By Lauren Herber, Editor-in-Chief
One of the reasons I came to Thunderbird is because I haven’t yet discovered what my niche interest is. My background is in English and Hispanic Studies, so I initially thought that my extensive experience with writing, research, and communications would be a natural fit for a public relations-type role. To test my theory, I took an internship at a PR firm in New York City over the summer. I learned very quickly that communications isn’t the only option for people who enjoy writing and felt myself more drawn to marketing. But “marketing” and “communications” are very vague terms that encompass an incredibly varied range of jobs. How do you know what the difference really is between the two, and how do you choose which one is right for you? To try to answer these questions, I’ve been exploring both the differences and the similarities between marketing and communications since these two roles can sometimes have quite a bit of overlap. The following article, which I originally wrote for the firm I was interning for, is one example of that exploration.
The worlds of marketing and communications often overlap. They have similar goals, one of which is educating the public (or consumers) about a product or brand and shaping the public’s opinion of it. Despite this overlap, however, the two are sometimes treated as having their own tools, methods, and components that shouldn’t be mixed. One such example is brand experience, a concept that is often spoken of in a marketing setting but that is very much influenced by and relevant to PR.
We all know about brand identity and brand image: one is how you want consumers to perceive your brand and the other is how consumers actually perceive it. Both marketing and communications professionals aim to reduce the gap between the two. But brand experience goes beyond simple perception; it’s when customers feel your brand. It’s that jittery excitement you feel when you turn on your Apple iPhone 6s for the first time, or the rebellious rumble that washes over your whole body when you cruise down the highway on your Harley. Technically, brand experience refers to the sensations that customers experience in response to brand-related stimuli such as design, logo, color, packaging, and communications. Put another way: you want your brand to have enough of an impact on consumers that it elicits an emotional response. That emotional response is brand experience.
Why is this relevant? We live in a world of options. Consumers will almost always have the power to choose what they want, be it products or services or brands. Which means it’s essential to be memorable.
So how do you create a brand experience? Consider this: PR professionals have remarkable power when it comes to creating a brand experience. Can you use the media to elicit an emotional response from the public regarding your brand? Absolutely! And you can do this in more than one way. You can use your knowledge of the media to elicit an emotional response from the target audience, but you can also use it to elicit an emotional response from individual reporters. The tiny twinge of nostalgia or familiarity that the reporter feels as she/he skims your pitch, which is strategically but subtly targeted to a specific experience she/he has recently written about, just might be the difference between an op-ed in a high-visibility publication and the digital trashcan.
Two other elements to consider as you continue developing a brand experience: consistency and follow through. Logos, designs, colors, media outlets, events, writing style, packaging, staff–everything must be consistent with your message.
Just as every element of your brand must consistently deliver the same message, you must also be able to follow through on your brand’s promises. This means that brand experience doesn’t end after the sale or successful pitch. You must nurture your leads every step of the way, even after you’ve secured what you wanted. Ensuring that the brand experience stays positive after the sale–whether you do this through product support, follow-ups, etc.–shows consumers/reporters/event planners that your brand not only delivers consistent promises, but that you follow through on those promises at every stage. This helps to build brand loyalty and mutually beneficial relationships.
Make your brand the brand that everyone’s excited about, the brand that prospects remember the next day, the next week, the next year. Make them feel something–and then keep your promises. That’s how brand loyalty is built.
This article was originally published by Adam Friedman Associates.