Three Ways to Rethink the Brand Experience

By: Lindsay Wyskowski

Every brand wants visibility and loyalty, but it’s not as easy as simply securing a TV segment or posting on social channels. Brands need to break the mold. But where does that begin, and what considerations should be made? This was the topic of discussion at the Brandemonium conference I attended last month in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Cincinnati is the birthplace of branding – at least, that’s what they claim – so it’s a natural home for a conference like this. In its second year, Brandemonium brought together major brands from across the country and around the world like P&G, Chick-fil-A, White Castle, Arby’s and more to share their approach to various campaigns, engagement strategies and creative tactics meant to move the needle for their respective audiences.

Let’s be honest: it can seem like an uphill battle to stand out today. The news cycle and attention spans seem to be lacking any kind of longevity, and it’s not always easy to cut through the noise of competing brands and consumers. But this common thread of identifying and executing a brand experience was paramount to brands big and small who were on-hand to share through Brandemonium.

Here are a few of my favorite takeaways:

Make Them Feel Something

It’s not enough to simply show up and host an experience. There’s got to be more thought behind why you’re there and what lasting impression you’re leaving on your audience.

If you’re buying a ticket to something, like a concert, you’re expecting to feel a certain way when you’re there. That’s why you’re spending the money and making the plans! You’re doing or seeing something you love, potentially with people who are important to you, and you’re also likely creating a memory in the process. The takeaway from Brandemonium was that your target audience should feel the same way when they engage with your brand at an activation. Will they feel delighted, included, or accepted? Is the event just plain fun?

Tapping into emotions and interests will help your audience to create a memory. Then, when it comes time to make a decision, your brand will be top of mind because of the positive association with how they felt. Figure out what those emotions or passions of your audience might be, and integrate them into whatever event or activation you’re planning.

Even if you’re not planning an activation, this is something to consider in storytelling, too. P&G regularly brings emotion into their advertising (here’s a prime example), and their ability to make consumers feel something is unforgettable.

Rethink How You Use Data

Data is a critical piece to the traditional media and social relations approach we have taken in the public relations industry (and at Identity) for years. But data should be a part of how you develop experiences, too.

Instead of trying to guess what people want, utilize one of the many data sources out there to ensure what you’re planning really resonates with the people you’re hoping will show up and engage with the brand.

Data will also help you to measure how effective the experience was, by tracking attendees, sales, social posts, and sentiment. This doesn’t mean simply relying on one of the data tools in your toolkit. Create a post-event survey. Ask people how they felt about the brand before the event, and how they feel after. This is more effective than just measuring a numerical metric.

Pick the Right Partners

Experiences are more meaningful with the right partner by your side. In some cases this might mean the owner of the space you want to use, or a sponsor who is helping to fund your activation. But it also can mean finding someone who can bring new people to your brand.

One of the sessions at Brandemonium featured representatives from Graeter’s Ice Cream and Braxton Brewing Company to tell the story of how their partnership came to be for a new product, combining beloved ice cream flavors into a new craft beer. While Graeter’s has been around for nearly 150 years, Braxton is a relatively new brand, and they wanted to tap into the Graeter’s fan base.

The partnership led to a tremendous amount of earned media coverage and social buzz, but also allowed two brands with two unique brand identities to stand side-by-side to deliver a new experience in an authentic way. They even had people trying this new beer who had never considered themselves to be craft beer lovers before.

With more than 100 speakers, five topic tracks and two full days of sessions, Brandemonium was a prime way to start thinking a little differently about how to position (or reposition) a brand. Try implementing these three suggestions into your next marketing and communications strategy to evolve the way people interact with your brand and bring more value to the brand experience.