Experiential branding is a brand implementation strategy in which an organization focuses on giving its customers the kind of experience they’re looking for.
This is not to be confused with experiential marketing, which mostly consists of marketing-related tactics to help customers experience a brand in a certain way. Think apps, events, messaging, ads, digital campaigns, etc. While there’s definitely some conceptual crossover between experiential branding and marketing, we’re focused on the former — particularly as it relates to the physical aspects of an organization’s branding.
This is an important topic for brands today, especially after the past two years. Before the pandemic, customers were engaging brands “normally” — as in, ways that weren’t dramatically shifted by the pandemic and the other challenges of recent years. But then these events occurred and caused a significant change in how consumers engage with brands. Locations closed down or changed the way consumers interacted with them. Supply chain issues pushed customers to explore new channels for shopping, dining, financial needs, automotive needs, and others.
As a result, mergers and acquisitions across multiple industries skyrocketed. Additionally, brands that have withstood these tumultuous times or even cemented their position in consumers’ daily lives reinforced those gains with updates to their visual identities as well as their locations in order to strengthen those bonds. Regardless of ground gained or lost, the cumulative effect of the past two years means that brands should look to experiential branding in order to differentiate themselves from the competition and deepen their relationships with customers — and in the ways that those consumers choose to engage with them.
Here, we’ll explore a few examples of experiential branding across a variety of physical brand assets to provide ideas and insights your brand can use to make the most of its locations and further develop relationships with consumers.
Experiential Branding Examples and How They Affect Your Consumers
Exterior signage is closely tied to your visual identity, which means it’s not always easy to do something unique unless your visual identity itself is unique. Many organizations have taken the opportunity over the past two years to update or completely change their visual identity. While we can’t say if that’s the right move for your organization, it’s important to understand that exterior signage is typically the first interaction that a consumer has with your brand.
Whether you update your identity or choose to maintain an established identity, it’s critical that your signage creates a positive impression each and every time that a consumer visits a location. Updating existing signage to reflect a new identity, upgrading the exterior of the structure behind the signage to create a new look, or restructuring how signage appears on your facilities are all great ways to strengthen — or re-establish — a connection with your audience. Of course, this is not an easy undertaking, which is why working with the right company that understands local signage requirements, permitting, and brand implementation will help you maximize the results.
At a high-level, interior signage consists of a variety of signage types that include wayfinding, digital graphics, digital signage, experiential graphics, and more. Each of these signage points helps to frame a consumer’s experience with your brand when they step inside one of your locations. They create a certain feeling, help to guide consumers where they need to go, and provide important information that a consumer needs to get the most out of their visit.
Clearly, interior signage has great power to influence how consumers experience your brand. Aligning these elements with a new identity, revitalizing them to make use of more attractive materials, rethinking how they’re used in your locations, or adding to them in new and creative ways will reinforce that power and help your brand provide the experience consumers want. Examples include expanding ADA signage, implementing or clarifying wayfinding signage, and adding beautiful new signage points to reflect a new or updated identity.
Interior and exterior lighting greatly impact the consumer experience (and the employee experience — a crucial element in today’s world!). If your consumers feel like your lighting is insufficient or that simply walking around in your facilities leaves them drained, it might be time to look at the systems you’re using and the overall performance of illumination. Updating lighting elements not only helps you take advantage of energy savings, but also can increase illumination without additional energy usage. This means your spaces feel safer, are filled with more pleasing light, and ultimately create a better experience.
Additionally, lighting influences how your products, service areas, and the overall design of your spaces appear. A key example comes from the grocery industry. Brands understand that lighting dramatically influences how shoppers feel about products and influences their purchase habits. Certain color temperatures and levels of brightness position products literally in the best light possible. Consider what you want your consumers to feel when they walk into your locations and match that with an appropriate lighting system. Be sure to work with an experienced energy team who can help you reduce your energy usage while also creating the ideal lighting setup.
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Last but not least, one of the greatest influencers on how consumers experience your brand is the building itself. If your location is not a standalone building, then the interior of the space being leased also matters. Your organization likely already undergoes periodic refresh and remodeling cycles. But after the past two years, it may be worthwhile to accelerate or modify that schedule.
An example comes from the convenience store industry. C-stores, on the whole, thrived during the pandemic because people relied on them heavily to get products they needed quickly without the time investment of a full grocery store visit. As a result, c-store brands have been taking the opportunity to completely refresh their locations to solidify their positions in consumers’ daily lives. The hospitality industry has also been making similar moves to revitalize their position — undergoing significant M&A activity that results in quick refreshes and larger remodels.
The Possibilities are Endless — Find the Ideal Solutions Now
Experiential branding is more essential today than ever, which is why it’s important to work with a brand implementation partner that understands how to execute these programs efficiently, at a large scale, and with the results you’re looking for. Stratus has been supporting brands across multiple industries for decades, always keeping our finger on the pulse of what’s driving success for our clients and their customers.
If you’re looking to take your brand to the next level, our complete suite of capabilities — along with unrivaled expertise that ensures timely, accurate implementation — will address multiple aspects of your brand and help you create the experiences that your customers expect.