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Simple is in: The New Wave of Brand Experience with Vibe and Ease
February 17, 2023
Author: Ethan Hanson, Experience Strategy Director
The future is begging for simplicity.
We’ve seen a wave of marketing and technology become one as data is infused into every aspect of our businesses and personal lives, with the expectation of personalization around each corner. We’ve witnessed the explosion of experiences as a catalyst for design thinking, user experience, sprints, and more.
We are now seeing the industry talk about brand and experience, but it’s often supported by a long list of what it means: brand design, brand ethos, nomenclature, messaging, positioning, design thinking, personalization, customer support, brand image, user experience, brand voice, optimization and more.
This long list reminds me one of Albert Einstein’s commons statements, “Genius is making complex ideas simple…” and causes me to consider and pause for a moment, ‘if brand experience were simplified what would that look like?’
The short list would simply include brand ‘vibe’ and ‘ease’ under the dome of brand experience.
Brand experience is the life of an organization, it’s the emotional connection and interaction between a company and a consumer.
I suspect if you were to take a moment to consider the brands you use, there are only a few that come to mind you both have an emotional connection with and are easy to interact with. That’s because it’s hard. It takes key players in the organization and a clear focus to make it happen. Let’s look at the two imperatives of brand experience: vibe and ease.
CREATING A UNIFIED VIBE
Defining brand vibe
Brand vibe is the emotional connection created with a consumer through a series of interactions or a single event. The vibe developed does not happen accidently, it’s curated, thought through with buy-in from the top, and stretches across the organization.
Consider this – if your brand was a person, how would you describe their personality? If this is hard to do, there is a problem. Stories handed down are lost in time, but memories written can be shared for generations. Your brand vibe is no different. Committing it to paper and outlining your identity will bring to life something everyone can reference and reinforce. Without clear direction, teams and individuals begin to communicate who and what they believe the brand is.
Why is brand vibe important?
People remember what they feel more than the actual experience. According to Psychologist World, “…emotionally charged situations can lead us to create longer lasting memories of the event. When we are led to experience feelings of delight, anger or other states of mind, vivid recollections are often more possible than during everyday situations in which we feel little or no emotional attachment to an event.”
So let’s consider a few brands for a moment and what vibe they intend to elicit:
- Red Bull - limitless
- CocaCola - happiness
- Jeep - rough
- Torchy's Tacos - rebellious
- Lego - playful
- REI - adventurous
The vibe and emotion each of these brands deliver come through years of consistency – it’s king. These brands are built with consistency in tone, voice, personality, form, shape, color, typography, and experience through thoughtful brand identity. They succinctly communicate their brand ethos (belief) and we love them for it.
If your brand feels off, where do you start?
Ask yourself these questions:
1. Do you clearly understand the [emotional] needs of your target market?
2. Can you define your brand ethos and belief?
3. Do you have brand guidelines documented, widely accepted, and accessible?
“We have evidence that brand personalities can affect the very existence of the consumer relationship. It is a powerful tool that is underleveraged and poorly understood.”
– Jennifer Aaker, Profession of Marketing, Stanford
Brand vibe is one key component to a brand experience. If your experience fails to meet audience expectations, you have a dud no matter how much effort you put into building a crushing vibe.
EASE OF INTERACTION
One way to identify whether your offering is meeting expectations is by measuring how easy it is to interact with and use it. Over the years, the measurement of interaction with consumers has shifted from customer satisfaction to net promoter scores and now to a focus on customer effort scores (CES). CES begs the question, ‘How easy was it to interact with a brand?’
Consider the last frustrating interaction you had with a brand. It was most likely related to the difficulty of the experience. Maybe the restaurant didn’t get your order right, so you had to send it back – what a hassle. Or possibly, you’re about to leave for a ski trip with your friends, you ordered a new pair of gloves, and they didn’t come in time before you left – what a pain.
Why is each brand interaction important?
A study in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships noted it takes approximately 50 hours to consider someone a friend, 90 hours to become real friends and around 200 hours to become close friends. This is not an exact science, but the theory of time and the quality of interactions does apply to brands. It takes time and a series of positive interactions with a consistent brand personality to build relationships. In business, strong, positive relationships leads to increased lifetime value, reduced retention, and cost in acquisition. The customer is happier, and the brand is happier.
But what about negative interactions?
While we’re on the analogy track, consider the Gottman Institute’s theory on relationships. The ratio of positive to negative interactions is five to one to maintain a stable marriage. As brands, we must consider the potential negative exchanges and mitigate the impact by improving each experience.
Which moments should we prioritize first?
It’s tempting to improve every potential experience, but this can be a waste of resources. Organizations that try to tackle everything at once typically end up lightly improving the overall experience.
Best-in-class brands tackle the most critical moments first, which are interactions that deem the most important and have the highest degree of friction. For now, you can table the low friction moments for future optimization planning.
“The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.” – Michael Porter
The future has arrived, and the expectation of simplicity has come with it. Brands that don’t break through complex storytelling and unexpected difficult experiences will lose their audience’s focus and interest.
Can you clearly describe your brand’s vibe? Is your brand easy to interact with? If you have any hesitation with either of these questions, consider presenting a plan to your management team that you can help carry out to begin solving these problems.
Brand Experience = Vibe + Ease