Many brands today are trying to differentiate and build salience, but it is not easy to capture the fleeting attention of consumers who are inundated with a sea of information and choices, especially in times of disruption. With rising anxiety around current economic and social conditions, brands are left wondering how they can address consumer needs and deliver memorable brand experiences going forward.
The past two years have brought many changes to our marketplace and consumers. As a reaction, many brands – global and local – swiftly pivoted during COVID-19 to meet shifting purchasing priorities and journeys. Halfway into 2022, we are on the brink of another wave of change as we transition to a new normal with rising economic and social concerns.
With the Consumer Price Index at multiyear highs, nearly 80% of Canadians identify inflation as having a greater daily impact than the pandemic. However, we are also seeing that spending is going in both directions: while some Canadians are experiencing uneasiness, they are also ready to release their pent-up demand and spend more on goods and services. And their desire for valuable experiences has become an important factor for brand growth in a cluttered marketplace.
Experience is the most lasting touchpoint
Consumers come across a wide array of touchpoints and communications throughout the day, some of which stay with them, but many of which are quickly forgotten. Only few brands and experiences stay in their minds and turn into lasting memories and impressions. These memories can have a substantial influence on customers in their decisions. A relatively good experience is not sufficient to create a positive brand memory; that requires a holistic experience that delivers positivity and reliability consistently across channels and touchpoints, and relevance in moments that matter. These lasting impressions will determine which brands are chosen intuitively over others at the time of purchase.
Deliver emotionally stimulating experiences
Triggering positive emotions is not always straightforward, and there is no default formula that guarantees success as every consumer’s needs are unique and change. Brands should focus on converting in-the-moment experiences into core brand memories, prioritizing the delivery of emotionally stimulating experiences. This will have a broader, deeper impact on purchasing decisions, brand perceptions, and consumers' relationships with brands.
In general, relationships are built on emotional factors: trust, rapport, and reliance, to name a few. Brands that can embrace and exude positive emotions will trigger engagement from consumers. Moreover, brands that deliver on their promises consistently (which accounts for 30-50% of consumer relationship strength) and are flexible and prepared to adapt to changing circumstances will likely leave lasting impressions and grow their equity.
Customer-centricity builds trust and relationships
Customer centricity is at the heart of brand experience and places customers at the core of an organization's strategy and communications. It is challenging to become truly customer centric as it involves several stages: 1) understanding and prioritizing consumer needs; 2) defining measures of success; 3) securing the optimal platform and processes to interact with customers; 4) aligning the organization’s culture around the right people, training, and communications; and 5) constantly monitoring performance and proactively preparing for the future.
To understand changing consumer needs, brands need to stay current and be ready to pivot accordingly. When presented with risks, people instinctively want to become disruption proof and are drawn to brands that are resilient and flexible. Changes in the atmosphere and consumer paradigm are only going to continue, and the brands that will thrive – not just survive – in this environment are the ones that are able to deliver on brand promise despite those risks. This will unlock the potential for building trust, reliance, and ultimately loyalty in the long term. For example, in the wake of recent global supply chain issues, companies leveraged their scale and resources to alleviate the impact and seek alternative ways to deliver on their promises.
Moreover, Canadian perceptions for convenience have also vastly changed since the pandemic, which has facilitated the rapid development of ecommerce and delivery services across the nation. Accessibility and availability have become an important part of convenience and decision making. The desire to “access products and/or services when and where needed” is still on a growth trend (20% increase from 2018 to 2021). Consumers now look for holistic experiences that combine the benefits of different types of experience (i.e., online shopping at brick-and-mortar stores and vice versa). How can brands effectively create experiences that involve different business models and competitive contexts?
The ultimate goal is to increase salience and equity, and this requires regular reassessment and evaluation of brands' relationships with their customers. For these relationships to stay healthy and nurtured, brands need to ensure that expectations are met, all facets of the brand operate consistently, and readiness is in place for the future. These will underpin positive experiences and brand success. Is your brand delivering on consumer expectations today?
Kantar Canada can help you understand the impact of memorable brand experiences and how you can build stronger and lasting trust and relationships with your customers. Reach out to learn more.
Discover Canada’s most valuable brands, and how strong equity creates value faster in our 2022 Kantar BrandZ Canadian Brands Report.