Everything You Need to Know About Brand Experience in 2024

In today‘s hyper-competitive digital landscape, brand experience has emerged as the ultimate battleground for winning the hearts, minds and wallets of consumers. As we look ahead to 2024 and beyond, crafting a cohesive, compelling and differentiated brand experience will be more critical than ever before.

But what exactly is brand experience? Put simply, it is the sum total of perceptions and feelings a consumer has about your brand based on every single interaction and touchpoint. From your website to your customer service to your product itself, brand experience encompasses it all. It goes beyond customer experience to influence the overall impression of what your brand represents in the mind of your audience.

Why does brand experience matter so much? In an age of infinite choice and sky-high consumer expectations, a positive, memorable brand experience is your greatest weapon for standing out from the crowd, driving preference for your offerings, and ultimately building long-term loyalty and advocacy. A great brand experience forges an emotional connection that transcends any individual transaction or interaction.

Consider these telling statistics:

  • 84% of consumers say they are more likely to be loyal to a brand with a strong brand experience, according to research by Merkle.
  • A study by Temkin Group found that companies that earn $1 billion annually can expect to earn an additional $700 million within 3 years of investing in customer experience.
  • 73% of consumers say a good experience is key in influencing their brand loyalties, according to PwC.

Clearly, brand experience has become a major driver of business growth and profitability. As Interbrand‘s Best Global Brands 2023 study noted, the brands that increased most significantly in value in the last year were those that used experience as a lever to drive business growth, even amidst economic uncertainty. The top brands provided experiences rooted in authentic purpose, enabled by digital innovation, to strengthen emotional connections with customers.

The Key Elements of Brand Experience Design in 2024

So what will it take to deliver a winning brand experience in 2024 and beyond? Here are the four key elements that should be the pillars of your experience design:

1. Perception

The most memorable brand experiences engage multiple senses to create powerful associations and imprint your brand on the minds of consumers. In fact, a 2023 study by Momentum Worldwide found that 84% of consumers say that brand experiences that stimulate multiple senses can influence their purchasing decisions.

Multisensory experiences trigger reactions in both the emotional and rational parts of the brain, leading to both immediate impact and long-lasting memories. The music playing in your store, the colors and design of your app interface, the tactile feel of your product packaging – it all matters more than you might think.

A great example of using sensory experience to drive brand perception is the Ghirardelli Chocolate Experience Store in San Francisco. As soon as you walk in, you‘re greeted by the warm, irresistible aroma of chocolate. The store is designed to be a feast for the senses, with delectable samples to taste, visually stunning chocolate sculptures and packaging, and even a 15-foot chocolate waterfall. Visitors can‘t help but be immersed in the luxurious world of Ghirardelli.

Research by Somatic found that this multi-sensory approach to retail experience drives a 10-15% increase in sales compared to locations without those features. By engaging all five senses, Ghirardelli creates an unforgettable impression that keeps chocolate lovers coming back.

2. Participation

It‘s not enough to broadcast messages at your audience – the most impactful brand experiences allow customers to interact and participate in some way. When consumers are active participants, they feel a greater sense of connection and control.

Oreo is a classic case study in participatory brand experience, and still a trailblazer in 2024. Their famous "Dunk in the Dark" tweet during the 2013 Super Bowl blackout was just the beginning. Since then, they‘ve continued to put their fans at the center through product co-creation, customizable packaging, interactive digital contests, and endless social media banter.

One of their most successful participatory campaigns was the "My Oreo Creation" contest, which allowed fans to submit their own unique flavor combinations for a chance to have their creation produced and sold in stores. The campaign generated over 680,000 submissions and a wealth of user-generated content.

Customer participation will only accelerate as we move towards the metaverse and web3. Forward-thinking brands are experimenting with how to engage consumers as co-creators and collaborators in immersive digital realms. For example, Coca-Cola auctioned off NFT "loot boxes" that allowed owners to shape the design of limited-edition virtual apparel to be worn in the metaverse. Dolce & Gabbana‘s NFT collection generated $6 million in sales, demonstrating the power of making customers active participants in the brand.

3. Personalization

In an era of information overload, consumers are seeking brand experiences that feel tailor-made for their unique needs and interests. Forrester predicts that by 2024, organizations that excel at personalization will generate 40% more revenue than those that don‘t.

Netflix is often hailed as the gold standard of personalization, with its uncannily accurate recommendation engine that keeps viewers binging. But increasingly, personalization is becoming an expectation in every consumer category. 75% of consumers are more likely to buy from a brand that recognizes them by name, recommends options based on past purchases, or knows their purchase history, according to Epsilon research.

Sephora is another brand that has made personalization a cornerstone of its experience strategy. Their Beauty Insider loyalty program collects detailed data on customers‘ preferences, skin type, and purchase history to provide tailored product recommendations and bespoke experiences.

Members can use Sephora‘s Virtual Artist app to virtually try on makeup, get personalized tutorials and shade suggestions, and instantly purchase their favorites. They can also book in-store services like makeovers and facials that are customized to their individual needs. By making personalization pervasive across channels, Sephora has driven staggering results – Beauty Insider members spend 10x more than the average customer.

4. Prioritization

With so many aspects of brand experience to consider, it‘s critical that you prioritize the moments that matter most to your customers and your business. Attempting to excel at every element of experience leads to a diluted, generic brand.

According to research by PwC, consumers say that speed, convenience, consistency, and friendliness are the most important elements of positive customer experiences. Figure out which of those matter most for your specific audience and zero in on those as your north star. Every experience investment and design decision should be made through the lens of those priorities.

Chick-fil-A is beloved by customers for consistently delivering on a few key experiential pillars: speedy service, friendly staff, and high-quality food. They‘ve relentlessly optimized their drive-thru experience, which represents 70% of their sales, by stationing employees armed with tablets outside to take orders, implementing dual drive-thru lanes, and leveraging AI to predict demand and inform staffing.

As a result, Chick-fil-A boasts an industry-leading 95% CSAT score and does more sales in 6 days than McDonald‘s does in 7. By obsessively focusing on delivering their core experiential promises with ruthless efficiency, they‘ve built an intensely loyal customer base.

Crafting Your Brand Experience Strategy

Feeling inspired but not sure where to start? Here‘s a simple three-step process to level up your brand experience strategy in 2024:

  1. Assess current expectations & experience: Start by deeply understanding your customers‘ current perceptions, needs and emotional responses at every stage of their journey with your brand. Collect voice of customer data through surveys, interviews, focus groups, social listening, and other methods. Map out the key touchpoints in their journey and look for moments of friction or frustration.

  2. Identify areas to improve & prioritize: Based on those insights, narrow in on the areas that have the greatest gap between expectations and experience, as well as those that will move the needle most for your business goals. Use a prioritization framework like the RICE model (Reach, Impact, Confidence, Effort) to determine which initiatives to tackle first. Aim for quick experience wins while also making longer-term investments.

  3. Measure results & iterate: Use a combination of qualitative feedback and quantitative metrics to gauge the impact of your brand experience improvements. Are customers‘ emotional associations with your brand becoming more positive? Are experience-related KPIs like NPS, CSAT or customer lifetime value moving in the right direction? Treat your experience as a constant work in progress and continue to iterate based on what you learn.

Southwest Airlines used a version of this strategy to turn around their customer experience amid operational struggles. They found through customer feedback that the most important priorities were on-time performance, friendly service, and transparent communication.

To address those areas, they made investments in a new fleet of more fuel-efficient planes to reduce delays, rolled out mobile updates to keep customers informed of flight status, and empowered staff to go above and beyond to assist travelers in the event of disruptions. Since implementing these changes, Southwest‘s NPS has increased by double-digits and they‘ve seen a 5x return on their experience investments.

The Future of Brand Experience

As we peer into the near future, there‘s no doubt that brand experience will only grow in importance. Gartner predicts that by 2024, 80% of ordering and replenishment will be touchless, and two-thirds of all customer experience projects will make use of IT, up from half in 2022. As technology like AI, AR/VR and voice interfaces become more sophisticated and ubiquitous, they will open up incredible new possibilities for immersive, intuitive and intelligent brand experiences.

Some of the most exciting developments on the horizon include:

  • AI-powered personalization: Brands will leverage machine learning and predictive analytics to anticipate individual consumers‘ needs and automatically tailor experiences in real-time. Imagine a hotel room with dynamic digital art that adapts to your mood, or a home appliance that senses when you‘re running low on supplies and reorders them for you.

  • Immersive virtual experiences: As the metaverse takes shape, brands will create increasingly realistic and engaging virtual spaces for customers to explore, play, and transact. Think virtual fashion shows where you can instantly purchase the designer looks on the runway, or a VR test drive of a new car from the comfort of your couch.

  • Empathetic interfaces: Biometric data, facial recognition, and voice analysis will allow brands to detect customers‘ emotions and adjust experiences accordingly. Your smartwatch could sense your stress levels and automatically suggest a meditation app, or a virtual agent could use empathetic language to diffuse a tense customer service interaction.

While these futuristic capabilities are exciting to consider, it‘s important not to get distracted by shiny objects at the expense of nailing the fundamentals. Even as the technology evolves, the core of what makes a great brand experience remains the same. It‘s about deeply understanding your customers, delivering on your unique brand promise, and building genuine emotional connections.

Embrace Brand Experience As Your Competitive Advantage

In a world where products and services are increasingly commoditized, brand experience is the most powerful differentiator you have. It‘s how you express your one-of-a-kind personality, bring your values to life, and make your customers feel truly special.

The organizations that will thrive in 2024 and beyond are those that put brand experience at the heart of their strategy and invest accordingly. So don‘t get left behind – the time to level up your experience game is now. Your customers will thank you, and your bottom line will too.