Widespread announcements of the death of the Experience Brand have been wildly exaggerated. People are assuming that things like social distancing, facemasks and sanitizing will kill whatever branded experience they've been competing on.
I believe not only is winning through experience not dead, it's more important than ever and the ones who do it best will stand out even more.
So, what even is an Experience Brand?
It’s not about being nice folks and having a greeter at the door. Actually, it’s not even just about creating a great experience. It’s when the experience is foundational to the value proposition. Like the law firm that can win more cases for clients because the relationships management experience helps them better understand their clients’ real goals. Or the investment firm that gets better outcomes for their clients because they have built a human and trusted rapport with them. Or the retailer that can command a premium not by creating a perception of luxury, but by offering a shopping experience that makes the customer feel great about themselves. All of these, and many other hallmarks of Experience Brands are still completely feasible in a topsy-turvy pandemic world.
An Experience Brand takes on COVID
Let’s look at an example. I go to two grocery stores regularly and both have been completely altered by COVID. One is a big chain which is a convenience play, not an Experience Brand. The other is a family owned operation: an experience designed for people who like to cook and who care about food. Even though you pay more, it is definitely not a luxury store. You come away feeling great about what you’ve bought and what you are going to make with it.
During the COVID lockdown, these two stores have responded very differently. Both have line-ups and wipe down the carts, sure. But the grocer with the experience brand has informative signage, clear rules, helpful line-minders and a protected canopy for the line-up. I’ve asked staff in both stores if they feel safe. Only the ones in the family grocer said they did, and you can feel it in how they interact with customers. Okay, it’s a different experience from what I’m used to, but it’s clearly one that is designed to make me feel safe and welcome.
Even if the rules of engagement have to change, the rules of experience don’t.
For any Experience Brand struggling to adapt to new realities in B2B or B2C, the key is to come back to the way your experience creates value for your customers or clients as you design how you will interact in the future.