InsightsBrand experienceHow brand experience is changing the company-agency relationship

How brand experience is changing the company-agency relationship

For business leaders, the importance of a consistent and engaging brand experience represents the best opportunity to penetrate and control vital markets. Creating a positive brand experience is what branding agencies have been trained to do in order to provide a competitive edge and a positive relationship between a product or service and a customer. This truly is the future of marketing.

30-second summary:

  • Branding is everywhere with consumers bombarded with thousands of ads each day
  • Consistent brand experience is nothing new, but touchpoint mapping is now multi-dimensional
  • Brands are now seeking partnerships with branding agencies rather than traditional ad agencies
  • Aligning your branding strategy with your business strategy will prepare you for the future

Todd Irwin Headshot

A brand relationship is more and more like a personal relationship. Customers want to befriend brands that fulfill their needs and come through consistently. Fun is paramount, and disappointment can ruin what would otherwise be a beautiful relationship.

In today’s fast and furious world of omnipresent advertising, one thing is certain: There are exponentially more opportunities to experience and interact with brands than ever before.

Here’s what we know:

  • User experience is critical and occurs at an unprecedented frequency.
  • Advertisers must plan and control marketing to ensure consistency with overall brand strategy and experience.
  • Marketing budgets must be adapted to account for the high impact and importance of all interactive components and execution.
  • Branding agencies have a unique opportunity to serve as the agency of record

Consumers now see an average of 10,000 ads per day. Talk about media bombardment! Getting an advertising message through the clutter is tougher than it’s ever been.

This poses a challenge to companies and brands that desperately want to capture just a few seconds of interest with the hope that a potential customer might tap, scroll, click, read, sign up or download to eventually make a purchase.

Brand experience is everywhere

The brand is everywhere. Agencies must be concerned with projected images and messages, as well as interactive responses and reactions took by the target audience. Once again, the analogy of forming a relationship between two people resonates. If the first impression is good enough to break through the clutter, subsequent communication and interaction can deepen the relationship, just like a friendship.

Trust is key. Inconsistencies and failures by a brand to deliver at any touchpoint will potentially create mistrust and disengagement. Brands and their creative agencies have to avoid this at the risk of losing customers, market share, sales, and even profit, sales, and customers.  There is a lot at stake.

Omnichannel is omnipresent

A graphic showing different omnichannel content strategy touchpoints

Of course, this is nothing new. “360 Branding” has been around for quite some time as agencies always “map out” how a brand should look in print, TV, radio, collateral, and every traditional medium.

The “overall brand objectives and strategies” must be consistent across all media. Occasionally, there have been differences in the way media was used.  For instance, television typically focuses on branding/image, whereas print has been used for more elaborate, detailed information.  But the two didn’t contradict each other, and if executed correctly, both supported the overall brand experience.

Customer experience is now broader and deeper than it’s ever been. It once meant just a website, but today a marketer is looking at tools, like landing pages, e-mail blasts, native apps, and social media, to promote a better understanding of brands and an opportunity to respond and take action. Making sure the brand is communicating optimally is referred to as touchpoint mapping.

The volume and complexity of touchpoints have created an unprecedented opportunity for brands to present themselves to consumers in many new and emerging formats. For example, brands entrenched in paid social might recognize new opportunities in podcast advertising. They might also find new ways to present themselves on new devices that offer larger screen sizes with different resolutions or with alternative creative approaches, such as animation.

Brand mapping is now multi-dimensional

Agencies and clients, now armed with unlimited data to evaluate and predict customer behavior, incorporate experiences into their map.

A car with a QR code next to the number plate as an example of brand experience
Brand experience exists everywhere, even as a QR code on the back of a car

For instance, a customer scanning a car ad with a QR reader will hopefully take the information and set up a test drive or learn more about the auto features when interacting with the chosen touchpoint.

Enjoyable brand experiences inevitably lead to positive and prolific word-of-mouth. Consumers are not only prospective buyers now: they are potential promotional liaisons.  They gather information as they proceed along the digital buyer’s journey.  At any point, they can pass along positive or negative opinions and information to the advertiser or friends with similar interests.

Someone reading about a new medication on a social media site will probably be interested in learning more through available media channels.  B2B companies must ensure that the page that pops up when an employee uses the link in their bio is a positive reflection on the company and can generate more interest and solicitation about products or career opportunities.

A social media advert about medication
Pillpack’s social media ad would aim to move customers through to other channels

These are examples of how brand relationships build and deepen in today’s marketing world.

Consumers may text if they have a better experience using Resy versus OpenTable, Coinbase versus Binance, Uber versus Lyft, or Tesla versus Ford. Consequently, the brand experience turns into the most potent form of marketing: word-of-mouth.

Brand experience at every touchpoint

Brands that are doing an outstanding job with this relationship building have figured out how to communicate at each touchpoint with the customer.

The better the map, the more thorough the execution. The better understanding of the most likely prospect response sets, the better chance to lead to new customers and increased sales.  Successful clients, together with their branding agencies, have already tapped into this model.  Failure to do so may make it increasingly difficult to compete.

Branding agencies have become the champions and experts of brand experience.  To be successful, they have to look beyond the brand they are supporting and have a powerful grasp of the competitive environment.  This competence translates into having the same multidimensional interactive understanding and appreciation of the competition as they do for the brand they support.

This all amounts to increased responsibility and, consequently, a revenue opportunity for branding agencies. Clients are reallocating budgets and cutting funding for advertising and promotional areas that are either top-heavy or do not support the overall marketing goals for the optimal brand experience.

Shift your agency expectations

Companies that once trusted all of their marketing needs to a traditional ad agency find that branding agencies better understand how to use research, data, and strategy to spearhead optimal brand experience.

Ad agencies remain prevalent for creative execution, but more and more, branding firms are taking the marketing helm.

Branding agencies see the brand as a whole.  They can execute most advertising and promotional elements but may rely on outside partnerships to perform some creative work.  At one time, the client/brand manager owned the role of brand expert.

As interactive options added complexity to that role, however, clients have come to rely on the branding agency to understand and execute a cohesive and alluring brand story.

Aligning brand strategy with business strategy

While creating and executing brand experience is the future of marketing and cannot be overstated, it’s important to note that there is still something even more critical: aligning a brand strategy with the business strategy.

One thing that hasn’t changed is that brand strategy has to support business strategy. Business strategies are concerned with growth, profit, market share, sales, or customer base.

A beautifully designed brand won’t do its job if the company hasn’t figured out its business strategy first, i.e., how to make money.

Case study: Uber

An image of a phone screen where an Uber is being ordered
Uber’s brand (experience) strategy of ease-of-use aligned with its business strategy

For example, Uber knew its business was to connect riders with drivers and collect a fee for this service. Its business strategy was more heavily focused on creating new users and building a following early on, even at the expense of lower profitability or even a loss. Its brand strategy was creating awareness and much greater ease of use than a taxi or other form of transportation.

Critical to the model was making customers establish a payment method for all transactions. This saved the customer time and proved highly convenient.

The logo was simple and crisp. The advertising was consistent with the concurrent ease of use and payment strategy. After ten years or so, competition stiffened, and the pressure to be profitable began to make management and shareholders uneasy. Objectives shifted, and so have brand and execution.

Research can influence branding or business strategy in the same way that business results must be adapted in more mature markets. Uber must not only deal with pressure on profit but also on competition from Lyft and regional companies. Uber is strategically focused now on being a global transportation alternative.

Branding agencies take both small and large, old and new companies into today’s marketing climate with guidance once provided almost exclusively by advertising agencies.

Brand experience is the future of marketing

All of this makes perfect evolutionary sense. When businesses first latched onto Internet marketing almost 30 years ago, the only ones who knew how to do anything were tech people. Most advertisers were late to the dance floor and doubted the everyday customer would ever be influenced by a banner ad, promotional text, or email.

Times have changed. Everything is backed up or executed with interactive components.  Ad agencies developed expertise in projecting and cultivating brand experience through traditional, one-way channels. Enter the brand agency and the opportunity to create a fully integrated, fully interactive brand experience.

For business leaders, the importance of a consistent and engaging brand experience represents the best opportunity to penetrate and control vital markets. Creating a positive brand experience is what branding agencies have been trained to do to provide a competitive edge and a positive relationship between a product or service and a customer. This truly is the future of marketing.

Todd Irwin is Chief Strategy Officer and Founder of Fazer. Fazer is a brand strategy and creative agency offering 30+ years of experience that helps businesses compete. Some of these brand campaigns have helped companies like Nikon, Coca-Cola, Verizon, Walmart, Pepsi, Ann Taylor, Macy’s, and The New York Times (to name a few) increase their relevance in our competitive and rapidly changing business environment.

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