Navigating the experience conundrum

Fiona Blades, chief experience officer and president at MESH Experience, says measurement and understanding are key to customer experience.

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In an era where experience reigns supreme once again there is still significant confusion over what counts as a truly transformative experience and how to deliver it.

Many brands still associate experience with the big budget live events that experiential marketing was founded on, but experience is not just experiential. Experience is – and should be – much broader than that. Indeed, as customer experience (CX) continues to gain momentum, brands need to remember that to be truly engaging they need to add value to customers across every interaction.

But how can you ensure you are adding value?

The starting point, as with anything, is to understand where you are already adding value and where you are missing the mark.

It is now possible to track and analyse every interaction a person has with your brand – be that an in-store experience, a call with a member of customer services on the phone, or even seeing an advert for your brand in real-time. And once you can track those experiences you can activate the power of the unexploited touchpoints to ensure that every encounter a consumer has with your brand is as positive as it can be. Tracking is the only way you will see real ROI – for example, can you draw a pie chart of your media spend – Yes. Can you draw a pie chart of how people experience your brand – No.

Reporting emotions

“Create positive experiences, not negative ones” may seem like an obvious takeaway, but it’s easier said than done. You need the research to back it up and defend it, both beforehand and after the fact and you need it to be specific to each interaction. This is why it’s particularly important to track in real-time wherever possible; people are notoriously bad at reporting their emotions after the fact and tend to remember negative experiences more clearly than positive ones, so recall can easily skew data.

It’s a complex topic but to take a simple view on navigating the experience conundrum: brands exist in people’s heads as a group of perceptions. What is important is not just what they are, but how these brands are created. Brand growth is driven by all experiences people have with brands, and it pays to make them positive.

The key to unlocking your brand’s potential is in leveraging available resources — data, research, insights — to uncover what is positive and why, and ultimately triple the impact of your marketing spend. It puts you in our customers’ shoes, no matter where they’re walking at that moment, and gives you control over the message you’re sending.

In this light, that Mercedes-Benz stuntman out-driving the storm seems like an apt analogy. In order to make smarter, more effective decisions, this industry needs to stay ahead of the negatives and fuel positivity, even and especially when the clouds roll in.

Over the years, questions have increasingly been raised about the viability and ROI of traditional brand health tracking. Brands are asking whether it is cost effective, in relation to the business

decisions delivered. They are craving a more forward-looking, predictive approach to metrics. They are wondering whether in fact they would be better off listening to the signals from social and behavioural data, rather than asking the same old questions and getting the same old answers.

So, some of the longstanding accepted measures such as brand consideration feel blunt these days. Metrics don’t move much – and when they do, there is panic or celebration, but little in the way of real results. Maybe that’s a simple function of the increasingly complex interaction between paid, owned, and earned brand touchpoints, and the inability of standard rear-view mirror methods to get to grips with the reality of context.

To successfully navigate the experience conundrum it is essential to treat every brand encounter as an experience to be measured and understood. Ideally use a real-time data source to get an ongoing read of all your brand experiences as well as its competitors. Quickly diagnose which are positive and negative to cost effectively increase those having the best impact on the brand whilst trying to eliminate or minimise the negative. Finally consider using new metrics, such as Share of Experience (the percentage of experiences for your brand versus competitors) and Experience Positivity to understand the health of your brand.

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