First impressions count – how to engineer memorable brand experiences

The creation of engaging, memorable and personal customer experiences is becoming the most significant marketing strategy for brands in building their competitive advantage, growing customer satisfaction and boosting customer retention. Companies that intentionally mastermind memorable experiences with original touches that appear fresh and distinctive are showing enhanced business outcomes with their consumers becoming precious brand advocates.

The importance of the first impressions

‘You only get one chance to make a good first impression’. In fact, according to a 2006 study from Princeton University ‘It takes only one-tenth of a second to make a judgment about another individual based on his or her facial appearance’. Even with these hard facts, many businesses fail to observe just how significant or lasting these first impressions can be. Making a deliberate effort to consider the small, yet important details can turn any experience from a forgettable one into a memorable one that has the potential to influence future customer behaviour positively.

‘It takes only one-tenth of a second to make a judgment about another individual based on his or her facial appearance’

How to influence a customer experience with the psychology of memory

It’s thought that the expectation and the memory of an experience will be the same as the experience. However, all the research has proven that this is not so. In fact, the two can be very different. If your goal is customer retention, customer loyalty and brand advocacy – while the experience may swing the behaviour of the consumer temporarily – the experience could also be let down by an unrealistic expectation, and the significant memory of the experience will then have a substantial impact on your customer’s subsequent behaviour.

Professor of psychology, Nobel Prize winner for his work in this area, Daniel Kahneman, the world expert on this subject explains how individual components of any experience can easily obscure all the others elements. Simply one part of the experience, usually the one that has had the greatest impact, becomes the only thing that will be remembered and subsequently has the most sizeable influence on future behaviour.

When a customer is engaging in an experience, it is seen as personal and unique, which implies that every individual may react uniquely to the same stimuli. Customers who have experienced something use the experience in two ways: consciously and unconsciously – the significant difference between customers is that one may remember the experience deliberately, while another may not.

Kahneman draws another conclusion from his studies – that the length of any experience plays no real role when assessing how well it becomes etched in our memories. Therefore, experience design has a significant role to play in ensuring that every customer interaction is a memorable one by creating customer journeys that acknowledge that while our “experiencing self” will be living in the moment, it is our “remembering self” that gets to retain all the memories. So, making sure we “manage all aspects of the encounter” is crucial.

How to achieve memorable customer experience success at events

1. Manage customer expectations

Since consumer expectations are an ever-evolving process, it can be extremely challenging to know precisely what those expectations might be. However, a good place to start, is to examine how aligned your products and services are with your brand promise? i.e. are there any discrepancies between promises made in marketing materials and the delivery of your product or services at the event? According to Gallup “Most consumers approach brands and their promises with a healthy dose of scepticism” and “Companies that “walk the talk” have a significant advantage in the competition for consumer trust. Consumers align themselves with a company when they can recognise its brand promise and trust in its ability to keep that promise.”

“Most consumers approach brands and their promises with a healthy dose of scepticism” and “Companies that “walk the talk” have a significant advantage in the competition for consumer trust. Consumers align themselves with a company when they can recognise its brand promise and trust in its ability to keep that promise.” Gallup

2. Provide a valuable experience

To create truly individual experiences, you have to understand first your specific customers so well that you can predict their needs and in turn, exceed their expectations. Identifying what matters most to your target audience and the most significant journey the customer will experience during the exhibition or event. Find unique and straightforward ways to deliver an experience that makes it as simple as possible for customers to interact with your brand. You can then look at developing initiatives to launch at the show that will delight customers. Eliminate as much friction as possible by coordinating all activities pre-show, on the stand and post-show to maximise the proposed experience, with an emphasis on developing consistency in execution across the brand.

On an exhibition stand, an engaged visitor will spend more time on the stand interacting with the exhibit – which often means they have a deeper connection or commitment to the brand. Customers that are actively engaged in an activity can recall these hands-on experiences much more accurately and more efficiently than passive activities.

Daniel Kahneman describes, during any experience, there are often ‘significant events’ that are locked in a person’s memory. Particular events or experiences committed to memory by your “remembering self” will stay because they contain emotional peaks in sensations that trigger positive or negative feelings or emotions.

3. Make it memorable?

Marketing is becoming less about the quick sell and more about developing and sustaining long-term customer relationships. Memorable moments are made up of the intangible and tangible moments both working in harmony to create a valuable experience. Consequently, brands should draw on customer feedback and employee surveys before engaging in any design process, to ensure that the approach developed would satisfy them and deliver an exemplary customer experience that engenders loyalty and goodwill.

Putting on a show and creating a sense of theatre with an engaging experience that is multi–sensorial can help to achieve customer excellence. Consider your business as a destination and an experience in itself by showcasing it rather than just displaying it. Utilise the surroundings with more visual interactions, presentations, demonstrations and interactivity to connect with customers and create an experience that will excite and inspire their imagination.

4. Be consistent

Some brands can often overlook consistency, but, without a doubt, it is one of the most significant areas that can impact on customer experience. Previous interactions, competitors, or perceptions from your marketing activities will mean that every time your customer interacts with your brand, directly or indirectly, they come with knowledge of what they should expect from your brand.

Using consistency to build your brand will move your business to the next level with customers – one that is intimate, credible, trustworthy and encourages brand loyalty. The goal is to make sure that the customer’s experience of your brand is seamless and consistent across all channels by ensuring your brand is speaking the same language and communicating the same core brand values regardless of the selected media.

Leave them wanting more

Although some posts promise easy steps to follow to improve the customer experience at events, there is no guaranteed solution or formula to follow, as the customer’s experience extends well beyond the interaction outside of an event or exhibition. The only true way to deliver a great experience is to start with your audience – understand and analyse their daily behaviours, their personalities, motivations, mindset and environmental influences – build upon their current behaviour and don’t try to push for things, no matter how tempting, that are opposed to the optimal user experience. Only this way can you deliver an experience that’s right for each person that will not only be memorable but possibly even magical. Crafting a compelling live experience takes a lot of customer research, creativity and the right partners but when performed flawlessly, can turn an ordinary experience into an extraordinary one, giving consumers more reasons to interact with your brand and more reasons to return.

When you offer customers rewarding experiences that they enjoy there is a real likelihood that they will have positive feelings towards your brand, be inspired to stay, explore, interact, increase the number of purchases they make and eventually become your enthusiastic ambassadors and brand advocates.

How much is that worth to your business?

Blog post written by
Amanda Bates – Marketing Director – SHAPES