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Brand Experience - All Down to Experience

It is a commonplace that most people want to see and try a product before they buy it... but 'Experiential Marketing' has blossomed in the current era of integrated marketing and communications.

Getting consumers to experience your brand can be achieved through activities that build online clubs of like-minded people, who then become brand advocates.

Human beings are communal by nature. If you ask a group of people about their interests and how they spend their free time, most will say hanging out with friends and family. So it's not surprising that we have seen digital communities prosper in the past decade. What is perhaps more surprising is the low number of brands that have really recognised this trend and effectively created a prospering community and ongoing brand experience.

As brand communication through only traditional advertising has become less effective, and target audiences have fragmented, the need, and the opportunity, to bring the brand physically close to key target groups has become more pressing.

Brand experience marketing has blossomed. In its most advanced form, brands provide a complete experience and entertainment. Major firms, too, have created retail 'experiences', like Niketown, the Apple Store or Nintendo World, which offer brand users a destination store where they can get deep into the brands they love.

Those with different strategies - are more likely to use events, or a series of events, to reach their key customers. 'Road show' promotions - are used to involve customers and embody key brand values - effectively demonstrating how the brand's carefully targeted brand experience programme pays off.

Of course, an extra dimension has been added to brand experience by new technology.

Technology, first, enables a whole range of interactivity at the point of sale, or at an event or exhibition, to enable consumers to learn more about the brand, and to see it in action in whatever ways may be of interest.

Then, the ability to interact online, over the internet, provides apparently limitless opportunities - and the most potentially
  mass audience for any brand experience activity.

Effective experiential marketing is beginning to inform us about how experiential marketing can benefit brands.

Traditionally, marketers have defined brand experience as live events where consumers get a direct hands-on experience of the brand, such as sampling at a station, giving consumers the opportunity to try something new at a branded event or interacting with the brand at big mainstream events, such as festivals. These experiences are still important today. But they are part of a bigger picture for marketers trying to create compelling brand experiences.

Today's consumers aren't just influenced by what is happening in their immediate environment. Instead, their perspective includes both online and real worlds, without necessarily distinguishing between the two. Smart, forward-thinking brands have recognised the power of digital communities and are putting them at the very heart of their marketing and communication strategy.

Creating a prospering community isn't an easy or quick process. Each community garners interest from a specific group of users and helps the brand to engage with them on their own terms.

Brands need to commit to the community for the long term, allocating adequate resource to maintaining them. But why bother?To start with, community members are, by definition, more engaged with your brand than Joe Bloggs on the street, who may casually buy something from your brand every now and again. Engagement breeds loyalty, influence, recommendation to friends and, eventually, brand advocacy.

It is well established that our purchasing decisions, especially for repeat-purchase items, are heavily influenced by our experience of the brands concerned. What's more, we are influenced by the experiences of friends and family, and even of those - bloggers and brand/product raters - whom we have only ever met online.

It is no surprise, then, that the fragmentation of the marketing services industry has thrown up specialist firms offering 'brand experience' or 'experiential marketing' services.

Brand experience, starts with the product itself, but is - or should be - reflected in every contact aperture with the brand, whether with someone behind a reception desk or a shop counter, a security guard or a call-centre operator. In a world where every brand is nowadays a service brand, the brand experience needs to be conveyed seamlessly throughout the