Brand experiences live entirely in the mind of your audience. That’s why it’s so hard to define and discuss. A brand experience is not a package, it is not a retail environment, and it is not an advertisement. All of those elements contribute to a brand experience, but none of them are the brand experience. A brand experience isn’t tangible. It’s the byproduct of our thoughts, our feelings, and our behaviour. It’s also highly personal. There’s no way for me to know whether or not your experience with a given brand matches my experience.

To generate brand equity you deliver an experience that meets or exceeds the expectations set by your brand promise. 

In a 2009 study that appeared in Journal of Marketing, the branding community received a useful framework for measuring the strength of a brand’s experience. Using quantitative methods, this study divided the brand experience into four components:

  • Sensory: when a brand makes a strong impression by appealing to our five senses
  • Affective: when the brand conjures strong feelings or sentiments
  • Intellectual: when the brand makes us think more, or induces us to think in a specific way
  • Behavioural: when the brand stimulates us to do things or change our behaviour as a result of the experience

 

Each of these four factors could be independently traced to what differentiates one brand experience from another. They are also reliable predictors of brand attachment and brand preference. For simplicity’s sake, you need to remember only three: A brand experience influences what we think, feel, and do as a result of interaction with the brand. Think, feel, do.

To truly surpass the expectations of your audience at the point of delivery, these three dimensions of experience differentiate the mediocre brand experiences from the great ones.

Crucially, however, it is worth noting that there is no such thing as no brand. There are only bad, mediocre, and great brands.

— The three essentials to a brand’s financial success —

Meaningfulness

Rather than try to figure out which brand is best, people are drawn to the one they find most meaningful. Without meaning, brands would have no value; everything would be a commodity, and a physical or tangible advantage would eventually erode as competitors copy, blunt, or supersede it. On average, brands that are highly meaningful, different, and salient derive over three times more of their volume from the strength of the brand than those that are low on meaning, difference, and salience.

Differentiation

Experiments in behavioural psychology have demonstrated that when similar alternatives compete against each other, they all become less attractive. When a consumer is considering less familiar brands, the one offering something truly different will be chosen more often and can charge a higher price. On average, brands that are highly meaningful, different, and salient command a price 14% higher.

Salience

Salience gives a brand an advantage because of the habitual nature of human behaviour. Consumers rely on mental shortcuts, or heuristics, when they make their brand decisions, and they assign greater importance to things that have ready mental availability. The effect is that consumers will often choose the brand that is the most salient. On average, brands that are highly meaningful, different, and salient are four times more likely to grow value share in the next 12 months, with an average increase of 6.9% per year.