What Is Brand Experience Design?

Saleswoman with digital tablet at the shop

What Is Brand Experience Design?

What Is Brand Experience Design?

It’s time for brands to embrace their emotional side.

When consumer experience author Zhecho Dobrev surveyed more than 19,000 consumers in the US and UK, he found that for 59% of customers, emotional attachment was the biggest driver of the value they perceived in doing business with a company. 

 

“Emotional connection creates preference over the competition”
Zhecho Dobrev

 

Emotional connections play a fundamental role in determining levels of consumer loyalty and advocacy. Yet, just 39% of decision-makers feel their brand effectively resonates with prospective buyers.

If customers don’t feel any connection to your business, they will be far happier to switch to a competitor, and far less likely to recommend your brand to their friends and family.  

In response, an approach called Brand Experience Design has emerged. This aims to reinforce emotional connections by ensuring that every interaction between company and customer is consistent with the brand values and personality.

It is a holistic approach to customer experience which is considered by 70% of business leaders as a key factor in increasing brand awareness and differentiation.

In this article, we’ll explain the concept of brand experience, explore the benefits of brand experience, and look at what companies can do to strengthen emotional ties with their customers. 

What Is Brand Experience?

Brand Experience describes the emotional connections that people form about a brand’s identity, and its products or services. It’s essentially the way that people feel about a brand. 

Brand Experience
describes the

  • Sensations
  • Feelings
  • Behavioural Responses


That Customers Feel in Response to

Brand Stimuli

  • Brand Design & Identity
  • Customer Service
  • Product Reliability
  • Environments
  • Packaging
  • Social Media Posts

What aspects influence Brand Experience?

In short: everything. Every single part of the customer experience is taken into account, and every aspect should correspond to the brand’s identity. 

This means that the design of the physical store should match the design of the online store. Communications over social media should match the communications in traditional media advertising. The way in-store staff speak and behave should match the way after-sales support staff speak and behave.

In-store factors such as the lighting, the genre (and volume) of music being played, even the temperature, all are elements that can be adjusted to create a specific mood which is aligned with the brand personality.

Brand Experience will also influence recruitment policy, with companies looking to employ people who embody brand values, in the expectation that they will convey those values in their interactions with customers.

Brand Values & Responsibilities

Music Genre/Volume
Lively and loud music for a more energetic, younger audience. Calm and relaxing music for a more sophisticated feel.

Lighting
Lower lighting to create a more intimate environment, brighter lighting for vibrancy.

In-store Temperature
Younger shoppers favor cooler temperatures, while stores with more active browsing (like clothing) benefit from being a couple of degrees lower than for static shopping experiences (such as furniture).

Footfall Control
Stores that want a more dynamic environment will allow a greater density of customers, whereas reducing footfall can reinforce a sense of exclusivity.

Staff to Customer Ration
Typically the ratio of staff to customers is higher for luxury brands, where customers expect a more attentive service.

Range and Design
The product range should cater to the brand's target audience. For example, a luxury brand wouldn't offer a range of budget-friendly products.

Functionality
Functionality should be prioritized where the target audience is looking for a practical solution, but may be sacrificed for aesthetics, e.g. reducing storage space to make a device lighter.

Tactile Experience
Minimalist design might call for sleeker materials that feel cool and smooth in the hand.

Availability
Limited availability can be used to ensure exclusivity and increase resale prices.

Recruitment Policies
Hiring people whose personalities are more closely aligned with the brand identity makes it easier for them to convey the brand’s personality.

Training 
Training sessions allow companies to set the standards and style of communication so that it reflects brand identity.

Career Development
Companies with clearly defined identities will encourage and reward the development of skills (such as attention to detail for luxury brands) that fit that culture.

Employee Experience
If a company is a dynamic and lively place to work in, this will be reflected in the interactions staff have with customers. Dress codes can inform the formality of the service.

CSR Initiatives
Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives should resonate with target audiences and leverage emotional connections, e.g. a brand aimed at parents of young children may partner with a child protection charity.

Celebrity/Influencer Collaboration
Brand values should be reflected in the people a company chooses to partner with. They should be seen as credible and authentic choices, and whose fans or followers match the brand’s target audience.

Logo & Branding
The logo and branding are crucial to communicating the brand’s message and values. For example, bright colors and playful design would not be suitable for a serious financial institution.

Website Design
The design should evoke emotions appropriate for the intended user experience, e.g. muted tones to convey a more sophisticated feel.

Packaging
Luxury brands may opt for sleek packaging with premium finishes and elegant design features.

Store Layout
Navigation is a key element of the shopping environment, e.g. brands aimed at younger audiences may favor a layout which produces more dynamic flows.

Omichannel Consistency
Communications must be consistently in the brand voice, so that the personality of the brand is conveyed regardless of which channel a customer interacts through.

Brand Storytelling 
All elements of design and delivery should serve a narrative that reinforces the brand’s story and resonates with their target audience.

Packaging
Luxury brands may opt for sleek packaging with premium finishes and elegant design features.

Customer Service
A brand with an approachable identity might encourage customer service representatives to be friendly and chatty, while a brand focused on efficiency might prioritize quick problem-solving.

After-Sales Service
Customer journeys do not end at the point of purchase, and so brand voice and personality should carry over to after-sales services, such as knowledge bases and customer support.

What Is Brand Experience Design?

The aim of designed brand experience is to ensure that every time a customer is in contact with a brand – the experience is consistent with the brand’s identity. 

In the real world, this means that every time you interact with a brand – be they Nike, LEGO, or Taco Bell – you should be in no doubt which brand you are interacting with.

If we take outdoor clothing retailer The North Face as an example, they would probably want customers to associate their brand with a sense of adventure and expedition. This doesn’t mean that every time the company responds to an email they expect to make their customers feel like they are scaling a rugged cliff edge.

However, by responding in a way which is in keeping with the ‘world’ of The North Face, the customer relations team are reinforcing the idea that people have of that Brand, and the reason they have chosen to shop with them in the first place.

Of course, you can’t please everyone all of the time. No matter how carefully an experience is crafted, there will be some people it simply doesn’t appeal to. Therefore, it’s important that a company’s brand experience is designed to resonate with its target audience, rather than employing a one-size-fits-all approach.

Brand Experience

The North Face Store in Soho, Manhattan, Rolling out a Refreshed Global Retail Concept 

Why Is Brand Experience Important?

Given the crucial role feelings play in consumer choice, it is essential for companies to be aware of how customers perceive their brand identity, products and services. Devising coherent and targeted experience strategies can benefit companies in a number of ways: 

Improved customer loyalty and advocacy

It’s hard to overestimate the importance of retaining customers. It costs 5-10x more to acquire new customers than sell to existing customers, and existing customers spend 67% more than new customers.  

The values a customer sees in a brand – such as honesty, trust and integrity – create an emotional connection which plays a key role in establishing and maintaining loyalty.  

These connections also determine whether people will promote your business to people they have regular contact with. This is something that carries significant value for companies. According to Nielsen, 77% of consumers find word-of-mouth product recommendations from friends and family to be the most persuasive source of information. 

Experience aligns with expectation

When a brand delivers the experience a customer was expecting – whether that is through advertising in keeping with the brand image, or new products that complement their existing range – this reinforces the connections that people feel with a brand. Being able to easily categorize brands, and understand what they offer, enables consumers to make simple choices. 

For example, imagine you are hungry and short on time. You make an on-the-spot decision to eat at a McDonald’s as you expect it to deliver a quick, no-frills service. However, as you enter, you are greeted by a Maitre D, who offers to show you to a table.

This would not just be confusing, it would also make you question what you know about the brand, and may lead you to make a different choice the next time you find yourself needing a quick bite.

Experience Aligns with Expectation

Mcdonalds, Famous for Their Standardized Menus and Procedures. 

Brand differentiation

When consistent messaging resonates with its target audience, it can help consumers to form closer associations between a brand and its market.  

Where this is most successful, the brand becomes synonymous with a certain product or service area. For example, Kleenex, Chapstick and Sharpie all started life as brand names, but are now used to describe any brand in that product category. 

Increased customer value

Even in comparison to customers who consider themselves ‘highly satisfied’ (but not fully connected) with a brand, those who feel fully connected are 52% more valuable

Increased Customer Value

Source: Magids, Zorfass, and Leemon, The New Science of Customer Emotions, 2015 

Related Learn how we helped LEGO to evaluate their brand experience.

How Do You Design a Brand Experience?

Every brand provides an experience to its customers, whether by design or not. The challenge of Brand Experience Design is to shape this experience so that it fits with the company’s intentions.

Understand your audience

Customer Intelligence Research gives businesses insights into the feelings and perceptions that customers have around a brand, its services and products. It can highlight areas of disconnect between desired and actual emotional responses, and can help companies align their offer with consumer expectations. 

By understanding how people currently feel about their brand, a company can make meaningful changes to realign perceptions with their market objectives. This is particularly important for brands in the luxury sector.

An example of this in action would be the luxury clothing brand Burberry, whose products are aimed at the higher end of the fashion market, with jackets retailing at around the $1000 mark, and bags at around $1500-$2000. In the UK in the early 2000s, Burberry caps, with their distinctive checked pattern, emerged as a must-have item for young men, and became associated with soccer hooliganism.

Recognising the long-term damage this connection would have for the brand, Burberry acted. They reduced the amount of products featuring their checked design from 20% to 5% of their line, and took the caps completely off sale for around 13 years. 

Customer journey mapping

Mapping creates a visual representation of all of the interactions between a customer and a brand on a typical customer journey. This includes all of the marketing and advertising a customer is aware of before a purchase, the buying process itself, and after-sales care. 

By plotting – and gathering data on – these interactions, brands can see if there are any points in the journey where customer experience is negatively affected, or if there are any inconsistencies in brand experience.

As an example, a car manufacturer specializing in off-road vehicles may advertise itself as a market leader in reliability. However, if customers find broken links on the company website, this could lead them to doubt those claims. 

Of course, broken website links will have no impact on vehicle reliability. However, what it will convey is a sense of sloppiness, which stands in stark contrast with the image the brand wishes to present. 

Consistency is the key to brand experience. While emotions may rise and fall throughout the customer journey, it’s important that every touchpoint feels authentic to the brand.

Customer Journey Mapping

Broken Links Effect Reputation and Raise Questions about a Brand’s Professionalism. 

Related Read more about how Customer Journey Mapping can enhance customer experience.

Ensure your mission and vision are clearly articulated

Businesses should define their brand culture and make sure it is clearly communicated to everyone in the company. Employees need to know what their company stands for, and what its standards are in order to uphold them.   

If staff knowledge of company values and product range is inconsistent, this could indicate that training and messaging have not been effective, and that these shortcomings will need to be addressed before rolling out any future strategies. 

Employee engagement evaluation can gauge staff knowledgeability, and how keenly company messaging resonates with workers. It can also identify whether there are any issues which are impacting job satisfaction. For example, theme parks are advertised as a fun and action-filled family day out, and so visitors expect the customer-facing staff there to be upbeat and entertaining.  If customers are instead met by people who are unhappy and frustrated with their working conditions, this will have an effect on their experience of the park. 

Know your rivals

Competitor Analysis gives companies a more complete picture of the landscape they are operating in. Benchmarking allows them to understand their market positioning, what customers expect from a brand in that position, and the experience they are being offered elsewhere. 

An understanding of competitors’ value propositions can help brands develop points of difference, so they can offer consumers a distinct choice. 

As the market evolves, it’s important for brands to understand how their competitors are responding to changing customer needs. Competitor analysis can highlight new developments and strategies in the market, which helps brands ensure they are not left behind. 

This form of business intelligence can also identify niches within the market not currently being catered for, so that companies can attempt to fill these gaps, and grow their market share as a result.

Starbucks Issue Strong Values and offer customization as an advantage, unlike some rivals. 

Understand brand perception

Many consumers now expect brands to employ environmentally sustainable practices and engage in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities. Around 60% of people will pay more for products with sustainable packaging, and 44% of consumers globally say they are more likely to buy from brands that have made a clear commitment to sustainability. 

Brands that have a clear understanding of their values and mission work from more solid foundations when it comes to messaging, and are less likely to chase trends or overstate commitments and achievements. If Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a deep-rooted and essential part of company identity, then it should be championed. However, some 68% of online consumers are discouraged by poor, misleading or overstated CRS claims.  

The same is true of sustainability. In 2021, the European Commission estimated that 42% of brands’ claims around sustainability were exaggerated, false, or deceptive. Recently, H&M have faced a class-action lawsuit relating to its sustainability marketing, with the negative publicity in direct contrast with its considerable efforts to promote the brand as an ethical choice for consumers.

Final Thoughts

Brand Experience is holistic by nature, and strategies require full commitment from all parties if they are to be successfully executed. That can be a daunting proposition, and can involve a great deal of change and budget. 

However, companies can no longer ignore the extent to which emotional attachments and associations influence consumer choice. A study from Harvard Business School claims that a staggering 95% of purchases are directed by emotions which are formed in the subconscious. 

Brand Experience Design recognises the significance of these emotions in consumer choice, and aims to harness them in order to craft memorable experiences that increase customer loyalty, advocacy, and overall lifetime value.

Looking to enhance your customer experience? Service Evaluation Concepts have over 35 years of experience, partnering with companies of all sizes and sectors to support them in optimizing their brand experiences. Our solution analyzes, quantifies and reports on specific interactions in unique businesses. We can support you in providing greater value at every stage of the customer journey, based on actionable insights that matter.

Arcadio Service Evaulation Concepts

Arcadio Roselli

CEO & Managing Director of Service Evaluation Concepts. Dedicated to driving brand experience forward with the tools that ensure the reality in the the customer corridor is aligned with the promoted brand value proposition.