If managers think of the brand in a ‘top down’ manner, beginning with its essence and its values, then moving towards the tangible, its concrete activation, consumers proceed in the opposite manner. They begin with the tangible and the perceived. Everything begins with the concrete experience: I only believe what I see and feel.
Brands that are only products must add an experiential dimension that will involve the client. Involvement is the prerequisite for engagement with the brand: that is, a true affective loyalty and not a repeated purchase for the sake of gaining miles or points. How can this experiential dimension be created?Putting on l’Oréal make-up is a true ritual, using little tubs and pots which are beautifully thought-out and decorated.Danone gives personalised health advice on its ‘Danone and you’ website.Car makers are now highly attentive to the experiential elements (door noises, softness of the leather, position of the armrests and so on).Complaint handling is increasingly practiced in advance. Scripts are prepared so that the response reduces the negative effect, or even leaves customers satisfied, and so surprised by their good experience that they become ambassadors for the brand.Champagne makers offer visits to their cellars where the mystery of creation can be felt.Société Roquefort constructs its cellars as 3D shows in stone in order to accentuate the perceptible visitor experience.The fabulous ascension of the Pernod Ricard group stems from its progress into experiential territory. The core of brand investment goes on organising events in bars, cafes, hotels and discos, based around the brand’s values, its history and its imagined qualities.The Fedex brand has identified that the delivery person who comes to pick up the sealed envelopes or delivers them is the key personality in the Fedex experience for companies. To this is added the ergonomy of the website for tracking letters and parcels, the call centres and so on.Sponsorship is also a perceptible experience: visually associating the brand with an event, a sporting team or the like.Donations to good causes can demonstrate the brand is not insensitive to the world around it.
Finally, everyone will have noticed the tendency of brands to create a brand universe for themselves in increasingly large sites, designed as experiential places, where the client feels the brand 120 per cent. Louis Vuitton opened its two biggest shops in the world in Tokyo on 31 August 2006, and in Shanghai in 2005. On 19 May 2006, a riot took place on Fifth Avenue in New York at the opening of the Apple Megastore, beneath a giant glass cube, opposite Central Park. Open day and night, clients can find all their iPod accessories here, and enter into discussion, not with salespeople, but with Apple experts, all of them very young, and able to answer all technical problems.
Every Ralph Lauren shop could be Ralph Lauren’s own house, with mahogany furniture, carpets, sofas, armchairs, pictures and photos, all aimed at creating a fake ‘true’ history (not everyone can be Lacoste). Remarkably, this perceptible Ralph Lauren ambience is also reproduced in the simple corners of the brand.
Tomorrow, just as there is a first division and a second division in football, these new brand cathedrals will sort the major brands from the small brands.