When You Say Experience

Janis Healy talks about what it takes for a consumer to embrace a brand.

Retail Experience.  Brand Experience.  Customer Experience.  No matter how you categorize it, we speak of the need to elevate the experience within brick and mortar retail stores.  And rightfully so.

Once upon a time, we had to go to a box with four walls and a roof to get our stuff.  Now, we have a bunch of “boxes” from which to procure our stuff.  One of them sits on our desk.  There’s a LOT of stuff in that.  Then there’s the one that goes with us wherever we go.  Access to stuff is right in the palm of our hand.  And, let’s not forget about one of the newest “stuff-procurement boxes”.  She talks to us when we call her by name and, if we ask her clearly, she’ll get our stuff for us.  Thank you Alexa.

Back to the box with 4 walls and a roof, simply selling “stuff” in a retail store has become a commodity game if approached without the interjection of a unique, relevant and meaningful experience.  But really, what does the term “experience” convey?  Well, if we consult our friends at Merriam-Webster, “experience” in a positive context, brings up the synonyms  “feel, have, know, pass, see, sustain, taste, undergo, witness”.  I don’t know about you, but to me, that is rather bland, pedestrian and downright uninspiring.

Now certainly there have been many experiential executions that are anything but blasé.  We’ve seen pure genius at work with the likes of the Apple, Disney, Starbucks and Harley-Davidson brands to name a few.  Something tells me the authors of these strategies didn’t set the bar at delivering mere experiences (things that people see, undergo or witness).  They most certainly had a much stronger interaction goal.   I’d venture to say they set their sights on creating pure, unabashed, consumer embracement.  They likely focused not on simply creating an experience but on creating passionate brand ambassadors.  And isn’t that at the heart of every brand’s mission?  To align with like-minded consumers and form a bond that fosters relationship and fervent loyalty?

Once again we can turn to Merriam-Webster and they will tell us that embracement brings up a myriad of emotion evoking synonyms including; bear-hug, clasp, crush, grasp, hug, bosom, encompass, enfold, enshroud, enswathe, envelop, enwrap, invest, involve, lap, wrap, adopt, borrow, espouse, advocate, take on, take up, drink (in), eat (up), lap (up) and welcome.

A hug, you’ve got to love that, right?  If our goals were recalibrated to seek a big ol’ brand hug, a brand embracement whereby consumers took it up, drank it in, and lapped it up, how could we not be successful?

Take Urban Hardware for example.  This start-up retailer in Alpharetta, Georgia, certainly had brand embracement on their brains when they formulated their first store.  The environment envelopes the customer with warm nods of nostalgia coupled with quirky delight.  The associates (any brand’s number one asset) are knowledgeable, warm and they genuinely care about being part of the solution to the customer’s challenges.  Now that’s hug-worthy!  The product mix is thoughtfully curated, bridging the spectrum of quality and value.  Urban Hardware is part of the community, embracing the heritage of Alpharetta and the mindset and needs of today’s residents.  It’s as if the brand was created for the individual as opposed to the masses.  If only every brand could find this sweet spot.  Not a bunch of expensive bells and whistles, just a cohesive personification of the brand essence.

So… I propose we temper the use of the term “experience” and start talking about the act of “embracement”.  What is the magic juju of a brand that will incite such a level of embracement with the target consumer that they would consider wearing its symbol on their forearm?  What core beliefs and unapologetic mindset can brands display that create a perpetually passionate following?

Strategizing based upon these questions will most certainly propel us well beyond the blasé and into a truly unique, meaningful, relevant consumer/brand relationship.

Janis Healy

As an independent consultant and retail strategy professional for EWI Worldwide, Janis’ passion is deeply entrenched in a mission to exceed the customer’s expectation at every twist and turn of their path to purchase. Speaking it is one thing, delivering it is the art. Janis’ niche is seizing ideas from strategy through execution, doggedly protecting the essence of the intent through transformational program leadership. She is respected within the organizations she works with for the ability to provide clear strategy and vision, assemble competent teams, and relentlessly drive the process to ensure all involved are empowered to experience success.