understanding and defining brands in terms of the ex‐ perience they deliver and the lenses through which they are evaluated. If we can ensure that the experiences we trigger are evaluated as being different from and more relevant than other ex‐ periences, we can be sure of a powerful, sustainable brand (or, what we choose to call brand). This is the platform on which the company should base everything it does, with a single‐minded focus on what experience components it can consistently deliver and which internal components can reliably be triggered. Experiential marketing is (or should be) the way in which experiential branding is communicated outside of the actual product or service interaction (the co‐created experience which is the ob‐ jective of the exercise). Experiential marketing tries, or should try, to replicate the experience of the experience (sorry) so that the customer will momentarily "get the feeling" and through this be persuaded to buy the product or service. To think of experiential marketing as nothing more than a way of getting people to pay attention or notice you, is a disservice to the whole idea of experiential branding. Laurence Bernstein is the founder and managing part‐ ner of Protean Strategies. He has been a strong proponent of the “new order of differen‐ tiation” and has written and
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lectured on the subject of experiential branding and intrinsic/extrinsic research methodologies in Canada, the
US and China.
Protean Strategies 80 Cumberland Street, Suite 1503 Toronto M5R 3V1 Canada 416.967.3337 Bernstein@proteanstrategies.com
Laurence has held senior positions in major global agen‐ cies Saatchi and Saatchi, TBWA, Young and Rubicam. In addition he has worked on the client side with Westin Hotels and was the EVP of the Canadian Restaurant Association. Laurence attended the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and Cornell University in Ithaca , New York
Published on Jul 11, 2010
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