Brand in the ‘age of customer experience’

Marketing has entered into the ‘age of experience’, as Paul Taylor describes it. The creative director – experience design at SapientNitro explains how companies can take advantage of this new era. 

 

What has lead to the ‘age of experience’

We all know that digital technology has shifted the balance of power from companies to consumers.

Back in the day, companies used to hold all the information and consumers were forced to choose products based on trust alone. Companies had no real impetus to deliver a great customer experience. Digital technology, and later social media, has changed all of this and armed customers with more information than ever before. Now, companies serve powerful customers.

We now live in the ‘age of experience’ as companies adapt to become more customer-centric. ‘Experience based differentiation’ is the strategy most customer-centric organisations are embarking upon which is great but can also lead to a lot of ‘me-too-ism’ as companies constantly copy each other’s customer experience advancements.

 

How ‘experience based differentiation’ fares in the long run

Great design is good for business – but it is also very easy to copy over time. Even your best efforts to differentiate on experience can be matched, and potentially improved upon by your competitors, often in a matter of days.

So what should you do? How do you prevent your competitors ‘me-too-ing’ your experience? The answer, coming from a UX Guy, may surprise some people:

Combine story and experience.

As showcased at the recent UX Australia conference in Sydney (repeated this week in Melbourne), combining branded storytelling and experience delivers your products and services in a way that is difficult for your competitors to copy.

There is lots of talk about storytelling among marketers and the marketing industry right now, and yes, storytelling is a great way to connect with your customers emotionally, and always has been. Most people also know that storytelling helps brands charge a premium for their product therefore it’s a very important technique that marketers can use to create value. But it is not the only technique.

The successful combination of story and experience is the formula that will deliver value and loyalty from customers. This is how companies can restructure with the agility they need to execute, beat, and differentiate from their competitors in a world facing continuous change.

 

How companies can move towards ‘story and experience’ differentiation

The first step towards this future model is to deep dive on your brand, develop a unique promise and create an Organising Idea to align stakeholders and inspire experiences for customers. An example:

X-Games Aspen established the Organising Idea of ‘Activate Awesome’ to inspire experiences. Yes, they implemented a new content platform allowing the publishing and sharing of awesome X-Games content in real time. This is what you would expect. However, on top of this X-Games developed the HypeMeter app where users can shake their smartphone to add ‘Hype Points’ around key events in the competition, and in the process creating a unique metric that no other media outlet can copy. Strongly embracing brand in this way allows users to become part of the X-Games story by playing their part to ‘Activate Awesome’.

Embracing brand to combine story and experience in this example not only resonates emotionally with customers, leading to loyalty, but also creates an experience that is very difficult for competitors to copy. This provides the X-Games with a defensible experience space to own.