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Guest Blogger

by Laurence Parkes, Chief Strategy Officer at Rufus Leonard

The importance of brand experience 

It’s only relatively recently that people have begun to use the term ‘brand experience’ (BX) to talk about how a brand lives across all of the touchpoints that customers interact. Not only does brand experience impact how a customer feels about a brand, but it also has a significant financial impact on customer spend, loyalty and recommendations. Our research shows that top performing BX brands command 79% higher purchase intent and an average of 45 Net Promoter Score points than the lowest performing. Despite the clear business impact of having extraordinary BX, organisations continue to struggle to deliver consistent, connected and meaningful brand experiences.

The need for an overall measurement for brand experience

It’s critical to basing brand experience strategies on clear insight and measurement. For years, we used many of the traditional insight and measurement tools such as brand tracking, CSAT and NPS. However, we constantly found it frustrating that no overall measurement existed for brand experience. We knew that understanding this would help us identify moments across the entire customer journey where it’s most important for a brand to exceed customer expectations. It would allow brands to create roadmaps for where to concentrate their effort, as part of the journey to constantly improve experience across the board. That’s why we developed the Brand Experience Index (BXi), to fill this gap. It finally gives us an overall measurement for brand experience, something that has been to date virtually impossible to extract.

How the BXi works

The BXi has identified five core facets of brand experience that have a direct impact on customer loyalty. These include; ‘think’, which refers to a brand’s ability to communicate its purpose; ‘sense’, where a brand engages customers through the five senses using immersive experiences; ‘feel’, which involves creating emotional impact; ‘do’, whereby a brand facilitates behaviours and solves problems for consumers; and ‘connect’, which involves inspiring a sense of belonging.

We then conducted a survey of 2,000 UK adults to gauge their views on 30 preselected brands across the B2B, hotels, supermarkets and financial services sectors. Respondents were asked to rate the brands according to the five facets using a seven-point scale. The agency used the findings to create its Brand Experience Index.

Key findings

B2C brands can learn from B2B

A common marketing myth is that B2B trails behind the B2C sector by a couple of years. In fact, demand by institutional clients has driven greater sophistication in B2B brands, with personalisation and 1-2-1 marketing the norm for some time. So it’s no surprise that the B2B category is the highest-scoring BXi category. B2C brands should be looking to emulate B2B brands on these fronts.

Premium does not equal BX success

Two of the brands that lead their categories are value players (Premier Inn and Asda) beating more premium brands in their categories (like Marriot and Waitrose). This shows that extraordinary Brand Experience isn’t about throwing money around. It is about finding the right value exchange and surpassing your customers’ expectations. Over 15 years, Premier Inn has consistently communicated its promise of ‘A good night’s sleep guaranteed’ not only in communications, but also in genuine service offerings – like creating a premium bedroom experience with a choice of pillows and Hypnos mattresses. In a marketing landscape where taglines often seem hollow, the fact that Premier Inn stakes its name on a tangible benefit makes it meaningful.

Set expectations and then exceed them

One of our BXi champions is Lloyds Bank in the Financial Services category. The bank uses communications to clarify their purpose at both a group level, ‘Helping Britain Prosper’ and a brand level, ‘By Your Side’, setting high expectations. They are at pains to then exceed these high expectations by their high investment in key elements like their market-leading app. They have taken steps to join up their channels, so a visit to the branch reflects changes made in the app or online. The numbers highlight their achievements in the last year alone: underlying profit increased by 8% compared to 2016, plus, the number of mobile banking users increased to 9.3 million

Top tips on how to ensure extraordinary Brand Experience

Express

Leading organisations have a clear purpose that speaks through their brand, and everything they do is consistent with that central thought. Your brand is something that transcends an advertising slogan, and isn’t locked away on a website – it’s something customers feel whenever they interact with you. There are two steps to a successful brand expression. First, communicate your purpose clearly, then follow up by making it real, everywhere.

Commit

This principle is about what goes on behind the scenes in a brand-focused organisation. Bringing a large company, from head office to the front line together, to deliver an exceptional brand experience, is not something that happens by the CEO’s diktat –the entire organisation has to be behind it. It doesn’t come naturally to many companies to commit to change which involves both ‘heart’ (‘What will inspire our people and our customers?’) and ‘head’ (‘What are the operational barriers? Does this align with our business strategy?’), and there’s the challenge. We have developed many tools to help organizations achieve this difficult task.

Innovate

Market-leading brand experience is always evolving, even if this isn’t readily observable. No leading BXi company has coasted on its reputation – they are constantly renewing and refreshing their approach to this aspect of their business. This sense of continual innovation in service design and digital service delivery is common in high-performing brands. However, innovation doesn’t have to mean bleeding edge technology. Premier Inn shows how overdelivering in one moment of the brand experience with something as basic as a choice of pillows, can be a meaningful innovation in the eyes of the customer.

How BX will evolve over the next 12 months

As the channel and media landscape continues to fragment, consumer expectation about the channels that they expect to interact with brands will keep growing. Consumers will expect to be able to contact brands through voice (e.g. Alexa), social channels (e.g. whatsapp) and chatbots. They will expect brands to seamlessly track their conversations across these multiple channels. This poses both technical and cultural challenges for brands. There will be an increasing need to have technology that can make it simple for customer service staff to track the conversation. It will become essential that employees are trained on how to talk in the brand’s voice in very divergent contexts. Ultimately, however, businesses that keep consumer needs and their brand promise at the heart of their investments will continue to succeed. Our Brand Experience Index methodology will help organisations to do this.

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