eye, experience marketing
tongue, physical experience
Customer experiences as mental engagements, physical behaviour or social involvement.

9 ways to build brands through customer experience marketing

Branding is customer experience. To build a better brand, you, the entrepreneur, need to provide great customer experiences. You may deliver the experiences as mental engagements, physical behaviour or social involvement.

Mental experience triggers consciousness and the intellect, and is a combination of perception and thinking.

1. Cognitive experiences

A cognitive experience for customers is the mental process of understanding an offer through the senses and thought. There’s a difference between processing information about a service, product or organisation and cognitively reflecting upon how it is of value to you and how you can use it. Positive customer experiences satisfy customers’ objectives.

Providers of services and products should look beyond what people tell them and how they act, to understand what engages them. As entrepreneurs, we need our audience to get information and learn about our service through the service itself or through marketing. To do that, customers need to experience something that makes them learn intellestually. Cognitive customer experiences occur as a result of reflections following a stimulus of the senses. It’s not enough to merely provide information; your company needs to stimulate as many senses as possible to engage the user to learn.

As the providers of services, we innovate to make mental experiences that are challenging but still understandable. When consumers learn something about an offer through experiences, it makes them study the products more closely.

2. Emotional experiences

To acquire customers, you need to design an emotionally engaging experience. Designers of services try to elicit emotional experiences because an emotional stimulus produces visceral changes including an increase in heart rate, respiration and perspiration. If an audience develops an emotional relation with a service or product, they may feel bodily reactions to the emotion. Emotions can prompt certain needs that enhance behaviour.

Providers of services use emotional experiences to strengthen people's relationships with brands. By knowing what’s valuable to their audience, providers are able to arouse emotional experiences through triggers that mirror their audience’s personality. How a product or service makes us feel is critical to it becoming a bestseller. Consumers seek out emotional experiences to enhance an already established positive emotion or to counteract an emotion of displeasure.

“Branding is customer experience.”

When a user gets an emotional experience from an innovation or from marketing it’s called emotional branding. As an audience, the experience of emotions is one of the most powerful experiences we can be subject to. To develop into a strong emotional relation we need to have experienced something that has had a strong physical impact on us. Entrepreneurs need to promote positive emotions and avoid negative ones

3. Experiences through imagination

Experiences through imagination involve creativity, both from the provider and from the users. Brand marketing with imaginative experiences is the oldest form of communication. By telling stories, the provider prompts the audience to establish a 'world' through their imagination. Imagination and emotion – thinking and feeling - can be aspects of the same process. People choose products where the communication elicits imagination, because this gives them the freedom to establish their own story and role in relation to the product. To provide a good experience, you must see the customer experience as one long journey, and a continuous process of setting and meeting expectations. Emotions depend on imagination, because some emotions make us perceive ourselves in a certain way.

Creators establish imaginative experiences by telling stories and inviting users to finish the story of a service or product. Sometimes, providers create mysteries, tell riddles, or ask consumers to solve a problem. Customers get involved in imaginative experiences because the experiences connect them to their emotions. Expectations are important for how the brain works. Dopamine neurons in our brain enhance emotions based on predictions. If human beings use their imagination, it always produces stories that have an emotional relation to them.

Emotions aroused by imaginary experiences are strong because our imagination is the repository of our mental representation of a possible future. Our memories of earlier experiences are used to set expectations for the future. As a provider of a service, we have to inspire our audience to use their imagination to establish the product as part of that imagined future. Users are always grateful when something awakens their emotions through imagination.

For the inventor of a product or service, it all begins in the imagination. An entrepreneur’s imagination of a non-existing service may become the story that once the service is on offer ignites the customer’s imagination of their interaction with the service.

Branding of your product, service or company is all about the physical experience, sensorial dimension and consumer behaviour.

4. Experience through your body

When there is a change in the physical environment that you are in contact with, the change is registered as a physical experience. All experiences involve your body in some way. A stressless customer experience is a major competitive advantage. Your senses transport information about physical conditions through your nervous system to end up as an experience. Providing frequent and responsive feedback will reassure the customer that they are on the right track. Movement of your body reflects and enhances the understanding of something. A large, heavy book makes you read in a different way than a smaller book that may be held in one hand only. We as users always want to accomplish more with less effort. Using physical objects when you practise maths makes you learn and understand it in a different way. For example, using an abacus requires coordination of the body that enhances your learning. All bodily experiences connect to sensorial and thereby cognitive experiences. If you want to reduce the effort needed, consider three parameters: the time to do the task, the convenience of getting it done, and the simplicity of executing the experience.

“Movement of your body reflects and enhances understanding.”

Moving your body while experiencing with your senses will enhance the intensity and allow you to have a strong emotional relation. Likewise, if we experience something that has a strong physical impact on us, it will develop into a stronger cognitive resonance. Reduce features and tasks and omit unnecessary words.

5. Experiences involve multiple senses

Sensory branding relates to a customer in a more intimate and personal way than mass marketing can. It’s less dependent on rational thought and more engaged with the feelings that users get through emotional and behavioural dimensions. When interacting with a product or service, several senses deliver the experience. Every product or service is fundamentally a sensual experience, so the way in which our senses are stimulated must always have the result in mind, and never be arbitrary or left to chance. The more senses are engaged in an experience, the stronger the impact. It’s easier to influence feelings when involving as many senses as possible. For example, smell is an important aspect of the customer experience of a new car.

The experience of a service or product always involves several senses, and providers need to hone what are the most important senses to the user. The relation between what senses are focused on in a service and what gives the strongest experience to the user is not always balanced. For example, sound and hearing is the second most important sense for people to be loyal to a brand, but it’s sometimes not even considered by brand marketers. Experiences are all perceived through our senses, which are our capability to transform perception into data. Humans have five traditionally recognised senses: sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. We also have sensory modalities like the kinaesthetic sense and the ability to sense temperature, pain and balance. There are opportunities in soothing as well as stimulating several senses. The more senses that are involved the stronger the experience. Senses must not be considered in isolation, they must work together.

6. Use customer behaviour as a guide

A customer’s perception of an interaction with a company or service is influenced by painful and pleasurable experiences. Customer interactions should adhere to the user’s needs and wants and be a sequence of as positive experiences as possible. If you let the needs and desires of the customer guide service design you can ensure a consistently good customer experience. When designing an interaction experience, entrepreneurs should consider the pleasurable, as well as the painful parts of the service. Give users a choice, give them control and let them do what they are used to doing. For example, many people listen to the radio when they drive, and they may listen to a specific channel, but they need to have the possibility to change and choose a different channel. On the other side, too many choices and more power over decision-making doesn’t necessarily result in a greater feeling of control.

Customers often want to meet representatives of a company before committing to something, even if they’ve done all their research online. If they are considering physical goods, customers want to experience them before the purchase. To create the best experience we need to make sure the customer feels in control at every step of the journey.

Behavioural Science has two parts: information processing of stimuli from the environment and relational interaction among people. If consumer behaviour is reciprocated with a positive consequence, it will be repeated. When brand managers shape a transaction or interaction according to behavioural principles, customers achieve higher satisfaction from the experiences. Customers want to achieve goals; and they also want to achieve them in their own way.

Branding excels through social experiences including gamification, context marketing and branded entertainment.

7. Gamification

Gamification is when you use game design and game principles in non-game contexts. Gamification is used to improve user engagement, productivity, learning and employee engagement. Gamers are often more loyal to a person than to a brand. Building a personal relationship with customers will keep them coming back. Additionally, gamification has been widely applied in marketing and as a tool for customer engagement and is often used in customer loyalty programmes. Remember that every employee works in marketing. What are they saying about your business?

Gamification introduces, transforms and operates a service system that allows participants to have a playful experience that supports value creation for the players. Gamification techniques use people's natural desires for being social to learn, master, compete, express themselves and achieve something.

Human beings are social creatures. Those that make doing business a social and pleasurable act are in front of the competition. Great customer experiences are socially engaging. Gamification allows students to become more active learners by putting themselves into different situations and using learning material on their own, rather than just passively listening to teachers. You can also encourage users to exercise more and improve their health through game-like services.

8. Marketing in the right context

The definition of context marketing is when the marketing considers the circumstances and facts that surround a situation. Context is the way you reproduce, spread and enhance your content. If you're trying to market in the wrong context, you can forget about the quality of your content, it’s not going to be experienced or shared. The best content in the world doesn’t function in isolation; the key to relevance, quality and profit is when your context is right. We care about details because they show that the business cares about you.

“People want brands to understand them. ”

People want brands to understand them. As a brand owner, you need to enthuse your “audience” and switch from collecting conversions to using the right context to earn attention, engage and build relationships. Every stage of the experience needs to have documented success criteria. Context marketing enables your online marketing strategy to be a more personalised experience. Your existing advertising efforts will perform more effectively because you’re giving prospects more relevant information. Tracing the experience right back to the start and then right to the end reveals opportunities to innovate.

You need to direct your marketing towards a situation rather than to a segment of an audience. For example, a pizza restaurant needs to find people who are hungry rather than locating people between 25 and 35 years old. With social media, you get to know more about users and you can market to them contextually.

9. Entertainment that is branded

Branded entertainment, also known as branded content, is a form of advertising that generates content as a way to promote a brand which funds the production. Branded entertainment is a mixture of product placement, media integration deals and digital entities on web and mobile. Focus on creating a brand reality rather than a brand identity – this is the foundation of a great customer experience.

Unlike conventional forms of entertainment, branded entertainment is funded by a brand or corporation, rather than by a studio or group of artistic producers. Branded entertainment can be used in films, videos, games, music, web, events and television. We live in an era when people don’t want to be interrupted from what they want to see and want rich media experiences that engage. With unlimited choices for users, brands alone have less of an impact. Entertainment brands are what producers and advertising agencies want — content is what drives revenue and makes the client’s brand stronger in the process.

Branded entertainment usually presents itself as something other than marketing and connects with its audience in an engaging way. Wants are a more powerful motivator than needs. There has been a shift in perspective from making branded entertainment like soap operas, to the making of entertainment brands like Red Bull. Red Bull doesn’t run traditional advertising but has become an entertainment company that happens to sell products too. Good customer experiences reflect the customer’s identity.

Christian Leborg

Christian Leborg

Christian Leborg is a visual communicator and branding consultant. He specialises in building brand strategies and brand identities. Christian has worked with several specializations within visual communication as well as teaching and being an author. Christian now works on his third stint as an entrepreneur.