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It's time to wake up to the value of brand experiences

Ben Reed, head of brand engagement for The Silvertown Partnership, believes UK marketers need to wake up to the value of brand experiences or risk looking out of step with industry expectation in 2016

In the days of technology, social sharing and an equally high emphasis on commoditisation of cheap, mass-produced goods, brands need to realise the value of delivering products and services with talkability and social currency. Customers expect to be able to feedback to brands about their goods and services in real-time via social media, but now they want to go one step further. Today customers want to be a part of the brand story and even help shape the final product or service, which is something that marketing departments need to be increasingly alive to.

This trend is transforming the traditional retail environment with more emphasis on creating brand experiences as opposed to sales opportunities.  Customers that invest in higher-priced, quality products want to learn about their favourite brands and understand the craft that justifies the price tag.

This month’s Louis Vuitton LV Series 3 is a fine example of this in practice, showcasing the brand’s past, present and future to consumers in an immersive and interactive experience.  Consumers can watch its famous bags being made by expert craftsmen on site alongside expert commentary from its brand ambassadors. They can see artefacts from the brand’s rich history, touch and feel garments and understand more about how technology helps build the product. B2B marketers can use this exhibition as an example of exactly how they can market their brand to a whole host of different stakeholders, building advocacy amongst staff, partners, clients and customers in the process.

Sonos Studio in London is another example where an incredible consumer experience is front and centre of the brand’s retail and marketing strategy. A new art gallery, café and workshop space from Sonos is a place for consumers to ‘hear music the way it should sound’ rather than a shop to buy its products. In the high street fashion world, House of Vans, the music art, street culture and skateboarding experience in London, has been so successful that a similar brand experience is launching in Manchester.

As well as retaining customers, brand experiences also offer marketers a chance to help contribute towards the acquisition of new customers and clients.  Experiences such as these highlight that a brand is open to collaboration with new organisations, creating mutual opportunities for all. 

Such collaborations are an effective way to showcase your brand to another market as well as enabling you to stand out within your own. A good example of this would be the launch of O2 Priority Moments where a large number of brands from various industries came together to provide journalists an insight into what benefits O2 customers would receive. Brands that signed up as launch partners such as Ask Italian, Odeon, WHSmith and Harvey Nichols were allowed to look innovative within their markets, whilst also benefitting from the B2B marketing leverage the O2 machine could provide.

Enabling customers and businesses to experience your product is now an active requirement. But despite these compelling examples, this market is still in its infancy. Moving forward, brands have huge challenges to navigate; both in terms of how they build their customer and marketing strategies as well as looking at infrastructure as increasingly the environment no longer cuts it for tomorrow’s customers.

What these hugely successful examples demonstrate is that there is real appetite from customers for a different type of relationship with brands and brand experiences are going to become increasingly important moving into 2016.