The key for effective brand management is creating a positive and memorable brand experience for customers. A Brand experience is the ecosystem that exists around a brand or product, manifested in the sensations, feelings, cognitions, and behavioral responses evoked by a brand.

We’ve exclusively interviewed Mimi Nicklin, Managing Director of RAPP MEA, for her insights on why building experiences for brands has become an instrumental growth driver. 

BB: There is a general understanding that brand experience is all about appealing to human emotions to create a connection to drive customer behavior. In your opinion, what is brand experience really all about?

MN: I would agree with the above. The reality is that our minds work emotionally before they do rationally, and brand experience is the ability to lean into this and create memory structure and positive associations between the audience and the brand.  In the digital world we live in this becomes even more key because, whilst everything is digital, digital isn’t everything – we need real world experiences and memory structure if we are going to create deeper connection and loyalty.

Mimi Nicklin – RAPP

BB: What makes a brand experience “connect” with customers? What are the building blocks that result in great brand experiences?

MN: Relevance and entertainment. Fuse these two things and you create memory structure. Do that successfully and you have made a connection. It is the ability of a brand experience to create positive memories that allow it to connect with people.  Understand your target market, their context and how to remove them temporarily from their day to day reality with something surprising/fun/insightful/relevant – amalgamate that with your brand heart and you have your building blocks for success.

BB: Can brand experience make or break a brand? What does an unpleasant brand experience cost a brand ?

MN: There is a host of evidence out there that shows that bad experience with a brand sticks. People are  even more likely to share a bad experience than a good one – often it makes a great story over dinner – it’s just human nature, people love to have a good moan! The critical turning point is how a brand responds to that poor brand experience – the example of KFC running out of chicken in the UK last year and their response across UK media owning the issue, and playfully apologizing, took what could have been a terrible experience and made it a positive and memorable one.  They probably even won awards for it!

BB: Are brand experiences measurable ? Can you mention some of the proven to be successful methodologies to measure the impact of a brand experience ?

MN: That’s the million dollar question! But I believe they can be measured – they can be measured in response, sharability and the experience’s power to create atomized consumer content across social platforms following the experience. The one on one live experience is key but the ability to document this and share it far and wide, with an audience beyond the one that was there on the day, that is what drives increased and measurable ROI.

BB: One of the crucial touch points where consumers experience a brand is the retail brand experience. How can brand marketers design the next big retail experience ?

MN: Brand experience at retail is often limited to what you can negotiate with the buying team. With the limitations at shelf, experience is formed by smart thinking surrounding packaging and shelf signage, and ideally the leverage of sensorial touchpoints. How do you incorporate sound, smell and touch into what is otherwise a mundane experience? Those that crack this will change behaviour with experiences that sell.

BB: Can you name three brands that you believe are hallmarks in experience strategies in the Middle East?

MN: I think Emaar gets it right most the time – they are forever creating community events and mall activations that pull people together and provide entertainment – clearly understanding the innate human desire for togetherness in a city of disparate expats, located in the middle of the desert! DXB airport are up there – they are relentless in their goal to make the airport experience world class, and Emirates – they never let me down – with simple touches like family polaroid photos preflight, a full bar experience in business class, and air staff trained better than most, they truly understand how to drive memories and loyalty.