In the early days of market-based economies, getting goods into the hands of consumers was a relatively simple prospect: build it and they will come. Industry titans like Ford, Lux Soap and Coca-Cola manufactured superior products and in return, received hefty market share. According to “How Brands Were Born” in The Atlantic, “There was a time, going back at least 70 years, when all it took to be successful in business was to make a product of good quality…[A]s long as you made sure that your product quality was superior to the competition, you were pretty much set. Well into the 1970s, a savvy consumer could distinguish between high-quality and shabby products quite easily.”
Fast-forward to 2017, a good product or service is no longer the primary consumer consideration in the marketplace. Simply put: a product’s features and benefits are not enough and never will be again. It’s not what a product or service can offer but what it allows the consumer to do, be or feel. Consumers now have a panoply of choices at their fingertips and today’s brands understand that experience is the great differentiator. The brands that deliver meaningful, customized experiences that only their brand can create will win hearts and minds. And at their core, experiences are human – emotional, personal, connected, and communal. The more human a brand can be, the more consumers will connect.
So, which brands are winning on making meaningful consumer connections? We’ll take a look at several industries and the brands that are creating human-centered, emotionally-connected brand experiences. But just because they’re more human, that doesn’t mean that they’re luddites, eschewing the digital tools that define our era. These brands are actually able to become even more human-centered because of embracing of modern technology and understanding of human behavior. It’s the integration of consumer touchpoints into a fully connected brand “world” that becomes part of consumers’ lives – forming powerful emotional bonds and lasting brand relationships.
An exceptional experience is comprised of more than a pleasing place, product or people: it requires a seamless integration of these elements to positively impact consumer behavior. The JETBLUE experience is purposefully orchestrated, multi-layered and multi-faceted. The company achieves this elevated experience through an inspired vision brought to life in every way. From their playful voice (“jet pet” and “fly fi”) to a visual array that delights the eye with its simplicity and creativity, the airline considers every brand moment. These touchpoints include visual texture beyond the logo across all physical environments, from baggage drops to aircraft design, in-flight screens to mobile app UX and UI.
Cultural training programs nourish the stellar brand experience. In fact, the culture of JETBLUE has become the shining star among airlines, an industry often plagued with horrifying examples of consumer service failures – everything from smashed guitars to consumers being dragged off planes. Kindness is the cornerstone of the JETBLUE experience. Staff is best described as enthusiastically helpful and abundantly motivated. Their fleet is distinctive and equipped with elements to enrich the creature comforts. Their fully connected physical and digital channels enhance the consumer experience from booking to boarding and beyond.
Driven by Millennial taste-makers, the curated-lifestyle-brand concept has rippled across most industries today. The W HOTEL popularized the lifestyle hotel model within the hospitality industry and became the status symbol of the younger, hipper demographic. Their contemporary design, pop-culture appeal and informal vibe routinely garner rave reviews among their discerning base. The latest technologies, common areas doing double duty for work and play, loyalty programs that provide instant gratification, and culinary food and beverage options paved the way for The W Hotels. Through these differentiators, they were able to successfully break from the staid legacy hotel model.
An approach that’s focused more on attitude than age, The W Hotels understands that Millennial preferences influence a much larger generation set. Localization is key with each property reflecting a homegrown, unique style. Customization ensures that repeat guests have their preferences known. The company structure allows for agility from top to bottom, letting local GMs and field teams set the brand tone. Marketing efforts embrace their fans by shifting from a ‘push’ to a ‘pull’ methodology in digital and social. W recognizes the power in marketing messages coming from real people rather than the brand itself. Ever innovative, the W has achieved the holy grail of experience: co-creation of brand.
Retail is often the forerunner for innovation in the consumer marketplace, and no one is doing customized retail tech better than Rebecca Minkoff. The fashion brand has integrated brand experience technology at all touchpoints in the customer journey, allowing for curation and control. In the brand’s connected store, an interactive mirror connects with RFID to identify products and engages the mobile app. This connected wall features a mirrored display of inspirational content and encourages consumers to touch the surface to request fitting rooms, order drinks and even change the environment’s lighting. A new option enables check-out anywhere on the sales floor – paying and unlocking the security tag.
But for those wanting a little more human interaction with their tech, associates with iPads can assist consumers any moment throughout the customer journey. Another human element is the brands transformation of its physical space into an entertainment and lifestyle hub. Hip-hop yoga, hand-painted products or custom-made lipsticks can be found here. By creating entertainment, lifestyle and partnered happenings, Minkoff welcomes consumers into the store, creating buzz and FOMO (fear of missing out). The result is a surge of traffic on social and e-commerce areas, yielding higher conversion. In Minkoff’s case, consumer curation and curiosity meld into a unique, tailored experience unparalleled in retail.
In today’s 24/7 world, young professionals are always on the hunt for healthy food, fast. Eatsa not only offers healthy and sustainable options, but the restaurant brand deploys healthy choices through a customized, convenient and seamless experience, all at an affordable price. Eatsa is a completely digitized fast food restaurant that targets the young professional. Their business model aligns with the current foodie ethos paired with the practical realities of today’s working environment. Longer workdays, increased job competition and often intense expectations drive many in this on-the-go generation to resort to ‘sad desk lunch.’ But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Eatsa quickly converts consumers with their service, speed and quality. Time-crunched workers can order on an app, pop out and get a custom bowl of sustainably sourced vegetables, proteins and grains, and get their foodie fare delivered through a cubbyhole. The customization options are nearly endless and convenient urban locations return you to your desk quickly. The success of Eatsa shows how product design and service design work in tandem to create personalization using automation. The brand’s mission to ‘Democratize access to nutritious food’ allows anyone who is health, price, time, and environmentally conscious to engage with Eatsa’s story. Who knew a Jetson’s world could be so tasty?