Brands built through experience will succeed better than those built through communications
Too often these days, our industry sees brands as the sole product of advertising and communications. This is understandable as communications are the core of what we do.
But we have to remind ourselves that the most successful brands are built around a purpose. The top fifty fastest growing businesses between 2000 and 2010 were built with defined ideals. Google’s is to “organize the world’s information”, Innocent Smoothies’ is to “make natural, delicious food and drink that helps people live well and die old”. This clear purpose results in brands that have a richness that, while defining their behavior in the real and virtual world, will leave behind a cultural legacy.
The tail has been wagging the dog since advertising became popular as a medium and we need to re-think about how we contribute to building brands. A standard advertising and communications led approach is a powerful way to immediately reach a mass audience with a brand’s world, inviting consumers to take part and engage. But it’s exhausting, relying heavily on continued media spend for what is, in essence, a one-way conversation.
The alternative is the experience led approach – a far more robust and sustainable way of building brands. This approach creates a Perpetual Experience Engine between product and service experience and cultural imprint a brand can leave in society – through language, occasionality and shared experiences. This virtuous circle grows sustainably on its own, driving sales as it does, and while this growth can be accelerated with advertising or communications, it does not rely on it.
A wide range of brands have been built with this approach. They are constructed around a specific purpose, have a differentiated product and engage consumers in a very direct way. They rarely use advertising and communications in the early stages, instead relying upon the growth in culture such a strategy brings to build its audience. They focus on experience through disciplines such as advocate group engagement, shopper, packaging, content, events and social activation, and through developing their internal cultures, all in the name of living the brand they are representing.
Encouraging such ground-up approach provides exciting opportunities for agencies and clients to embrace. Brands should be organised around a true purpose, engaging staff and delighting customers, driving success and sustainability. In the digitally connected world this Perpetual Experience Engine is perhaps the only way to create a truly transcendent brand.
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