Whatever Happened to “The Brand Experience” – a Social Perspective

Do marketers still pay attention to the crafting of the brand experience? Are we so fixated on the short term sales to the detriment of long term success and sustainability? If there is one thing that we should learn from Steve Job’s legacy is how he meticulous he was about every aspect of the brand experience with the innovations he brought to the world. But there is one aspect of brand experience he consciously ignored – engagement with his market. Apple has never had a social presence or element to their offerings.

If you can be the next Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, or Albert Einstein, maybe you do not need social play. Maybe you are so extremely brilliant that you do not need to listen to the customer’s voice and learn from them. Jobs has said ”the customer doesn’t know what they what,” and “did Alexander Graham Bell do any market research before he invented the telephone?” (Source: Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson). But you know what … I have no shame in saying I learn so much from engaging with my customers and it makes me a much better marketing executive because I do so. As a marketer, I have interpreted the voice of the customer to drive a product roadmap. Yes, Steve Jobs was more intelligent than me, but I have found ways to drive success, and so can you.

When I looked for a definition of brand and brand experience I turned to Wikipedia. A “brand is the personality that identifies a product, service or company (name, term, sign, symbol, or design, or combination of them) and how it relates to key constituencies: customers, staff, partners, investors etc. … The experiential aspect consists of the sum of all points of contact with the brand and is known as the brand experience.”

The brand experience is formulated as the prospect or customer becomes familiar with the brand. It is safe to say that the brand experience becomes richer as the individual moves from awareness to consideration to loyalty to advocate. If at some point the consumer has a negative brand experience it is likely that they will not move to the next step (i.e. from consideration to loyalty). If the individual has positive brand experiences, it is likely that they will move to the next step and their relationship becomes stronger with the brand.

“Contact with the brand.” This is the definition of brand experience. Don’t we want all of our prospects and customers to have a good brand experience? Rhetorical question, yes. But then the next question should be rhetorical as well … How can you avoid social media to enhance and create a great brand experience?

Let’s take this one step further … If someone has a bad brand experience, intervention may help. Connecting and engaging with the disenchanted individual may turn a disappointed customer into a happy customer. Furthermore, the socialization might help to eliminate some potential disparaging remarks in the social sphere. On the flip side, when customers are delighted, a little bit of engagement and relationship building could result in producing an advocate and advocacy is the ultimate success of social media.

So I’d like to suggest that strategy, focus, and investment in brand experience are extremely important. Is it that our tough economy has caused some to be so shortsighted and they have forgotten about the relevance and value of brand experience? And needless to say, by the very definition of brand experience, social media is an imperative component. Let’s not mistake brand experience with simple “feel good marketing.” There must be metrics for the social elements of marketing aimed at the brand experience. For a deeper discussion on this, check out my guest blog “Social Media Accountability” coming out this Wednesday (November 9th) on the {grow} Blog.

Brand experience. Are you worried about it? What are you doing with social media to enrich your brand’s experience? Share your thoughts.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve



Filed under brand communication, brand marketing, brand reputation, brands, social media, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

17 responses to “Whatever Happened to “The Brand Experience” – a Social Perspective

  1. social media and authentic positioning expressions are the new currencies that marketers must adhere to…communications is no longer a one-way street and as such, the concept of brand must be reframed as part of a two-way communications channel. the power “brand” structure associated with the second half of the previous century has had its day and can now accept a more responsive role in the first half of this centry.

    • Agree. Thanks for chiming in. Best, Steve

      • Blake Gray

        I am going to give this blog a try and see if there is value here. Thanks SocialSteve for attempting to get dialogue going on this topic.

        I am reading this blog for the first time, and I do not understand what you are both agreeing to. 1. “Social media and authentic positioning expressions are the new currencies that marketers must adhere to”….. authentic positioning is an old currency. 2. “communications is no longer a one-way street”…. communications by definition is a two-way street. 3. If “Power brand..has had it’s day” how it is supposed to accept a responsive role in the first half of this century.

        Additionally, the essence of Social Media is the trend of purchasing/not purchasing products because of how your friends, acquaintances you trust, those you highly regard and family use, like/dislike and recommend a given item. Basically referrals.

        I seem to find that often, companies that “tweet” are basically promoting their product or news releases daily because they have nothing of substance to say. Any examples of companies that you or your audience, feel do a stellar job of tweeting and blogging?

      • Hi Blake –

        Thanks for checking out the blog.

        Social media is important and needs to be integrated into marketing and business practices. 1. Understanding the brand position and reinforcing it is more important than actual positioning expressions as it sets a personality as opposed to directly communicating the position. 2. Communications nees to be two way or else it is viewed as an advertisement. 3. I do not think the power brand has had its day, just that the power brand cannot sit at the top of the hill and expect to be there without engaging with their audience.

        With regards to social media tweets that are basically product promotion – everyone wants a bargain – that works. But can you run a company on just bargains? Starbucks and Ford do good jobs of social media, but their activities are so much more than simply tweeting and posting.


  2. Liz

    Successful brands have always listened to their consumers and encouraged two-way engagement. It’s just until there was easy, real time social media it was done through focus groups, customer panels and surveys etc.

    So ‘do brands need ongoing interest and interaction with the people who buy into them?’ and ‘do brands need social media?’ are slightly different questions, I think. And my answer would be ‘yes’ to the former and ‘depends on the brand’ to the latter.

    I’m not sure I’d like old school brands – or maybe even some prestige brands – to tweet. But I’d find it odd if my mobile phone network didn’t.

    So – talking to consumers, knowing what they think and feel and giving them opportunities to participate in and feel ownership of the brand are essential. There are just more channels for achieving this than social media – and I believe there are a number of ways of creating great brand experience that don’t involve tweets and blogs.


    • Liz – thanks for contributing to the conversation! I think you comments make sense and provoke thought. But let’s not equate social media to solely Facebook and Twitter. I would agree with your comment “I’m not sure I’d like old school brands – or maybe even some prestige brands – to tweet.” But there are other social media channels that make sense for these type of entities. For example simply having a blog and allowing comments is a good way to reinforce the old school brand’s leadership and open it up to conversation. Old school brands need to leverage new school communication accepted by their changing target market expectations.

      I totally agree – “So – talking to consumers, knowing what they think and feel and giving them opportunities to participate in and feel ownership of the brand are essential.” Yes, there are more channels than social to achieve it, but I am going to where the crowd goes for conversation and more and more it includes social media.

      Thanks – great points.


  3. This is why we are such strong advocates for social media monitoring w/Pulse Analytics. It gives you a better chance of finding the disenchanted consumer w/the hope you can turn them into a happy consumer. It also permits you to find that happy consumer and move them along the path of becoming an active brand advocate.

    The voice and influence of the customer is too powerful to overlook, and the insight gained by brands pursuing more active engagement is well worth the effort!

    Well written as always, Steve.

  4. I wonder why you don’t consider Apple to have a ‘social’ presence Steve? I had an impressive experience at the local Apple Store last week that belies the comment.
    I saw a whole load of people ‘hanging out’ and wasting time, which seems to me to be a main ingredient of social media.
    I saw the same people learn and share experience / product info / enthusiasm / even ‘love’ for the Apple brand
    I spent 30 minutes with a sales guy who had no idea I was there to buy – I didn’t know I was there to buy, and as a sales person of many years experience, I wasn’t giving off the signals. (I was really very lucky, and my wife who was with me while I gave the third degree to the sales guy whipped out the credit card as I was leaving!)
    He was engaged, he listened, he fedback on what I had to say. It was as two way a sales conversation as I would have with one of my clients spending maybe hundreds of thousands of Pounds (£’s)
    I’m arguing that Apple have the store / brand experience nailed! Albeit with Steve Jobs characteristic ‘control’ much in evidence.
    In fact, its controlled to the point there is the one channel, the store!
    But there is plenty of chat on the apple ‘boards and plenty of it negative too.
    Apple are a huge organisation as we know, but have managed to pull off the trick of making its adherents feel like they are in a special exclusive gang!
    As many of the elements of a successful social campaign as I can think of at the moment?
    What say you?

    • Damian – you are right on every level about Apple’s in-store experience and social manner. What they do not do is listen to their customers to drive product improvements. From an online perspective, they have NO social presence.

      As I said in the article – Apple can get away with this but most companies require interaction with the audience to drive innovation and product roadmap.

      • So why do you think they can get away with it? Jobs as innovator and marketer and ‘mind reader’ – the reality field stuff and all that – I get that! but how do they stay ahead of the curve? and can they keep it up?
        I can see what you mean by no online social presence, but can i challenge you thinking here? social for the reasons we’ve agreed, and the chosen media is merely face to face interaction in store? the presence is significant in that sense? like some really exclusive site not everyone can get access too! Just because its not online, doesn’t mean they cant have a ‘social presence’?
        i can’t believe they as an organisation, don’t listen to anyone, and that feedback doesn’t formulate through the organisation
        they aren’t all Steve Jobs!
        He was visonary for sure, and to an extent, as a media owner myself (radio station) I sometimes think we are better off producing content that we love and never mind what the focus group says
        but feedback is an unavoidable consequence of genuine communication, broadcast, sales or otherwise, and the originator of the message can do nothing but be ‘changed’ by the feedback?

  5. Recent experience of Netflix is an interesting one that shows though social media is adopted by new age brands like Netflix, they may still do blunders in their business strategies. In essence the issue is not just listening to their customers to know what they are thinking, but it is a must for brands to implement the corrective actions.

    With regards to market research and asking customers on what they want, even Microsoft also does a lot of research (was there and spent money on the research), and so far it wasn’t able to make its mark as Steve Jobs did in consumer gadgets (except for Xbox). As long as you don’t have your own vision of the future that could be based on connecting the dots through experience and research, and purely bank on others’ opinions you can never bring something completely different and makes everybody’s lives better. Consumers are more focused on their day-today lives and problems on hand rather than the future, though they may see a hint of it when they feel some pains.

    • Thanks Srinivas … consumers often tell companies what more they want out their products. Definitely worth noting. Best,

      • Steve – agree that consumers tell what they want, but my contention is that their focus is limited to current problems but not necessarily a future vision. Product companies can’t completely rely on consumers to tell what the product should look like. They should be able to put the conflicting signals together and bring their vision of future.

      • Srinivas – A balance of both is required. A company must be their expert of their product and be innovative to bring great new features forward. They must also gain insights from the people that use their product.

  6. Jay Steven Levin

    I’ll chime in here on Apple’s role in social media. Factually of course, Steve is right. Apple has no social presence online. In their stores as pointed out, that’s quite a different story. I’ll point out this to keep in mind. Apple the company doesn’t need online social interaction for two reasons. First their interaction is product based. Nowhere in recent history have we seen this type of consumer/product romance and interactivity. Second that consumer romance turns each consumer into a walking online/offline billboard and raving fan that ignites wom social buzz. When a company’s products take on anima and interact the way Apple’s product do – they make the consumer feel understood. At that point the company is smart and best served to get out of the way and not interrupt the love affair. Jobs’ genius in part was infusing great products with even greater design. The more products and services speak for themselves the less a company has to for them. No?

    • Jay – thanks for chiming in. You are correct. I agree that Apple’s focus on the customesr and engaging with them in the store is supreme and worthy of great praise. But the to say or think that that’s enough and there is no need to bring that to an online channel does not make sense. Why wouldn’t a company want to engage online as well and up a customer experience and increase word of mouth? Answer – Job’s obsession with control. And this is the same “head in the sand” mentality that plagues many with regards to social media … “I don’t want to do it, because we’ll lose control.” Well you know what – people are talking online about your brand whether you like it or not. You should join the conversation and have some influence, not control, over it.

      There are many things I’ve learned from Steve Jobs and value. He is an inspiration. But there are many things that kept him very, very far from being perfect. And obsession with control and in many cases being so self absorbed so as to not listen well at all are two clear flaws. You take someone as brilliant and innovative as he was and throw a little empathy characteristic in there – wow – I could only imagine what else he could have created.

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