It’s a storyline we’ve seen covered in the media time and time again – the key to happiness lies not in collecting things, but rather collecting experiences.
Experiences provide more long-term value to consumers than goods.
Research supporting this theory argues that people find the anticipation of an experience to be pleasant, while they’re likely to feel an uncomfortable impatience when waiting for a new product. And while products deteriorate and become obsolete, experiences can be mentally re-lived for years to come, each memory a reminder of our enjoyment in the moment.
The implication? Experiences provide more long-term value to consumers than goods.
Shoppers (especially the younger set) are taking this approach to heart, looking to spend increasingly on experiences that they can look back on with satisfaction.
At first glance, this preference can seem like an obstacle for companies that sell only consumer goods. How can brands that sell products or services tap into the “experiential” aspect that their audience is looking for? What is the intangible benefit that their product can provide to consumers?
Defining the experience of your brand is more than just a marketing and communications tool.
By identifying the answers to these questions, Communications executives can turn the experiential preference from an obstacle to an advantage, with resonant messaging that highlights their brand’s relevancy.
Businesses are already communicating experiences to their consumers, whether they are aware of it or not.
Many brands make the experience they are selling explicit to their consumer base. Products like Heineken or Absolut attach themselves to the image of a glamorous night on the town, while Jeep pitches the more wholesome thrill of outdoor adventure. Cleaning products sell more than the tools needed for a spotless house – they also sell the promise and satisfaction of a dust and dirt-free home. Even organizations selling financial tools, such as banks or tax advisors, can sell the experience of peace of mind as they advertise the relief of finding simple solutions to seemingly overwhelming problems.
But for those products that are less easily tied to experiences, associations can still be communicated through color schemes, slogans, advertisement placement, and more subtle indications of how a user might experience a product.
A product’s overall messaging must be consistent across all consumer touchpoints, whether through packaging, marketing, imagery, press releases, or advertising. A cohesive, surround-sound communications approach will ensure consumers connect with the experience of your brand or product.
Defining the experience of your brand is more than just a marketing and communications tool. It shapes the very perceptions of the products you sell.
It’s no secret that similar products, marketed in different ways, can come to dominate separate areas of a market. Take Red Bull and Starbucks, for example.
Red Bull has been tremendously successful in pairing itself with the experience of adventure through its packaging, social media campaigns, and sponsorship of extreme sports events. It communicates aggressively to a younger audience, and promotes events such as Felix Baumgartner’s 2012 space dive. As a result of these branding efforts, Red Bull has become the leading player in the energy drink market. It has developed strong associations with the experience of adventure, risk-taking, and pushing one’s limits.
Starbucks has more in common with Red Bull than you might realize. The brand also sells caffeinated beverages that give consumers the boost needed to get through a busy day, and even has lines of canned beverages marketed as “energy” drinks. But by promoting a different experience, they have cornered an entirely different market – even as they share a large portion of their consumer base with Red Bull.
While Red Bull embraces active, rebellious messaging, Starbucks communicates luxury, comfort and professionalism, bringing the in-store experience of a “Third Place” to anywhere you might consume a Starbucks beverage. By embracing a message of sustainability, relaxation, and a focus on the individual, they have created a remarkably unique consumer experience – one that has allowed them to dominate their own market space.
That both brands can provide essentially similar goods, yet resist appearing as direct competitors, speaks volumes of the different needs these products can fulfill – the need for two unique types of experience.
Who is your target market? And more importantly – what is the experience you want to communicate?
If you have been struggling to identify ways to differentiate yourself from your competitors, it may be time to think deeply on the experience you want to create.
What is the larger message that you want to communicate? How can you tailor your messaging across all channels to ensure that your products, and your brand, are creating a unified experience for shoppers? By highlighting how your products fit within an aspirational lifestyle, you can build towards a more satisfied – and happier – customer base.