Todays consumers are confronted with countless choices and a multitude of
information to consider when they buy products or services. Traditional
promotional methods like advertising in magazines or on TV are no longer
as effective as before. How can a company help their brand stand out?
What will make their brand communication effective? In light of these
questions and many others, brand experience has emerged as an innovative
and compelling way to build a brand in the minds of consumers.
What is brand experience and experiential branding?
Brand experience can be thought of as sensations, feelings, perceptions,
and behavioral responses evoked by brand-related stimuli. The more
powerful the experience is, the stronger the brand impression. Brand
experience also affects consumer satisfaction and loyalty; it allows the
brand to sell products at a premium and to create competitive entry
Experiential branding is a process by which brands create and drive
sensory interactions with consumers in all aspects of the brand
experience to emotionally influence their preferences and to actively
shape their perceptions of the brand. Interactions involve communication,
brand space, and product and service elements. These elements work
together to affect brand equity.
How does brand experience build brand equity?
The combination of all interactions with communication, brand space, and
product and service elements, make up a customers brand experience. The
customer will then form a brand evaluation and perception based on these
interactions. This is what builds brand equity in the consumers mind, and
it is composed of four key dimensions: differentiation, relevance, esteem
and knowledge. Various experiential branding methods impact different
dimensions of brand equity, which must be carefully considered by
marketers or brand managers when utilizing these methods.
In this article we will discuss the four dimensions of brand equity, and
provide specific examples of experiential branding for each one, in order
to discover how this creative branding activity can be used successfully.
Differentiation: Perceived distinctiveness of the brand
Differentiation is a brands ability to stand apart from others, and to
gain consumer choice, preference and loyalty. It is the degree to which
consumers find a brand unique. A compelling and memorable brand
experience can attract customers attention and maintain their interest,
and therefore contribute to brand differentiation.
In recent years, companies like Nokia, Apple, Barbie, and Gucci have
opened flagship stores in China to provide more consumer-brand
interaction opportunities. The newly-built Barbie Store in Shanghai is a
6-floor megastore with a spa, design center, caf and interactive
activities designed for girls. It became a hot spot in Shanghai very
quickly, with thousands of girls now visiting the store every day. The
branded experiences provided by the Barbie store will undoubtedly serve
to differentiate the brand from
Flagship stores are one way that companies can connect and interact with
customers to participate in experiential branding. They are also places
to display limited edition products and unique service experiences, which
can communicate the companies culture and brand values in ways
traditional media cannot.
Relevance: Personal appropriateness of the brand
Relevance refers to how meaningful a brand is to their target consumers.
Relevant brands are both appropriate and appealing. Niche and growing
brands may choose to focus first on differentiation and then on
relevance, whereas leading brands will excel on all four dimensions.
Adidas Brand Center in Beijing is both experiential and meaningful for
customers, so it contributes to brand relevance. The retail center
features a range of interactive zones including miCoach Core Skills, the
recently launched miOriginals, mi Adidas, a juice bar, a dedicated
'Urban' area for exhibitions and events, a basketball court on the
rooftop, a Concierge Desk and a childrens area. As you can see, there are
products and interactions offered for Adidas various targeted market
segments, ensuring that the customers experiences of the Adidas
brand are highly relevant.
Esteem: Regard for the brand
Esteem measures the degree to which the target audiences regard and
respect a brandin short, how well it is liked. When companies grow larger
and become more mature, brand esteem becomes more and more important.
Today, companies often use indirect experiential branding methods to
build brand esteem. One way to do this is through the Internet and social
With the recent popularity of social networking services (SNS) such as
Facebook, Twitter, Kaixin001, Renren, and many more, forward-thinking
companies place their brand inconspicuously in the pages, games, and
posts, of these sites. SNS websites are a new media which stimulate
increased interaction with users. In the first half of 2009, Kaixin001
became Chinas most popular SNS with over 83 million registered. Brands,
media agencies, and organizations have used different approaches to
connect with the community and target its netizens. An impressive and
representative case is Lohas juice. It successfully promoted its brand in
the popular SNS game Kaixin Garden. Through this interactive game, the
juice brand not only promotes its products, but also portrays a lifestyle
and an attitude which influences the customers brand perception.
Knowledge: Understanding of What the Brand Stands For
Knowledge determines whether there is a true understanding of what a
brand stands for. Brand awareness is a sub-component of knowledge. The
level of brand knowledge is a signal of the companys past performance, as
well as a foundation for its further development. Positive and accurate
understanding of the brand amongst target consumers results in brand
However, it is not enough for a brand to tell consumers what their brand
means, they have to show them, and what better way to do this than
through brand experience.
This is what Nokia is doing with its global customer service and
experience center in Shanghai, which opened in August, 2009. The center
provides hardware repair and software services to users of its mobile
phones. The Shanghai experience center is a place for customers to learn
more about their Nokia cellphones and experience what Nokia brand stands
for. Helping their customers develop a deep and comprehensive
understanding of their company will help Nokia consolidate their customer
loyalty and brand equity.
As mentioned above, experiential branding, a creative branding process
through customer experience, contributes to brand differentiation,
esteem, relevance, and knowledge, and therefore is an effective way to
build brands. Through interactive technologies, innovative retail spaces,
and indirect online brand communication methods, consumers can now see,
touch, hear, taste, and smell brands in ways they never could before.
Flashy advertising and price-slashing product promotions are often not
sustainable methods for brand building. Experiential branding, with the
objective of building brand equity, has emerged as a promising and viable
Josko Brakus, J., Schmitt, B.H., & Zarantonello, L. (2009). Brand
Experience. Journal of Marketing, 73, 52-68.