Football fans are incredibly passionate about their teams. Wouldn't it be great if your customers felt as passionately about your small business; if they’d tell everyone about you and defend you to the ends of the earth?
We must remember that we are all tribal, even though we no longer live in tribes. We have an innate desire to belong to something. Today, we create an identity for ourselves through the businesses we align ourselves with — whether they are big names or a local store or café.
It’s something that big brands understand but that many small firms miss. Nations have flags to bring people together and give them an identity. Logos are the flags of big brands; helping members of the tribe recognise each other and tell the world where they belong. Who we give our allegiance to often tells our peers who we are and what we represent.
Branding is like a flag. It helps the consumer declare to the world what they stand for. Every business, no matter what size, must have a clear message. Ask yourself, “What does my brand stand for?”
The brand is a promise to the consumer – a promise of an expected experience. "Buy from us and you will receive this."
By making a promise you attract customers, by keeping that promise you create loyal fans.
Do you remember the “I’m a Mac and I’m a PC” campaign from Apple? The campaign was effective because the message was clear; use a PC and you are in for disappointment and frustration, use an Apple and create your dream. What’s important is that Apple delivered on its brand promise and this is why we see so many Apple products today.
It is imperative to make sure your business can deliver on its brand promise. We can learn from Samsung here. In order to compete with Apple in the mobile phone industry, Samsung came up with a bigger phone. For some months, it looked like this tactic had worked. However, those people that switched began to head back to Apple. Why? Simple; the Samsung phone was too complex and Apple users who had switched found its operating system user-unfriendly.
People went back to Apple in droves and Apple seized an opportunity; they saw the demand for a bigger phone and delivered it.
Apple once again is leading the market. One company had focused solely on its features (Samsung) while the other focused on the experience and tribe (Apple).
Branding without delivery is simply a lie. People will become discouraged and look for something better. Delivering the brand experience will ensure your business stands out.
Business advertising spend in the UK hit a new high of almost £14bn in 2013 and is set to increase to £14.8bn this year. But are businesses getting their money’s worth?
Personally, I doubt it. And the reason is that most businesses will miss out on one essential ingredient: experience.
Experiential marketing helps consumers contextualise the narrative behind your product and service.
Let’s take perfume as an example. Perfumes are, functionally speaking, a mixture of ingredients that produce a pleasant smell.
But people don’t wear perfume for the constituent parts; they buy it for the experience, they buy it in the hopes that they will feel attractive and desirable, and they buy it to give them a sense of confidence.
How is this experience achieved? By creating a holistic experience of the product.
It starts with advertising. Perfume ads usually feature a model sauntering around looking sexy; there is usually a husky voice saying abstract words like “adored” or “eternal”; and there is either lots of colour, for fun adventurous brands (think Joop!), or black and white, for brands that focus on being sexy and powerful (such as CK).
Next comes the in-store experience. The bright lights of each perfume shelf, the imagery displayed nearby — all are designed to continue the experience.
The bottle is also key — it takes the experience from store to home. Some are rough and jagged, others are sleek and curved.
And every time the customer uses the product, they experience that vision.
You might say: “But my business is in accounting software, not perfume.”
But you can still apply the same thinking. Experiential marketing relies on bringing together five distinct dimensions into one holistic experience:
Feeling. What will it feel like to use your product or service?
Sensing. How do customers physically sense your product?
Thinking. The experience still needs to take into account the rational, logical value of your product or service. How obvious can you make the benefits of your product? Can you illustrate its potential with a demo?
Acting. What behaviours will your product help to facilitate? Changes in behaviour can be highly motivational and empowering, such as Nike’s classic Just do it tagline.
Relating. How does your product or service link the customer to others, or even to a projection of their future self?
As the Chinese proverb goes: “Tell me and I'll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I'll understand.”
Copyright © 2014 Richard Edwards, director of event and customer experience specialist Quatreus.