The Pareto Principle tells us that, on average, 80 percent of products are purchased by just 20 percent of all consumers. This tells savvy marketers that making the sale is not the final objective. For any business to succeed, it is crucial to build a strong customer-brand relationship based on engagement, trust, and mutual respect. Jeffrey Gitomer sums it up succinctly: “Customer satisfaction is worthless. Customer loyalty is priceless.”
The relationship that your brand has with your customers is inflected in large part by the brand experience you offer. Your product does not exist in isolation. Your brand does not exist in isolation. Every aspect of customer engagement, from the first time a customer sees an ad for your product to long-term warranty servicing, is part of their overall brand experience.
Exactly what is brand experience? Brackus, Schmitt, and Zarontonello (Brackus et al 2009) define the brand experience as a set of consumer feelings, thoughts, and behaviors evoked by brand stimuli. Simply put, this means that every aspect of a customer’s engagement with your brand plays a role in the overall brand experience: it is how your customers see, think, and feel about your brand and your products.
In today’s digital world, a key question arises: How can digital media facilitate meaningful brand experiences? Between e-retailing, online promotions, and social media outreach, customers are connecting with brands more and more through digital platforms. Some brands have an almost purely digital brand presence: the entirety of the customer experience is enabled by online platforms. While this could be an extreme channel, every brand in every industry can leverage digital platforms to enhance their customer brand experience. Let’s have a look at some of the ways this can be accomplished:
1. Not too much, not too little: finding the golden mean in personalized advertising
Today, vast amounts of customer data are available to brands. It isn’t too difficult to identify who your customers are, where they live, what they’re interested in, or even the last items they added to their Amazon wishlist. It is possible for brands to anticipate precisely the kind of products consumers want and to then serve ads for these products. What’s important here is to draw the line between personalized advertisements--which have a high ROI--and privacy-invasive advertisements--which can drive consumers away. Optimize your data collection and ad serve processes to provide customers with advertisements that are personalized, but don’t make them feel as if their privacy has been violated. When you intelligently anticipate customer needs without coming off as threatening, customers will see your brand as responsive and catering to their specific needs.
For instance, look at this campaign by Amazon Echo that even went to win a Clio, The One Show and Webbys. Alexa’s #1 known use case is commands to play music and to use that key messaging, Blink Digital and Amazon came up with a unique way to showcase the device’s offering. Securing copyrights to hundreds of songs would have been expensive, time-consuming, and infeasible. Instead, Blink Digital took advantage of YouTube’s pre-roll ads for music videos.
Take a look at the campaign here: https://vimeo.com/306212764
Using a common template, hundreds of different pre-roll ads were created: in each ad, Alexa was asked to play a song—the music video that the user will next watch. The end result was a consistent, non-disruptive ad where the Alexa and Echo product positioning blended seamlessly into the user’s music experience, while demonstrating Echo’s capabilities.
The genius behind Blink Digital’s personalization approach with “Alexa Play My Song” was that it leveraged YouTube’s own personalization algorithm. Each pre-roll ad was tied to a specific music video of the same name. This ensured that only the people who landed on the music video—either through direct search or recommendations—would see the pre-roll ad. Blink was able to leverage Google’s AI-based personalization and recommendation system to deliver “Alexa Play My Song” pre-roll ads to just the right people.
2. Show your human side: engaging with customers at a personal level
Large businesses are inherently viewed by customers with a certain level of mistrust. This is because conventional communication between brands and customers has long been impersonal and alienating. It can be easy for customers (and brands themselves) to forget that brands are made up of people. Digital platforms offer brands a low-cost and low-effort means of engaging personally with customers. Many brands have discovered innovative ways of leveraging digital to engage with their customers on a personal level. Some brands like Wendy’s have gained fame for their saucy social media handles: by sharing memes and responding to trending posts, these social media handles tell customers that don’t always have to stay “on message” and perform the brand experience--it can come naturally, too. By reaching out to customers in ways that they easily relate to, brands use digital media to humanize themselves.
For instance, KFC collaborated with Blink Digital in 2016 on the memorable “Watt a Box Campaign” which garnered 86.8 billion impressions, 6.7 million interactions, and was even featured on the Jimmy Kimmel show. Laser-focused audience targeting was a key part in Watt a Box’s success. The campaign addresses smartphone charging, a relatable issue for affluent and upwardly mobile Millennial and Gen Z audiences, the exact groups who KFC—and other international fast food chains in India primarily cater to.
3. Leveraging digital to offer to unique experiences
A big part of the brand experience--and this is doubly true for brands in highly competitive markets--is about offering customers unique experiences: things your brand offers that no one else does. Digital platforms offer brands entirely new ways of crafting unique brand experiences for customers. For example, personal shopping services offered through live chat provide retail customers with high-end personal shopping experiences. Cab-hailing apps offer in-app music selection. There are countless ways in which the internet draws people, products, and services together. This creates numerous opportunities for brands to craft unique digital experiences for a trivial investment.
From e-commerce to digital adverts to social media, the future of brands lies in digital. By intelligently leveraging the opportunities this presents, brands can humanize themselves, craft unique experiences, and attentively anticipate customer needs. From first contact to the end of the relationship, digital offers ways to profoundly transform brand experiences for the better.