What Makes an Engaging Brand?

Our Strategy Director, Paul West, picks out some key points on what makes a brand engaging. Retail design by Dalziel & Pow.

By Paul West
Posted 19. 11. 2015
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Of course, there’s no easy answer to this question, but we do know that the most engaging brands are made up of a few core components and we’ll be defining these in a series of six thought pieces over the coming months. This introduction explains why engaging consumers through unique brand experiences is more important than ever.

Engaging brands, looking at ‘the why, the what, and the who for’…

We live in an age where brands increasingly battle for attention as they face greater and more diverse competition across the globe. With this unprecedented competition, globalisation and connectivity putting the whole world at people’s fingertips, it’s more and more difficult for brands to find that point of difference – the Unique Selling Proposition (USP).

With this in mind, the thriving brands of tomorrow are those that are now focusing more on ‘why’ they do what they do and ‘how’ they do it, while striving to deliver this story in ever more captivating ways.

People today are becoming immune to traditional messaging; they’re less convinced by what brands say, they want to experience what brands stand for and how they behave. From a consumer perspective, people have changed more in the last five years than in the previous 25. From Gen Z to Boomers, this evolving, diverse audience is more demanding, better informed, and more creatively empowered than ever before. People are no longer defined by their age, financial status or whereabouts, they’re defined by their attitude and their appetite for engagement. They’re free to shop wherever they want, whenever they want, enjoying fierce pricing wars and brands in competition for convenience and speed.

This is unsustainable, as ultimately these brands won’t be able to become any cheaper and any more efficient; it would simply be a ‘race to the bottom’. Instead, brands have to rise to the top by elevating their offer with a clear reason for existence, better ideas and more engaging experiences – regardless of the sector they’re in, their price point or their history of success. It also applies to some of the most successful brands that have grown up in the digital domain, now having to relate to people through new types of experiences in the real world that drive traffic back to the virtual.

The recently coined ‘UExP’ (Unique Experience Proposition) is the response to this, describing how brands are building loyalty by offering new experiences that customers can take part in, and even shape, instead of simply being told what to buy or how low the prices are. Quite simply, they need to be engaging through the very purpose they’re inspired by, the personality they possess and the experience they offer.

Ultimately, an engaging brand is a business that customers want to spend their time and money with.

Engaging brands are insightful, imaginative and innovative. They’re proactive and reactive to customer needs, desires and trends. They’re also recognised by a consistent narrative that is thoughtfully delivered through every single aspect the customer experience – from the environments to the communications, the services to the products – i.e. the ‘total retail experience’.

Engaging brands also have to cater for their audience’s growing desire for self-expression, and they must engineer elements of discovery, serendipity and shareability throughout the journey. After all, we all love to have something new to share in a world where everything seems so accessible, or readily available.

The UExP applies more to retail than ever before as the retail space has taken on a new role in people’s daily lives. As the retail space has evolved, so has the broader retail experience; it’s everywhere, it’s all around us, and has officially broken free from the four walls of the physical store, while being firmly rooted in it. This experience-driven era is increasingly recognised by new brands and ecosystems, diverse store formats, integrated campaigns, experiential marketing, tactical collaborations, social platforms, playful interactions, convenient services and innovative touchpoints at every step of the customer journey. Brands that are behaving this way are the brands that are engaging the new era of customer, and will be the thriving brands of tomorrow.

There are many, many factors to what makes a brand engaging. Over the coming months, we are sharing six of them. Though diverse, they share a common ingredient – that the future of retail will be in the hands of the customer.

From product curation to new format creation, brands that celebrate customer creativity and participation, while delivering convenience and inspiration at the same time, will be the thriving brands of tomorrow.

A quote that caught our attention recently sums this all up, from Lucie Greene at JWT’s Innovation Group:

“From Boomers to Millennials to Generation I, never have expectations of retail been higher. Transactions must be instant. Services must be intuitive and personalised. Time is a commodity – quicker is better. And yet, when we enter physical stores, we’re expecting magic, experience and immersion.”

In a series of thought pieces, we explore some core themes that make an engaging brand:

New Transactions
The Human Touch
Time Well Spent
Always With You
Brands Behaving Differently

If you’d like to discuss these themes further, please do get in touch.

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