Brand Experience

Lessons From Luxury #7: Creating Multi-Sensory Brand Experiences

People collect memorable experiences, slices of life and pleasant personal moments. Brands can deliver this. In fact, some brands - and especially luxury brands - do deliver this extremely well. How? By designing and implementing multi-sensory brand experiences.

 

“The rules of customer experience management haven't changed all that much. You still need to be proactive, preventative, and personal.” - John Goodman

 

Multi-sensory brand experiences involve brand rituals, a conscious customer journey, the removal of pain- and the amplification of pleasure-points, invoking the spirit, improving the relations and, simply put, creating good vibes and spending good time. In other words, from product user experience to quality of the customer service, from events to brand communications, from in-store experience to post-purchase support… All of these make up the brand experience.

 

Imprinting Impressions

For brands in today’s competitive environment, it’s almost impossible to get a second chance to make a first impression. In addition to that, brand managers need to take into account the peak-end rule, which explains how consumers tend to judge an experience based mostly on its peak and on its finale, rather than on the sum or average of every moment of the experience. For the last impression, it’s very important to leave the customer at a high. This way after the purchase, the customer ends the call or leaves the store walking on clouds and with butterflies in the stomach.

 

“A brand is defined by the customer's experience. The experience is delivered by the employees.” - Shep Hyken

 

There are numerous scientific studies that provide evidence on how people tend to better remember negative experiences than positive ones.[1] The bad stuff tends to stick better than good one.[2] Nobel Laureate Dr. Kahneman and Dr. Tversky have demonstrated this in the light of behavioral economics and decision-making.[3] It’s called negativity bias. And it can lead to loss aversion. As Andrea Soriani, former Director of Marketing at Maserati, North America put it: “Clients will always remember a negative experience no matter how many positive moments have been shared.”[4]

 

The X Factor

Brand experience is something that cannot be easily copied, and therefore should be a point of differentiation. For example, Louis Vuitton bags are copied so well to its very last detail that it is almost impossible to distinguish it from the original. However, the experience inside a store cannot be copied. So half of the price of the bag is actually paid just to experience ‘the real thing’ – and this includes the full in-store experience. This kind of customer experience cannot be replaced with e-commerce easily, either. Despite the fact that e-tail surged during the pandemic, the effect of a hands-on environment cannot be overstated. This is why LVMH, Kering and Prada have begun buying (instead of just renting) real estate at places like 5th Ave., Madison Ave., Milan, London etc.[5] The in-store experience is so important that, for example, Genesis made the decision to not have any dealerships or middle men representing them and so the customer has direct relationship with Genesis itself.

 

“In a world where products and services are becoming more and more commoditized,  customer experience is the only true differentiator.” - Annette Franz

 

Luxury brands design sensory experiences beyond the store. Armani, Versace and Bulgari have their hotels. After Dior, Chanel, Burberry and Prada, Louis Vuitton too decided to open a café called Le Café V in Osaka, Japan. Opening such new spaces of service and lifestyle has proven to be one of the most effectives ways to communicate brand codes, values and culture in an experiential and multi-sensory way.

Non-luxury brands like Disney, Singapore Airlines, Apple or Stella Artois learn from luxury brands and deliver multi-sensory brand experiences. Coca-Cola ads reinforce the popping sound along with the release of pressured air from the bottle – spreading happiness. Victoria’s Secret’s cashier staff actually spray the brand’s perfume into the gift box before placing the gift in it and wrapping it.

Forward-thinking hospitals decided to learn from luxury hotels the effective elements of interior design to be equipped with an entire sensory-experiential atmosphere. Several studies demonstrate that the design inside clinical settings can have a positive impact on patient outcomes.[6] Behavioral economics reveal how a classy interior design can reduce pain points to the extent that the patients will want to stay longer, even after they have actually healed. The health and hospitals spheres intelligently continue to learn from the world of luxury hotels, hospitality and wellness industries. The global socio-cultural movement called ‘the slow movement’ is based on experiential wellness too. It is growing in several non-luxury industries as slow food, slow fashion, slow living etc.

 

“We now live in an experience economy where people have shifted from passive consumption to active participation.” - Joseph Pine & James Gilmore

 

From the music that plays on the customer service phone line to the sounds of potato chips’ packaging, from the heavy weight of a whisky glass or a luxury pen to the cling-like sound of a S.T. Dupont lighter, from the smell of a new car to the temperature inside a store that has a staff trained in etiquette… In any competitive industry, the right multi-sensory experience makes all the difference.

 

Appeal to All Senses

All senses need to be touched for the experience to be holistically pleasant, effective and memorable. When the overall experience can appeal to all five senses of touch, smell, sound, taste and sight then both the conscious and the unconscious minds are satisfied. It is even better if you can tap into and appeal to the sixth sense or the intuition of the customer. A well-designed brand experience can make the customer enter into a serene state-of-mind, feel optimistic and enthusiastic, be in good spirits, and motivated… Such neuro-chemicals as oxytocin, serotonin, dopamine and endorphin are released. Neuro-alchemy is at work here.

A pleasant experience worth remembering and talking about to others usually creates the effect of word-of-mouth. Your business or your brand starts getting referrals if it manages to offer an effective experience. Your customers become not only loyalists but also advocates of your brand.

 

Five Ways to Get Started 

So here are five key points to help you lift your own brand experience:

 

  • Craft Multi-Sensory Brand Experiences: Actively engage all customer senses by designing every brand touchpoint. From the texture of your products to the ambiance in your stores and the tone of your customer service. A comprehensive sensory engagement deepens emotional bonds and enhances brand memorability.

 

  • Implement the Peak-End Rule: Focus strategically on the most intense point and the final moments of the customer interaction. Ensuring these experiences are exceptionally positive can create lasting favorable impressions, significantly influencing overall customer satisfaction and recall.

 

  • Empower Your Employees: Invest in comprehensive training for your staff to ensure they are well-prepared to embody and convey your brand's values. Employees who are confident and knowledgeable about how to deliver exceptional customer experiences are essential for maintaining consistency and personalization in customer interactions.

 

  • Minimize Negativity, Maximize Pleasure: Proactively design your customer experiences to reduce pain points and enhance pleasure points. Paying attention to minimizing negative experiences and amplifying positive ones can greatly improve customer loyalty and advocacy

 

  • Elevate In-Store Experiences: Differentiate your brand by creating unparalleled in-store experiences that cannot be replicated online. Offer unique services, sensory experiences, and exceptional customer interactions that transform routine purchases into memorable events, thereby enhancing the perceived value of your brand and deepening customer engagement.

 

Multi-sensory brand experiences build strong and lasting emotional bonds with customers that can perhaps best be described in the words of Holly Gollightly, the protagonist from Breakfast at Tiffany’s: “…the only thing that does any good is to jump in a cab and go to Tiffany's. Calms me down right away. The quietness and the proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen to you there.”

 

Sources and References

[1] Tugend, Alina. “Praise Is Fleeting, but Brickbats We Recall.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 23 Mar. 2012, www.nytimes.com/2012/03/24/your-money/why-people-remember-negative-events-more-than-positive-ones.html.

[2] Thompson, Andrea. “Bad Memories Stick Better Than Good.” LiveScience, Purch, 5 Sept. 2007, www.livescience.com/1827-bad-memories-stick-good.html.

[3] Kahneman, Daniel. Thinking, Fast and Slow. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015.

[4] Doran, Sophie. “Attracting, Serving & Retaining the UHNW Luxury Consumer.” Luxury Society, Luxury Society, 24 Oct. 2017, www.luxurysociety.com/en/articles/2013/10/attracting-serving-retaining-the-uhnw-luxury-consumer/.

[5] Tangalakis-Lippert, Katherine. “Luxury Brands from Gucci to Chanel Are Placing Billion-Dollar Bets on in-Store Shopping.” Business Insider, Business Insider, www.businessinsider.com/luxury-brands-billion-dollar-investment-real-estate-retail-store-shopping-2024-4. Accessed 28 Apr. 2024. 

[6] Yamaguchi, Yuhgo. “Better Healing from Better Hospital Design.” Harvard Business Review. 08 May 2017. <https://hbr.org/2015/10/better-healing-from-better-hospital- design>

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