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Making experience intrinsic to everything a brand does

Suresh Subramanian

CEO Indonesia

Kantar, Insights Division


Managing information overload

Making experience intrinsic to everything a brand does

The importance of experience in driving meaning for brands has been well established by BrandZ analysis. But there is still much confusion around what meaningful experiences actually involve.

Experience is neither a category nor an augmented service. For experiences to be meaningful to consumers, it is imperative that brands embed a memorable experience in every aspect of the marketing mix.

Experiences help consumers manage the proliferation of choice. As we become overwhelmed by sensorial stimuli, we find new ways to make choices and purchase decisions. Consumers’ adaptation mechanisms include:

Seeking tangible, instant payoffs - Gone are the days where we could layer our decision making or foresee longer-term payoffs. We are increasingly using what feel like instinctive decision-making mechanisms, and the need for instant gratification means a need for instant payoffs. Sensorial cues help simplify choices; just look at the popularity of “feelgood” videos on social media designed to provoke an autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) or tingling response.

Seeking simplification - Brands that can simplify the choice process, be it through communication or point-of-sale clarity, are better placed to be chosen. People are de-cluttering their phones, and brands with too many variants are suffering as consumers turn away from too much choice.

Hunting for authenticity - With growing brand cynicism and the fake news phenomenon, consumers are increasingly inclined to believe other consumers. It is critical that brands do not exaggerate claims or use social media influencers with questionable authenticity.

Brands that recognize and effectively address this shift in the way consumers make choices are best placed to deliver more meaningful experiences.

What does experience mean in each element of the marketing mix?

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Getting the brand promise right


We are seeing a shift in focus in many categories. Fragrance is the new differentiator in fabric care, for instance; the rise of the roast-and-ground coffee segment reflects the trade-off consumers are making between convenience and perceived authenticity. Are soaps about confidence or an enriched bathing experience? Is make-up about beauty or the thrill of experimenting with new looks? It is essential that brands re-understand consumer needs in their category and revisit their brand promise.

Balancing price and value

The signifiers of value differ by category. We are seeing the growing significance of getting pack-size-price combinations right in order to demonstrate value. The question “Why waste money on a 500ml bottle of tea if you are only going to drink 300ml” has led to a re-evaluation of value in the category, leading to growth of bottled ready-to-drink tea sales. Clearly defining the role of different pack sizes in a category drives pricing strategy.

Getting Innovation Right

Excessive Innovation is counter-productive. Very often, marketers see launches of new fragrances or flavors as being the best way to provide excitement and new experiences. But the rapidly declining success rates of new variant launches point to the dangers of over-innovation. Consumers are already cognitively overloaded, and more choice just makes it more difficult to make a decision. It is critical that brands focus on their most significant innovations.

Co-creating with consumers

The successes of Es Kepal Milo (Milo over ice-cream) and Warung Indomie (stalls serving freshly made Indomie noodles) show that consumers are often innovating faster than brands. Brands need to recognize this and be willing to partner with such innovators either as catalysts of innovation or as ingredients in it.

Seeing every touchpoint as an experience channel

Besides the actual product or service, brand touchpoints are also vehicles of brand experience for consumers. With the proliferation of touchpoints, clarity and consistency of messaging often suffers. Messaging must be a consistent, unifying thread in order to simplify the entire experience for consumers. Authenticity of both the message and the messenger is critical.

Simplifying the shopping experience

Research has consistently shown that categories and outlets that make it easy for consumers to buy what they planned to buy perform significantly better than those that don’t. The proliferation of choices at the shelf makes the need for simplifying the choice process even more important.

An experience strategy that mirrors consumers’ decision-making processes offers simpler and more intuitive navigation. Understanding this is critical to improving the consumer experience and, in turn, maximizing the opportunity to grow a category and a brand.