The market is saturated with high-quality products, all conceivable designs and models are permanently available. Customers can find out more about products, manufacturers and brands than ever before and make their own personal choices. Where products no longer differ significantly in terms of quality or function, the choice falls on the product that appeals to you most emotionally.
Companies have recognized this and are therefore increasingly relying on combining product and brand with an experience. A whole lifestyle is built up with which the customers identify and to which they want to feel they belong. Decisive reasons for a purchase are increasingly hedonistic. The product alone no longer makes you happy, it is the associated experience and the experience around it. As Goldsmith University and Adobe found out in a 2017 study , 61 percent of consumers buy products and services that reflect their personal values; and 43 percent value having a connection with the company. That means: only those who, as customers, can identify with the brand experience remain loyal.
For companies this means – in addition to developing the best possible product – to attract the attention of customers and to keep it through the special brand promise and the experience associated with it. Experience is the magic word – whether brand experience or customer experience, a whole experience economy is formed.
The coffee company Starbucks, for example, does not want to make people happy with a coffee alone, but rather focuses on the well-being of its customers. A visit to the coffee shop is a great personalized welcome in a convincing atmosphere. Customers like to share this experience on their personal social media channels and thus become multipliers for the brand. But brands like Pampers, Apple and Adidas also manage to offer their customers an experience instead of just shopping.
Find the balance
How do companies and brands manage to find and build such an authentic aura around them? How far do brands have to go without appearing implausible? Would we relieve the automobile manufacturer of a family vehicle from expertise in matters of parenting and childcare and also buy baby food or parenting guides?
And where do brands not go far enough and fail to keep their promising promise? After the diesel scandal, a car manufacturer has great difficulties in positioning itself as a fuel-efficient and resource-efficient brand. This is where the dreaded experience gap arises. Almost every fifth customer punishes this with switching to a different brand, at least according to the Experience Gap study by Clear Strategy.
If companies put themselves in the shoes of their customers and ask the questions of what could arouse interest and what would tend to be boring or even put off, this is a good start. The key is to build an emotional bond. Here, the entire company, the entire corporate culture must be involved and lived. Unfortunately, there is no one silver bullet for all industries. Every company, every brand has to find a suitable strategy for itself.
Roadmap for walking the tightrope
One possibility can be to enrich the product itself with properties that no comparable product on the market has and that contribute to the brand message. Another possibility is to combine the product with a unique service or a service that does not yet exist. It is important that the utility value is reconciled with the brand promise and the experience and that the defined customer needs are not only satisfied, but also fulfilled over and over again. The greater the competition for a product, the more important an outstanding presentation and the link with a positive quality of experience become.
It can’t stop with a good story about the product or brand. The brand experience goes well beyond that! Of course, quality and product properties are the first points of contact for a customer, but a holistic experience arises in so many more places. All touchpoints are crucial! Starting with the visual representation through to uniform communication both externally and internally: It is important to create a corporate culture that the customer perceives consistently. Customer service, for example, plays a very important role. For example, if a product promises simple, intuitive and hurdle-free usability, a complicated registration process, an opaque license agreement or limited customer support can completely destroy this product promise. The comprehensive experience has to be thought through down to the last detail: If a customer is always addressed by you, there is a break when he is literally answered on the hotline. All processes must be integrated into the culture.
When asked how far brands have to go, the answer can only be: further than expected! Namely through the entire company, through all levels, through all customer touchpoints and through every employee who works for the brand, because every employee is also a brand ambassador. Then the brand experience becomes the heart of the company, then it helps the brand to have a long life.