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Brand experience examples and best practices

We believe 2010 will be the year of experience brands, because marketers are ready to bring new discipline to what they've been doing for years: orchestrating all their touchpoints to create a consistent brand experience and achieve a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

We're committed to bringing thought leadership to this dialogue-starting with a new article that defines experience brands, cites some experience brand heroes and points to ways experience brands can improve ROI.

Brand experience examples and best practices

  2. 2. At the dawn of a new decade, amidst a proliferation of new ideas and opportunities, we believe marketers can set their course guided by one overarching principle: that the brands that lead in the 21st century will be experience brands. The more that marketers can build experience brands, the more they will succeed. This begs the question: what exactly is an experience brand? This article is the first in a series on experience brands to be published by Jack Morton in 2010. We start with the essentials on the pages that follow: * Definitions: brand?makes an experience brand an experience What The brands that * Examples: What areWhat do experience brandstotoday?by notable lead in the 21st century will be * The business case: brands? becoming experience companies stand gain experience brands. Liz Bigham Director of Brand Marketing Jack Morton Worldwide 2010: THE YEAR OF EXPERIENCE BRANDS /2
  4. 4. EXPERIENCE BRAND? WHAT’S THAT? Defined literally, a brand is the identifying marks, names and words that distinguish one company’s product or service from another’s. But more meaningfully, a brand is a promise—a distinct value offered. And in the most meaningful sense, a brand is a promise kept— through experiences that deliver on that promise at every point of interaction with the brand. The first fundamental of being an experience brand? Following are five fundamental truths about experience brands. The first fundamental of being an experience brand? Delivering on your brand promise at every point of interaction. Delivering on your brand promise Because you can talk all you want, you can spend all you want on carefully crafted messages, but at the end of the day, what people at every point of remember is what they actually experience. interaction. 2010: THE YEAR OF EXPERIENCE BRANDS /4
  5. 5. Your brand is formed primarily, not by what your company says about itself, but what the company does. Jeff Bezos, Amazon 2010: THE YEAR OF EXPERIENCE BRANDS /5
  6. 6. You’re defined by what you do—not what you say. So… * If you saytheir questions,your topan experience that defines can’t answer customers are that’s priority, but your call center your brand as the opposite of “customer-focused.” * If you say customer communityloyalty, but youwith each other easy for your you value customer to connect haven’t made it and influence your next generation of prospects? Again, your experience contradicts your promise—and your brand will suffer. Every interaction is an opportunity: those aspiring to be experience Every interaction brands should holistically assess all the touchpoints that comprise their is an opportunity. brand for stakeholders. In theory, no experience is too small to qualify, but different companies will weigh touchpoints depending on needs, resources and whether they’re a product or service-based brand, B2C or B2B. 2010: THE YEAR OF EXPERIENCE BRANDS /6
  7. 7. The second fundamental of experience brands: they’re true “people brands.” Experience brands don’t just say that people matter—they take a “brand2everyone” approach that puts that commitment into action, at every level in the organization. Think of US apparel retailer Patagonia. The passions that motivated founder (and Let My People Go Surfing author) Yvon Chouinard—outdoor sport, environmentalism, global good citizenship—are authentic to its staff and proved out in its HR, The second operations and CSR practices. Or online retailer Zappos, whose CEO Tony Hsieh is the “cheerleader in chief” behind its zealous customer service ethos. According to a New Yorker profile, “He talks fundamental of about being the architect of a movement to spread happiness, or experience brands: ‘Zappiness’,” and inspires that in employees. they’re people The third fundamental of experience brands: they build relationships brands. The third: they based on values of authenticity and the “three R’s”—what’s real, right and relevant when the brand comes together with its communities. That authenticity really comes through because experience brands value authenticity promise values that are truthfully delivered by people across the and the “3 Rs”--- organization, from the CEO on down. They feel authentic to customers what’s real, right and end-users because they are core to the brands at the level of and relevant for corporate and cultural DNA. their brand and its The belief this inspires is one reason why you’ll find, among the ranks of experience brands, so many that you’d also describe as fan people. brands, community brands, tribal brands, brands that have and are embraced by communities that not only buy, but also talk, promote and share their experiences with others. 2010: THE YEAR OF EXPERIENCE BRANDS /7
  8. 8. That’s a great set-up for the fourth fundamental of experience brands: they aggressively seek out the participation of their stakeholders. Experience brands invite participation in three key ways: * they welcome ideas fromadapt the brand to their needs the outside * they empower people with the social web to * they’re trulysocial media not as the channels—Twitter versus They think of engaged Facebook—but as a strategy of interaction where their people (even c-level people) both talk and listen. Above and beyond their digital footprint, they invite customers, users and staff across functional areas to share their input and ideas as part of a cultural commitment to innovation. Google is an exemplar: the very first of their famous “9 Notions of Innovation” is: “Ideas come from everywhere.” The fourth fundamental of And finally, experience brands are not afraid to empower users to adapt and play with the brand. NIKEiD and Vans customized shoes experience brands: are familiar examples of how this plays out thanks to the power they aggressively of mass customization; Google invites users to create fan logos; seek out and more recently, following the devastating earthquake in Haiti, gave site visitors the ability to control camera angles as participation. online footage was playing. 2010: THE YEAR OF EXPERIENCE BRANDS /8
  10. 10. An important complement to all this active participation and outside thinking: experience brands are famously good at inventing new ways for people to interact with them, above and beyond the products and services they sell. So that’s the fifth fundamental of experience brands: they invent new experiences beyond their core offering that differentiate them from their competition. In some instances, companies can add new revenue streams by going into the experience business, creating physical destinations or transactional happenings that are so great, so different, people will pay for them. Yet incremental experiences do not have to fit this literal interpretation; there are robust opportunities to create new experiences that aren’t The fifth dependent on a physical destination or so costly to undertake. For fundamental example, smart companies transform corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives into new experiences—think of Nike+ Human Race of experience or’s PowerMeter. brands: they Ultimately, every experience brand is unique—and they’ll tailor these invent new incremental experiences accordingly. experiences, new ways to interact. 2010: THE YEAR OF EXPERIENCE BRANDS /10
  11. 11. 3 gREAT EXPERIENCE BRANDS Experience brands are not all B2C, lifestyle-driven brands—they’re B2C and B2B, product-based and service-based. Truly, any brand can be an experience brand. That said, there are overarching principles that hold true for all experience brands. Every experience brand must optimize the following core elements: * The digital experience (since mobile devices and computer screens discovery experience (how people learn about you) * The today’s default shopping mall and town square) are The experience * The customer experience (what happens in store or when customers are in market) they create around their * The user experience (what happens after the sale) with you products or * The community experience (how stakeholders connect and one another beyond what you sell) services is as carefully thought * The employee experience (how vision) potential recruits align around core values, culture and staff and through as their So what does that look like, in action? Sketched out on the pages that products and follow are three exemplary experience brands. Radically different services. in their business models, they’ve all transformed experience from a marketing channel to a point of differentiation. The experience they create around their products or services is as carefully thought through as their products and services. This isn’t a ranking of top experience brands, but an effort to define by example. We’ve purposely left off some of the more obvious experience brands—like Apple and Starbucks. Look for our experience brands ranking in a future article. 2010: THE YEAR OF EXPERIENCE BRANDS /11
  13. 13. zIPCAR Tiny compared to the other experience brands cited here, Zipcar introduced car sharing to the US with its 2000 launch—and has built an hourly car rental brand so distinctive that giants like Avis and Hertz are moving into its core market. Still, Zipcar’s CEO told they’ll be a $1 billion company in under five years; they’re growing at about 30% a year. Here’s what makes them an experience brand: * convenient, web-enabled whatso simpleselling isbe expressed in it’s Zipcar is crystal clear that and they are it can an experience: four simple steps. Fortune calls it Netflix for cars. zipcar is crystal * Zipcar is flawless at the first fundamentalpointexperience brands: of clear: it’s selling delivering on its brand promise at every of interaction. Its voice threads through everything from the reservation process to its an experience. iPhone app to the emails users get if they return a car late. Voice and personality are so strong that customers are made to feel they’re part of a community of like-minded people—despite the fact that it’s possible to be a frequent customer without ever seeing a Zipcar employee or another customer (rentals are handled online and pick up is self-service). * Zipcar has consistentlypresencenew heavily urbantoUS business— expanding from its initial added in experiences its markets to universities and programs for business, and more recently leasing its proprietary technology to city governments that need it to better manage their sizable car fleets. Others are looking to Zipcar to help prepare for a future of plug-ins and electric car grids. Even big car brands like Toyota and Ford are talking to Zipcar about how the experiences they create might be complementary. 2010: THE YEAR OF EXPERIENCE BRANDS /13
  14. 14. IBm One of the most respected companies in the world, IBM is ranked among the most powerful brands in the world by BusinessWeek and Interbrand—one of just three B2B brands that consistently number among the top 10 (the other two being Intel and GE). What’s truly exemplary about IBM is how it has maintained that brand and its core promise even as it has continuously evolved its business. Behind this evolution lies great experience brand thinking: * IBMis famous: according to itsitsChairman & brand Sam Palmisano, culture staff—“IBMers”—are front-line CEO, advocates. Its “[IBM’s] revolutionary idea was to define and run a company by a set of strongly held beliefs.” It is consistently ranked high on Fortune’s Best Places to Start a Career and has an authentic commitment to social media as part of its corporate culture and communications. Conversations like IBm’s are * IBM’s “Smarter” campaign takestoacreateidea—“welcome to the decade of smart”—and extends that core “a global conversation hallmarks of about how the planet is becoming smarter” across an array of industry an experience sectors and communities. What IBM can do to make cities smarter, or brand. healthcare smarter, or energy smarter—conversations this compelling are hallmarks of an experience brand. IBM has also done a great job of extending them through high-level events like its Smarter Cities conferences around the world. * IBM has consistently innovated the platforms through which it hosts conversations with its communities—resulting in new experiences that may counter conventional wisdom. It has been called a “pioneer in what today might be called open or crowd-sourced employee innovation” for a staff innovation program it founded in 1928. It made an early stake in Second Life with its IBM Briefing Center, a virtual presence it has maintained. 2010: THE YEAR OF EXPERIENCE BRANDS /14
  15. 15. LEgO Children around the world spend 5 billion hours a year playing with LEGO’s trademark plastic bricks, famously dubbed the “toy of the century” (the last one). After some rough years, LEGO is being hailed by the Harvard Business Review for a comeback that’s (arguably) fueled by experience brand thinking and that sets it up for great success in the years to come. Here are some of the reasons LEGO wins our vote as a great experience brand: * LEGO sees a strong link between the brandthey’reemployees.they seekers are advised that no matter its role and seeking, Job should understand and embrace its vision—because it’s “values that make the LEGO brand unique—and give us an edge on all the others.” LEgO constantly innovates how its * LEGObrand and innovates howThey’ve created(kids) can connect with the constantly each other. its passionates a vibrant social passionates can networking site for kids as well as LEGO Universe, a multiplayer connect with the online game environment, all while maintaining their most robust model and game products, not to mention Legoland theme parks brand and each and destinations. other. * LEGO has innovated newDesign byME, that invite consumers to become creators—like LEGO experiences where consumers create their own LEGO design online and then receive a custom kit (right down to the box and building manual) in the mail. * LEGO issponsor of toThe FIRST LEGO League,not just customers. It’s a title commited kids as future innovators, an international organization that gets kids engaged in robotics. Over 150,000 kids in scores of countries solve hands-on competitive challenges that empower their creativity and inspire them to careers in engineering and technology. 2010: THE YEAR OF EXPERIENCE BRANDS /15
  17. 17. WHAT’S THE ROI OF BEINg AN EXPERIENCE BRAND? There are a lot of ways that being an experience brand can pay off for the companies that achieve this status. Here are four core metrics: 1. Employee performance and retention Because experience brands understand and leverage the impact employees have on customers, they invest in employee engagement that creates better alignment and performance in support of brand and business goals. Because employees feel valued and engaged, they want to stick around. The combination of these two factors increases staff impact while lowering costs due to attrition and Experiences may retraining. be experienced 2. Efficiency of marketing spend by few, but they Experience brands do things that people talk about and share. They are witnessed provoke conversation. They have stories that people want to spread. and talked about And when they make an investment in creating an experience for the people who matter most to them, those experiences may be by many. experienced by few, but they are witnessed by many. 3. Customer acquisition and loyalty Because they promise and deliver a great experience, experience brands win customers more quickly and keep them long-term. Because they invite interaction and engagement, they are able to take people on a journey from relative indifference to commitment and advocacy more quickly than other brands. 2010: THE YEAR OF EXPERIENCE BRANDS /17
  18. 18. 4. Customer revenue Because experience brands do a good job of inviting participation and sharing information, their customer communities are better educated— making them better and higher-value customers. Experience brands can measure impact both ways: what happens when they improve their experience, and what happens when their experience declines. BusinessWeek has reported that Best Buy’s improvements in employee engagement are directly tied to store profits. Starbucks, which innovated a “third space” experience brand but “For every suffered from over-expansion and extensions that weakened its core one tenth of a brand promise, has recently achieved a comeback that Forrester point increase customer experience guru Bruce Temkin has described as follows: “Nearly two years ago I wrote that Starbucks had lost its soul. That’s in employee why Schultz returned to his role as CEO in January 2008. Shortly engagement, after his return, Shultz took the unprecedented action of closing each Best Buy 7,100 stores for three hours to ”retrain” employees on the Starbucks store increased profits by experience.” Imagine a CEO shutting down the business to retrain employees on the brand experience. That sums up just how much ROI he feels $100,000 a Starbucks can win (or lose) on the basis of their experience brand. year.” (BusinessWeek) Not every brand is Starbucks. But every brand can be or become an experience brand—and reap the benefits. 2010: THE YEAR OF EXPERIENCE BRANDS /18
  19. 19. 2010: THE YEAR OF EXPERIENCE BRANDS We believe that this year will mark a new ascendancy for brands that are or seek to be experience brands. We’re committed to doing our part to contribute to the conversation about experience brands in a series of forthcoming articles that expand on key topics. Look for upcoming articles including: * employees brands are people brands: Engaging and leveraging Experience * Experience brands and Howsocial web brand thinking could the * reanimate athe dead:brand experience Back from dormant * Gotta love it: Experience brands and theirperformers passionates * The experience brand index: ranking top 2010: THE YEAR OF EXPERIENCE BRANDS /19
  20. 20. SHARE THIS EXPERIENCE If you like this article, please share it with your friends and colleagues SHARE ON DELICIOuS SHARE ON DIgg SHARE ON FACEBOOk SHARE ON LINkEDIN SHARE ON TWITTER SHARE vIA EmAIL Follow us on Twitter @jackmorton For more information, contact Liz Bigham at or 212-401-7212. 2010: THE YEAR OF EXPERIENCE BRANDS /20
  21. 21. Jack Morton Worldwide is a global brand experience agency. We create experiences that strengthen relationships between brands and the people who matter most them—thereby helping our clients become talked-about experience brands. Rated among the top marketing service agencies worldwide, we integrate live and online experiences, digital and social media, and branded 3D environments that engage and inspire consumers, business partners and employees. Our staff work across the US, Europe and Asia- Pacific as part of an idea-led agency culture. © Jack Morton Worldwide 2010 2010: THE YEAR OF EXPERIENCE BRANDS 2010: THE YEAR OF EXPERIENCE BRANDS /21