Designing brand experience is an artistic approach to the brand purpose that can be an important aspect of winning consumer’s heart and mind and mapping consumer journey. In today’s brandy-brand world, like everything else in brand management designing purposeful brand experience is the most sought-after brand strategy. The process is intense and required well-designed game-plane because it is about how do companies go about designing experiences, as a way to differentiate their brands, it might be useful to think about how companies think of differentiation in the more traditional sense.
One-way companies have visualized is differentiation through performance curves, which is also known as value curves. But what companies are doing that they are going from the various attributes that their products and services have to the consumer benefits. And then they ask themselves for this consumer benefits. For example, how white is any company washing powder wash, or how reliable is any company’s service? And of course, the most important one may be or one of the most important ones is it is affordable. Companies must know what cost is offering it? Is your brand affordable to the customers? And the companies can kind of visualize that the value companies provide based on that. And companies can think about well how do they line up. Companies must consider the comparison to the competition and look for those points of difference. Now, these tend to be kind of measurable components of the companies offering, quality dimensions, and tend to be quite functional as a result. Now if that’s the spine that’s driving company’s differentiation that passed, things have shifted quite a bit. The spine for an experienced delivery is the customer journey.
What are the different journeys one company’s different customers go through as they interact with their offering over time, and across different parts of the organization? Whereas service in the old model tends to be quite reactive, problem-oriented. This is real events and experiences companies should have that kind of celebrate the brand, and maybe shine a bright light onto where the companies have a point of difference, in terms of the brand purpose or the brand positioning. And importantly, it’s also about making that journey as smoothly as possible. Just from an experience standpoint, and just to what any brand appetite is to think of the most mundane products or services and how companies can enhance them with an experience. And of course, for some brands, the experience is core to their brand promise. For Disney, the magical experience you have in their theme parks. For Nespresso, the experience you have in making coffee.
Of course, companies want to offer an experience which can benefit them in building their brand image. In very unsurprising ways, things companies don’t think or even observe as companies, they destroy the customer experience. Moments which we think are insignificant, like two staff members talking to each other In the store might be seen not as insignificant, but as indifferent or signally indifference towards the customer. So really nothing is neutral when it comes to the experience and it’s sometimes taking those very mundane aspects of the experience and branding them.
For example, Singapore, where the brand is about customer service. The flight attendant, which they’re called in the old days at least, Singapore girls, if you went to the bathroom, you would return and you would see your seatbelt folded in a certain way on the aeroplane. Which signalled the attention to detail, the service orientation, of the company. And many companies have also transformed themselves from being product providers to experience providers.
Another example from Hong Kong is Hong Kong Gas or Town Gas. They isolate. Now, these are monopoly providers. Their competitor is electricity providers in Hong-Kong and them kind of really went down that route of efficiency. So, how do I provide you with this commodity, the gas at a lower price?
And the first app they produced was also to, you could read your gas meter by yourself. We didn’t have to invest in the cost of the person coming to your home and reading your meter. But then something happened inside the company, they asked themselves the question, well who are our best customers? Why are they using gas? And it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that our best customers are those who love cooking. They cook with a very high hit in those works, they use a lot of gas so they said, well, what is the purpose of us providing gas? And that purpose became very much around cooking. And rather than using the mobile app to reduce cost. They said, well how can we enhance that brand purpose? So how can we share with our consumers’ recipes, for example? How can we give them tips for cleaning their pots? And rather than preventing our people from visiting our customers. Let’s think about all the touchpoints we have and turn them into kind of the voice of the customer. They learn about the customer so we can enhance our services and customer experience. They visited their customers much more than the companies that made the woks or even designed the kitchens and they became such experts, that they have their range of kitchenware. They even have a restaurant called Flame, where they have cooking demonstration classes for their customers. And this permeates the entire organization, the senior management including the CEO will spend time visiting customers in their home to be reminded of the purpose, which is really about the customer experience around cooking. And surprisingly they’ve won major awards and they’ve continued to win major awards for their services going forward. They’ve also built such a strong customer relationship that they now have their credit card service and gas you might imagine is really about safety. They even offer insurance to their customers. They’ve gone from providing a commodity product which is gas. To a customer relationship around cooking and safety in the broader sense. They now own the customer relationship and it’s transformed their business.
Companies can already see in that story from Hong Kong gas, their seven or at least seven stages in terms of designing and delivering on a customer experience that is on-brand. The first one starts by understanding what the brand purpose is from an experiential component. It’s about doing. Why am I doing this? Why am I buying this product? And that’s really, one can call it designing the purpose and if you think about it, well for Hong Kong Towngas, this was about cooking. For Nike, it might be about running. And to understand what that purpose is, from a doing standpoint, that already puts companies into the realm of experiences. And then companies think about that purpose.
The second step is to understand the customer journey, and you want to map that out. What are all the different “things” that customers are doing? Well, they’re learning about your product. They’re navigating the information. They are buying. They’re trying. They’re using. They’re disposing of. These are all different events, if you will, in that journey. And you want to map those out, not just from a basic service standpoint, but from a brand standpoint. Is it undermining companies brand promise, or is it demonstrating, delivering on the brand promise? Not like slapping your logo on something, but maybe like in the Apple store, the idea of creating, being creative, being evident at each of those steps and adding up consistently.
Now to deliver on that, of course, companies have to map the various touchpoints of the organization against those different moments that matter in the customer journey, that’s the third aspect. Think about your organization, how it has all those various silos. And the customer is cutting across them over time. Across these different touchpoints.
The fourth step then is to think about, well how do I go from maybe a generic or poorer experience to creating one that is meaningful, rich, and on-brand. How do I express the brand experientially? That’s the fourth step.
At times in brand building, it is very enigmatic when it comes to fulfilling customers’ needs and wants to match with the brand’s purpose. Peter Drucker who was voted as the ‘Management Thinker of the Century’ had a saying “the customer rarely buys what the business thinks it sells him.”
Many brands don’t actually know what they’re selling and to get to the core purpose of the brand really means to understand the core driver of your customer’s behaviour.
To understand the core purpose of the brand by the understanding of the core driver of customer’s behaviour lets create an action plan to cognize the concept. Let’s take Pakistani banks’ old age schemes deal with things like pension products as an example. Mostly their target is salaried class, who are worried about their old age and about the stable income pattern that they are used to it throughout their lives. What really trouble is that almost all banks in Pakistan haven’t done the appropriate research on the service.
They have forced notion about the service without appropriate understanding about retirement means to their target group and they got monotonous and traditional notions of retirement like; two old people on a porch, looking at the sunset, smiling at each other with family pictures at the background. They could enjoy the later years of their lives together. But it didn’t quite seem right. The banks should realize that they have an understanding of their target and they have been doing the research in the wrong way. They should also realise that to get to the core sort of the purpose of the brands’ services, these banks really have to sometimes get to the more emotional side of customers and using language is often not that easy.
In this case, these banks should ask the question slightly differently. These banks should simply ask their target group to keep on projecting themselves into the future. From where they are now into the future and when they do so they should realise that majority of customers are not worried about their retirement in any sense. What they have are big dreams. They wanted to start a business when the traditional time of retirement came or they wanted to progress to certain fields by gaining higher education or courses. Or they wanted to give back to society in terms of philanthropy or they wanted to live at some hill station in harmony and away from the worldly hustle-bustle.
Now, that is a deep customer insight and it really changed everything that these banks are so far doing. It could change their products because most of the products in the space are annuities, they kick in when one retires traditionally maybe around 65 and then you get a steady payment over time. But these big dreams, do not have the format of a steady payment over time. They come with a big payment at the moment of retirement. These banks should invent products. They also have to change the way the financial wealth planners interacted with these customers. It is a known fact that these banks and their staff are not used to speaking to their customers about their dreams. These banks should create some sort of a dream book, where the customers, typically a couple, can fill out their dreams into the future, which then provide a basis for the financial planner to engage with their customers. This can be a very powerful change for them.
Furthermore, yet another important example of brand purpose, created by Hilti, ‘makes construction simpler, faster and safer.’ Hilti Group was founded in 1941, evolving from a small family start-up to a trusted global business. Today, Hilti is still family-owned, with its global headquarters in the Principality of Liechtenstein, where Martin Hilti established the company more than 75 years ago.
Hilti understood very clearly that in business-to-business companies often forget that customers are not buying products. They’re buying solutions, and that’s been a big shift in business for many years. Hilti, where their business is fundamentally changed from selling tools, like drills and other power tools, to actually managing the tools for the customers. The customers, not only buying tools but solutions. They also do not want these tools to sit on their balance sheet. They do not know how to manage these tools and, Hilti, because they provided these tools to so many customers, invented different solutions, different services around this notion of tools for hire. So fundamentally changed the business model of Hilty and provide deeper and more purposeful value to customers.
It is important in brand architecture to think of brand purpose, starts with deep customer insight and it then means building a business around that deep customer insight that provides better value to customers.
Finally, it is very vital that companies’ employees understand the purpose their company is engaged in because of their high motivation. A deep purpose motivates your employees to be more productive, more engaged, and to provide more value to your customers. This has been shown in marketing and branding study after study. All of this has been shown to fuel productivity far more than any inspirational kind of speech that might have been given by the gatekeepers.
The brand purpose is what connects the brand to the customer, but it also connects the employees to the customer, through the brand
I am saying it a loud, please do listen carefully, in branding being different is not the same as differentiation.
By differentiation and by brand differentiation, we’re really talking about a difference that matters. That matters to consumers. A difference that’s relevant and it’s a difference that they’re willing to pay for and they are willing to acquire.
When we think about brands and the purpose of brands, often communicated through things like slogans, it’s good practice to actually think about what these slogans or these brand positionings, their brand DNA, their brand essence, whichever term you might give it. What does it actually mean?
It’s important for a variety of reasons. One reason is, that if your own people don’t understand what the brand stands for. It will not affect their behavior, they won’t know how to react.
But the question then is, how will their brand shine through? Will the customers actually know what you stand for? And I thought I’d give you a couple of examples of slogans, which are not exactly the same as the brand purpose, but they can get pretty close.
One of them is from United Parcel Service (UPS). Until 2010 the brand slogan was, ‘what brown can do for you.’ Now that’s a very internally focused slogan and part of their visual identity. That’s basically taking the brown of UPS and making it as part of their brand promise. It’s taking a colour, and that’s what the brand is about, the brand is a colour. And that’s not very powerful. This year they re-branded their slogan to, ‘united problem solvers.’ Now, that might seem a bit of an odd term, it sounds bit of like a labour union but what the brand is trying to signal is that the brand is about solving problems, not just logistical ones, but business problems overall. It’s taking their acronym UPS and given it secondary meaning.
Very much like BP, which used to be known as ‘British Petroleum’ rebranded as ‘Beyond Petroleum’ when they focused on green energy. It’s a shift more towards the customer in terms of solutions for UPS and towards the value to the environment for BP.
Let’s think about this in action for a brand which many of you will know, Pampers. These are diapers or nappies depending on which market you might be in. If we go back to 2001, they were by then the largest single brand for P&G. It was a $3.4 billion for P&G. The problem was, it was shrinking. And it was a drag on the earnings of P&G overall. And it was about to be, well, activists were asking for them to spin it off. Push forward 10 years to 2010 and it became a $10 billion-dollar brand. Entirely through organic growth.
It’s a story told by Jim Stengel in his book ‘Grow: How Ideals Power Growth and Profit at the World’s Greatest Companies.’
And it’s one of the chapters where he talks about the story. It’s a story which was also presented on several occasions by ‘Saatchi and Saatchi’ which was the advertising agency that accompanied Jim and his team on this journey.
What did they do in order to gain more relevance for the brand? They did something very simple. They took a deep dive into the lives of their customers.
They tried to figure out what motivate mothers? Not just to buy diapers, but in general. Especially first-time mothers because that’s when they make their decision about diapers. And they typically then stay brand-loyal. Is it just about price where Huggies had really enjoyed market leadership? As a matter of fact, Huggies had become the number one brand in the US, the home market for Pampers, which was very, very painful.
It’s not just about that. If you think about being a mother or a parent, it’s about babies’ health. Babies’ development. That was the key consumer insight. And the question then was, how do I make these diapers relevant to baby development? The major commonality here was that most of these diapers, for them and their competition, it’s all about dryness.
Now how does dryness help baby development? It turns out, and Pampers did these studies, it helps baby’s sleep. If baby sleeps, they got the little sleeping habit here, if baby sleeps, that’s when the baby develops it’s mind and muscles. And of course, the parents get a bit of extra rest as well. So, P&G turned that into the foundation of their Pampers brand. They went away from dryness to better sleep. And that was a fundamental change. It was a change that did not just affect the slogan, if you will. Before the change Pampers was a very male dominated engineering culture. People in white frocks focusing on dryness and dryness metrics, focusing on product attributes. There were very few women comparatively speaking to other P&G brands working for Pampers, which is a bit surprising.
As part of this change, Jim Stengel and his team changed fundamentally everything about Pampers. The new headquarters became more baby and mother friendly, the colours were pink and apricot and the parking spaces close to the building were reserved for expecting mothers. The key metrics by which to evaluate the quality of the products went from dryness to better sleep. The values of the brand were aligned with the values of a parent.
Literally everything changed, including something that was almost holy to a P&G, which were the two-year rotations that the staff went through going from one brand to the other.
What P&G realized is even though it was a packaged product, they had to build the brand from the inside out. They hired people who had a passion for babies. Even if you’re in finance or if you’re the accountant, if you didn’t have a passion for babies, there are lots of other brands you might qualify for. But not so much Pampers. They also aligned the corporate social responsibility. Working with UNICEF about baby development, keeping babies healthy. That became the fundamental, and core purpose of the brand that also allowed them to move away from just dryness and diapers.
They moved into baby development into wipes, into products where baby had its first soap. Where they could wipe themselves for the first time. Literally, anything that had to do with baby development was now a fair territory for Pampers to compete in. That also built a very different relationship with mothers. Mothers don’t want to talk about dryness with a brand. That’s just a product attribute. Pampers village, which is a new website they developed, they can now have a conversation with mothers. Another core insight was that mothers thought of developmental stages. P&G engaged with mothers before baby was born, when baby was born, when it was a toddler, and so on. They built a true relationship over time with the mothers. Which also fuelled the development of different stages of diapers. Training diapers and so forth.
P&G have changed everything about Pampers, and it was driven by core consumer insight, which became the purpose of the brand that motivated the brand from the inside out, and even a packaged good category, it made it a huge success, so huge that it actually added to Huggies pulling out of European markets. With their lower cost diaper because Pampers had taken over that space.