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Brandwave-logo-6.png |Brand Experience | july '13
Today’s consumers are confronted with countless choices and a multitude of information to consider when they buy products or services. Traditional promotional methods like advertising in magazines or on TV are no longer as effective as before. How can a company help their brand stand out? What will make their brand communication effective? In light of these questions and many others, brand experience has emerged as an innovative and compelling way to build a brand in the minds of consumers.
What is brand experience and experiential branding?

Brand experience can be thought of as sensations, feelings, perceptions, and behavioral responses evoked by brand-related stimuli. The more powerful the experience is, the stronger the brand impression. Brand experience also affects consumer satisfaction and loyalty; it allows the brand to sell products at a premium and to create competitive entry barriers.

Experiential branding is a process by which brands create and drive sensory interactions with consumers in all aspects of the brand experience to emotionally influence their preferences and to actively shape their perceptions of the brand. Interactions involve communication, brand space, and product and service elements. These elements work together to affect brand equity.

How does brand experience build brand equity?

The combination of all interactions with communication, brand space, and product and service elements, make up a customer's brand experience. The customer will then form a brand evaluation and perception based on these interactions. This is what builds brand equity in the consumer's mind, and it is composed of four key dimensions: differentiation, relevance, esteem and knowledge. Various experiential branding methods impact different dimensions of brand equity, which must be carefully considered by marketers or brand managers when utilizing these methods.

In this article we will discuss the four dimensions of brand equity, and provide specific examples of experiential branding for each one, in order to discover how this creative branding activity can be used successfully.

Differentiation: Perceived distinctiveness of the brand

Differentiation is a brand's ability to stand apart from others, and to gain consumer choice, preference and loyalty. It is the degree to which consumers find a brand unique. A compelling and memorable brand experience can attract customers' attention and maintain their interest, and therefore contribute to brand differentiation.

In recent years, companies like Nokia, Apple, Barbie, and Gucci have opened flagship stores in China to provide more consumer-brand interaction opportunities. The newly-built Barbie Store in Shanghai is a 6-floor megastore with a spa, design center, café and interactive activities designed for girls. It became a hot spot in Shanghai very quickly, with thousands of girls now visiting the store every day. The branded experiences provided by the Barbie store will undoubtedly serve to differentiate the brand from others.


Flagship stores are one way that companies can connect and interact with customers to participate in experiential branding. They are also places to display limited edition products and unique service experiences, which can communicate the companies' culture and brand values in ways traditional media cannot.

Relevance: Personal appropriateness of the brand

Relevance refers to how meaningful a brand is to their target consumers. Relevant brands are both appropriate and appealing. Niche and growing brands may choose to focus first on differentiation and then on relevance, whereas leading brands will excel on all four dimensions.

Adidas Brand Center in Beijing is both experiential and meaningful for customers, so it contributes to brand relevance. The retail center features a range of interactive zones including miCoach Core Skills, the recently launched miOriginals, mi Adidas, a juice bar, a dedicated 'Urban' area for exhibitions and events, a basketball court on the rooftop, a Concierge Desk and a children's area. As you can see, there are products and interactions offered for Adidas' various targeted market segments, ensuring that the customer's experiences of the Adidas brand are highly relevant.


Esteem: Regard for the brand

Esteem measures the degree to which the target audiences regard and respect a brand—in short, how well it is liked. When companies grow larger and become more mature, brand esteem becomes more and more important. Today, companies often use indirect experiential branding methods to build brand esteem. One way to do this is through the Internet and social networking websites.

With the recent popularity of social networking services (SNS) such as Facebook, Twitter, Kaixin001, Renren, and many more, forward-thinking companies place their brand inconspicuously in the pages, games, and posts, of these sites. SNS websites are a new media which stimulate increased interaction with users. In the first half of 2009, Kaixin001 became China's most popular SNS with over 83 million registered. Brands, media agencies, and organizations have used different approaches to connect with the community and target its netizens. An impressive and representative case is Lohas juice. It successfully promoted its brand in the popular SNS game "Kaixin Garden". Through this interactive game, the juice brand not only promotes its products, but also portrays a lifestyle and an attitude which influences the customers' brand perception.


Knowledge: Understanding of What the Brand Stands For

Knowledge determines whether there is a true understanding of what a brand stands for. Brand awareness is a sub-component of knowledge. The level of brand knowledge is a signal of the company's past performance, as well as a foundation for its further development. Positive and accurate understanding of the brand amongst target consumers results in brand loyalty. However, it is not enough for a brand to tell consumers what their brand means, they have to show them, and what better way to do this than through brand experience.

This is what Nokia is doing with its global customer service and experience center in Shanghai, which opened in August, 2009. The center provides hardware repair and software services to users of its mobile phones. The Shanghai experience center is a place for customers to learn more about their Nokia cellphones and experience what Nokia brand stands for. Helping their customers develop a deep and comprehensive understanding of their company will help Nokia consolidate their customer loyalty and brand equity.



As mentioned above, experiential branding, a creative branding process through customer experience, contributes to brand differentiation, esteem, relevance, and knowledge, and therefore is an effective way to build brands. Through interactive technologies, innovative retail spaces, and indirect online brand communication methods, consumers can now see, touch, hear, taste, and smell brands in ways they never could before. Flashy advertising and price-slashing product promotions are often not sustainable methods for brand building. Experiential branding, with the objective of building brand equity, has emerged as a promising and viable alternative.

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Service design is of immense use to companies that are looking for ways to enhance their customer's experience while using their product or service so that these customers have no reason to look elsewhere for the same product or service. 
There are many techniques used by service designers in order to make this happen and customer journey mapping is one of them. Simply put, it is a visual representation of the actual user experience of a particular company's service. Being user centered, customer journey mapping provides these companies with excellent information about what gaps exist in the service they are providing and this provides them with the opportunity to use other service design techniques to fill in the gaps.

Journey mapping is usually done over a period of time in order to get a clear understanding of what the customer encounters when he or she starts or attempts to use a particular company's service. It will plot all the different touch points that occur when a customer is offered a service. Every aspect of interaction, including gestures, is very important and should therefore be plotted accordingly in order to have the most accurate journey map as possible.

The best journey maps have lots of personal data and insights because this is the foundation of a successful interaction. It also makes it very easy for the analyst to get a better picture of what customers are really looking for and what they actually receive. There are many human beings involved, and therefore the map has to be humanized as much as possible. While successful interactions give lots of useful information, failed ones are also very important because they give plenty of insight into what should be corrected urgently because it is driving customers away.

Many companies do not even know what the correct touchpoints are when their customers come to interact with them. As a result, they put in a lot of effort in the wrong places while they neglect certain important areas. Many steps also involve a duplication of effort whereas there are many more that do not even add any value to the experience. Journey mapping is therefore an essential tool to help them find out what these touchpoints really are so that they can work upon them. It is also possible to use this as a starting point for redesigning services so that interactions can be greatly enhanced. This is also an excellent way around which training programs can be designed. Many companies also use this tool in order to plan their strategies more effectively.

Companies need to keep changing their services in order to keep pace with changing customer requirements. This can only be done effectively with the help of customer journey mapping and other principles of service design. They are usually very simple and easy to implement but the results they offer are very powerful indeed. There are many companies that offer service design consultancy because of the growing awareness of how important this field is in today's world.
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Brandcell decked out in yellow
Brandcell has renovated its offices and spread yellow on walls and floor; creating a bright thinking mood and cheerful and fun atmosphere.
Wafra Company is a successful food company established in Italy a few years ago by two childhood friends. The company's brand hero is Junior Croissant, a fun, healthy and fulfilling snack. The owners were looking to expand and grow into new areas of the market and thus needed to streamline their brand foundations and draft Junior’s brand strategy.
We conducted a data harvest session with management to better understand the DNA of the company, its culture and its vision. An analysis of the interviews led to a solid brand foundations document encompassing the mission, vision, values and personality of the company. This foundation was translated into design through the development of a corporate identity that has been applied across all collateral for consistency and recognition.
For Junior, we developed the brand strategy and positioning followed by the distribution strategy, the marketing/communication plan and designs for the various touch points, from logo and packaging to TV commercials and point of sale material.
Sensory Marketing
by Aradhna Krishna
What is sensory marketing and why is it interesting and also important? Krishna defines it as "marketing that engages the consumers’ senses and affects their behaviors." In this edited book, the authors discuss how sensory aspects of products, i.e., the touch , taste, smell, sound, and look of the products, affect our emotions, memories, perceptions, preferences, choices, and consumption of these products.
1- Have a clear Vision

2- Evolve the offering

3- Ensure excellence in execution

4- Develop a strong culture and set of values

5- Deliver emotional and self-expressive benefits

6- Address a real unmet need

7- Scale as per a proven model

8- Integrate social and environmental programs

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