Feeling a Brand: Experience Design’s Impact on Brand Equity
The rapid advancement of technology has impacted nearly every industry, changing the fabric of urban ecosystems and blurring the boundaries between disciplines. Specialized niches have emerged in response, one of which is experience design – a rich intersection of branding, graphic design, user experience design (UXD), and experiential marketing (XM). Experience design seeks to establish a deeper, more meaningful connection with brand stakeholders by engaging the senses, and companies that incorporate experience design into their brand strategies stand apart from those who employ more traditional marketing tactics, such as mailers. Enter the age of brand immersion.
Business-to-Consumer (B2C) brands were the first to incorporate experience design in the fabric of their brand identities. In tandem with the Beijing Summer Olympic Games in 2008, Adidas opened the worlds’ largest brand centre, which featured interactive “experience zones” and an area for pop-up exhibitions and events. Six years later, the HomeCourt retail concept launched in the same brand centre. Ted Mager, Head of Retail Environment for Adidas, said that the underlying tenet behind the concept “in every element in the store, from the materials selected to the inspirations of the designs to the tools [used] for storytelling.” One example of these tools are “sound showers” – a soundtrack, such as a crowd cheering, that is broadcast in an enclosed environment alongside video content and product displays, fully surrounding consumers. Because the Adidas brand continues to leverage the power of experience design in new ways such as this, the company is a leader in the global retail market.
Business-to-Business (B2B) brands have been slower to adopt experience design, but this is beginning to change. For example, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) partnered with Paramount Pictures’ Star Trek to create an immersive, cinematic commercial that featured next-gen technologies, enhancing brand perceptions and expanding audience reach. General Electric took immersion one step further by building and operating two customer experience centres that feature industrialization labs. Here, teams can develop solutions and then simulate production, serving as both a collaborative hub and training centre for clients and staff. There are countless other examples of B2B experience design in action as well. These range from virtual reality pop-up stores, to 3-dimensional environmental graphics, to cross-channel marketing campaigns.
Brand Equity Model
While it may seem like it, experience design’s marriage with branding is not just a trend. Kevin Lane Keller’s well-known Brand Equity Model outlines four key stages that a solid brand strategy should consider to build a powerful brand. These stages assess a brand from the point of view of the client or consumer: brand identity (who are you?), brand meaning (what are you?), brand response (what about you?), and brand relationship (what about you and me?). Developing meaningful interactive experiences at each stage is essential to ensure that positive feelings and perceptions result from those experiences. Circling back to the tactics that Adidas, HPE, and General Electric employed, it is obvious that these brands understand the model, enabling stakeholders to access their brand identities in emotive, memorable ways.
Marketing experts once claimed that brands with clear, targeted advertising led the pack, but the focus is now on how effectively those brands engage their stakeholders with experience design tactics. The brands that aren’t afraid to push the status quo are ultimately the brands that people remember.
Robyn Gillrie is the Manager of Brand and Creative Strategy for IBI Group, working on the Corporate Marketing & Communications team at the Toronto headquarters. She is responsible for developing and managing the firm’s visual and brand identity, and is the strategic design lead for the rollout of IBI’s brand refresh and Strategic Plan. Robyn is currently providing creative direction and leadership to the design team responsible for creating botIBI, IBI’s new brand persona, ensuring the design vision aligns with the firm’s growth and brand strategy. Additionally, Robyn leads IBI’s Newsroom Design Team, which develops all visual content for the firm’s social media and other communications channels. Robyn is also the founder of the global graphic design working group, which brings together all creatives across IBI. Robyn has been with the firm for over ten years, originally supporting the Vancouver office before taking on a corporate role. She holds a Bachelor of Design from Emily Carr University of Art+Design in Vancouver.