The Importance of Brand Experiences
The best brand marketers, communicators, public relations people inherently share a common trait. They understand, whether consciously or not, that successful branding and product positioning means focusing less on the actual product and more on how consumers interact with it.
Let’s start with an easy example—the smartphone.
Other than the display and camera, could you tell me anything about what resides in your smartphone? How does it work? What kind of processor does it have? Do you know how much RAM is in there?
Most people have no clue. But what if I asked you, what do you use your smartphone for the most? How has it changed your life? For better or worse, how does it affect your productivity? Those are easy questions to answer. Or, imagine your daily experiences if your phone was gone. Yikes.
The fact is, it’s not the smartphone itself that is marketed so well, it’s the experience the smartphone creates that makes you want it. Few people really care what went into making it, what it's made of, or what code was used in the development of the software. We just want to know what it does and how it can improve our lives.
Let’s get a little more perceptive with another example. Ever wonder why athletic apparel companies spend so much money on athlete endorsements?
Obviously, it’s to sell more products. But how does that work? It’s not like any of us can run as fast as Allyson Felix, and I’m sure none of us will be hitting 40 homeruns this season for the Red Sox. So why do endorsements work? Because they duplicate the experience of the athlete in a way that we think we can touch, feel, or in most cases, wear. You wear the shoes they wear, the shorts, shirts, whatever, and in your mind their experiences on the track, field, diamond, whatever, become part of your daily life. If Nike really meant what they say, their slogan wouldn’t be “Just Do It”, it’d be something more like “Just Buy It and Feel Like You're One of Them”.
These endorsements parlay an experience onto the consumer that resonates—very well. It’s not about the shoe materials or the type of nylon in the shorts you buy. We all want to be winners and be the best at something. So, we end up buying the same apparel winners wear.
Insurance companies get it, too. When was the last time the Allstate guy explained how term life insurance worked in a commercial? Never. But trust me, your experience is in "good hands" with them. Remember when car advertisements and marketing campaigns extolled the virtues of having more horsepower? Or how about trucks that had more towing capacity? Technical specifications are seemingly less important than ever before. What matters now is the experience that advertisers lay on top of the products they sell. Cars today are marketed to make you look sexy or feel macho. Not because they have double-overhead cams or the latest in fuel injection technology.
In the last few decades or so, successful product marketers have shifted into becoming successful experience marketers. And in case you’re wondering, everything and anything has an experience associated with it. The key is to ensure that not only do people love your product, they love using it, telling people about it and most importantly, they love how it improves and makes their life experiences better.
We're not breaking new ground here. I think a lot of good marketers know the distinction between branding and branding experiences. No doubt some marketing experts do, too. Last I checked, Amazon had more than 8,000 books, videos, audio tapes, etc., on all things branding, so no doubt someone along the way has covered this. But as a marketer, when was the last time you thought more about the experience and not necessarily the product?
Apple makes us want something before we even know what it is. That’s not magic, that’s branding the experience first, product second. (I'm no expert, but the Apple Watch is a good example of the company bucking its own style and marketing the watch first, experience second. No wonder it hasn't really taken off.)
Consider the next new thing you have to market and start with the problem it fixes, not the solution. Emphasize the effect of your product before you make a case for the features it has and you'll find it easier to craft the right message.