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“Buy experience, not things” is characterized as the new consumer trait for millenials and an increasing amount of people from other generations. Marketing and more importantly, BRAND-marketing is now more about your company’s identity (reputation, quality, trustworthiness, why you exist and more) and this identity can be delivered by giving buyers a positive BRAND IDENTITY rather than just selling a product.
Last fall a large corporation I was doing business with gave me two free tickets for a show that was then heavily promoted. All my neighbors in Lafayette, CA received multiple promotional flyers both in mail and on their front door knobs. TV ads for the show were running non-stop on all major channels with real people giving tearful testimonials. Many were lured to see this show, however, many were very disappointed. I asked a good friend who had seen it and she too found the show wired, propagandist, and told me that I too would find it so. I ended up not going, upon what I heard and after reading many negative reviews online, some of them starting with “this is one of the weirdest things I have ever seen…”
The most successful marketing campaign that opens lots of people’s wallets cannot guarantee a satisfying buyer experience if the substantive brand content is below par. That is bad news for a business: your credibility is at risk. The long term impact of a poor buying experience will force a company to continuously search for new customers to support growth, which is much more costly as opposed to having happy customers advocating and referring for you.
Creating memorable brand identity requires first and foremost that the brand itself is solid:
It takes a heart and a soul to move hearts and souls. Then the brand takes the journey of connecting the company’s identity to its target audience’s hearts and souls. If done well, the brand has sold the “user experience”, above and beyond a mere product or service.
What makes up the totality of “user experience” can be analogized to the concerted effects of the Wizard of Oz characters: “Tin Man” – products/services, “The Cowardly Lion” – marketing campaign, “Scarecrow” – Advertising “bluff”, “Glinda the Fairy” – the soul of a brand, and “Dorothy”, – the heart of a brand. Note that WHAT (products/services) are nothing more than a Tin Man that needs all others to become whole. Merely selling WHAT does not constitute an user experience if WHAT does not connect to the heart and soul and the WHY.
Another example is Google’s playfulness with their logo “Google” with occasional cartoonish “decorations”. On Thanksgiving Day, the word “Google” is changed in the form of a turkey and other Thanksgiving items. On July 4 Independence Day, it shows fireworks, celebrations, and patriotic items. etc.. Several months ago, when the politics of the day was centered around immigration policies, I saw a slide of cartoon illustrations of different immigrants within Google’s logo. As always, these cartoon illustrations are fun, innocent, positive and relevant. Google is not afraid to take a side, even though it can choose to “play it safe” by staying out of any kind of controversy. It shows that Google is more than a digital machine, a heartless thing, and it genuinely cares. It is more than just an invisible search engine and a money-making mechanism. It even has opinions and does not shy away from airing it. Google has a heart and soul.
Little things like this do add up and make a difference. It warms human hearts. It connects to the souls of users. It offers the potential for a Wizard-of-Oz-like experience by being an active part of our lives more than a “Tin Man”. AND it is all expressed and recognized without any words, using VISUALS.
The cover photo of Nike’s taking a stand in a current national controversy may be the apotheosis of voicing a brand’s heart and soul. It does not matter if Nike’s buyers side with Colin Kaepernick for his message about police brutality and racial injustice, or with those who regard his expression as unpatriotic or uncalled for. There is power and value in Nike having the guts for taking a side. Whether it is out of commercial motivation for selling to a larger audience, or out of a noble cause, or both, Nike’s message inspires, empowers, and connects to the core of our hearts and souls: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrifice everything. Just do it.”
Even though some Nike buyers may stop buying Nike products because they view kneeling with one leg during National Anthem is disrespectful and unpatriotic to the American flag, Nike is fine with losing this market for a much larger global market, by inspiring people with a higher purpose: to champion the cause for overcoming injustice based on race, gender, politics, etc. Now Nike’s brand is no longer confined to being a pair of shoes. While some may call Nike’s move as opportunistic in taking advantage of controversies to sell more, on a positive note, it is striving to elevate itself to be a symbol for humanity’s struggle against injustice. Nike’s “Just do it” is now imbued with specific meaning in its attempt to move our imaginations and aspirations.
Once a brand stands for something, especially when it is difficult and controversial to take side, it awes. People go beyond merely trusting a brand, they are on a spiritual soul-searching journey with the brand. They are “buying” the most profound experience in life, they share your belief, follow your dreams, and allow you to touch their heart.
This is creating a brand’s user experience with heart and soul.
© Joanne Tan, September 3-5/2018, Edited by Glenn Perkins
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