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Experiences are what create memories. When you call to mind a particularly notable moment from your past, the reason it’s so clear is because of the experience it created for you. A great experience is a powerful thing: it generates emotions and has a lasting impact on the experiencer. That means that experiences offer an incredible opportunity for brands to connect with customers, fueling loyalty and growth. But how can a brand create an experience, and what makes that experience great?
Before we dive into the how-to of creating a brand experience, let’s first take a step back and clear up what we mean when we talk about a “brand experience.” Columbia Business School uses this definition:
Brand experience is conceptualized as sensations, feelings, cognitions, and behavioral responses evoked by brand-related stimuli that are part of a brand's design and identity, packaging, communications, and environments.
Put more simply, a brand experience is an in-person, live interaction between a brand and consumers. It occurs IRL, using real materials, locations, people, and more to tap into the five senses and turn the intangible concept of “brand” into something very concrete and present. Brand experiences are participatory and hands-on, with consumers taking an active part in the experience.
Brands have long been using live experiences as a way to build meaningful relationships with people, but technological advances have allowed them to become more involved and varied in recent years. By pulling in digital storytelling tools, social media, smart devices, and more, brands have virtually endless possibilities for building an experience.
It’s useful that there are now more options for brand experiences than before, because brand experiences are also more important than ever before. Both millennials and Gen Z value experiences over material objects, which means brands must think about more than just product features when trying to reach these groups. Plus, experiences trigger strong, lasting emotions, which improve the likelihood that a consumer will become an active advocate for a brand. In fact, a global survey showed that 59% of people value brand experiences for creating ongoing relationships.
On a more nuts-and-bolts level, brand experiences allow companies to collect important data about the consumers who participate in the experience, which can then fuel better marketing efforts. Plus, participants are likely to post about the experience on social media, expanding the reach of the event to those who weren’t able to be there in-person.
The idea of a brand experience can feel a bit abstract without some concrete examples to spark inspiration. There are a ton of memorable brand experiences to choose from, but these are some of our favorites:
There are countless other examples of great brand experiences, but the three above give a good sense of what’s possible.
So now you probably want to create your own brand experience that generates attention and leaves participants with positive, lasting impressions of your brand. Here’s how:
Delivering a great brand experience takes more thought and effort than many other brand-related activities. However, when done right, the payoff is undeniable.
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