Brand experience is a customer’s perception of your brand following an interaction. Often it is equated with customer experience, which is more specifically the interaction between your customer and your customer service staff or processes. Brand experience, though, is more: Customers can gain brand experience through speaking with brand representatives but also by using your brand’s products or by hearing about your brand in the media. Lou Carbone, a pioneer in experience management, said, “Good, bad or indifferent, every customer has an experience with your company.” Creating a consistent, positive brand experience requires attending to all the details of the way your brand works for customers and potential customers. Giving your customers a positive brand experience is important because that’s what will keep them coming back.

We learned a lot about brand experience at PPAI Expo, the promotional industry’s largest trade show, and SkuCon, an inspiring one-day convention hosted by promotional products software provider Commonsku.

We heard from a company known for unforgettable brand experiences: Johnny Cupcakes, which specializes in t-shirts with a twist.Johnny Cupcakes pastry box

The Johnny Cupcakes shop in Boston mimics an old-fashioned bakery. The t-shirts are displayed in vintage industrial refrigerators and on baking racks. When a customer buys a shirt, it arrives packaged in a signature Johnny Cupcakes pastry box. They even make the store smell like icing, which is a small detail, but details make or break a brand experience. Customers can also visit their pop-up shops, which are spontaneously set up at universities, art galleries and even on the side of the road. The purpose is to bring their unique brand experience and apparel to customers who can’t visit the Boston store.

Owner Johnny Earle also consistently shows appreciation for customers. Johnny Cupcakes has hosted movie nights, dodge ball events, charity events, scavenger hunts, in-store musical performances, haunted houses, barbecues and pizza parties for their patrons. Earle has tweeted his location, offering to buy dessert for anyone wearing a Johnny Cupcakes shirt. His interaction with fans on social media and in person in addition to the events the brand hosts provides opportunities for customers to have positive brand experiences.

Earle spoke at PPAI about delighting customers with details, and about being meticulous about crafting your brand experience. We have always been dedicated to providing products with purpose, but we were inspired to add to our approach, and focus on the ways that the presentation of promotional products can create a memorable positive impact.

We believe that high-quality and carefully selected promotional products create meaningful brand experiences. We don’t want to produce cheap trinkets that will end up in the trash because they don’t offer any value to the recipient. We keep brand values and the user’s lifestyle in mind to create products with purpose, which make a lasting positive association with a brand. Johnny Cupcakes and other speakers at the conference inspired us to expand our ideas about brand experience beyond product and design, giving attention to packaging, presentation, and other factors that contribute to the message of the campaign or gift.

As a recent example, we worked with Walmart to create a small appreciation gift for graduates of their management training program. We chose a classic graduation tassel in Walmart’s brand colors, and with a custom “graduation cap” charm. Many of the trainees did not graduate college, so the tassels hold special sentimental value for the recipients. The tassels became part of the overall experience, a classic graduation ceremony to recognize their achievement and their commitment to education.  Each tassel reminds the graduate of their graduation day experience, making it a meaningful symbol, not simply a giveaway.

Walmart Training Graduation Custom Tassel

Walmart Training Graduation Custom Tassel

While Creative and Johnny Cupcakes have some differences — we considered icing-scenting the office but thought better of it — the goal is the same: create positive experiences. Johnny Cupcakes is successful because their team focuses on smart design and makes sure that each interaction with their brand is a fun experience that sticks with the customer. Our goal at Creative is to create useful, well-designed, and purposeful products that will create or reinforce meaningful experiences. Nobody wants their customer to have a negative experience with their brand, but neutral experiences or forgettable experiences are just as undesirable. Positive, purposeful, memorable brand experiences build customer loyalty.

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