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Drive a 360 degree brand experience

At last week’s MTI Brand Forum there were many interesting best practices shared. The one thought that captured my attention was the concept called the 360 degree brand experience.

There are many of us who practise this at work but, are not aware of it.

It is said that people will forget what you said. They will also forget what you did, but people will never forget the way you made them feel.

The 360 degree brand experience is where at every contact point that a consumer can come with your brand is captured creatively by a company, so that some sensory appeal like visual, hearing, touch, taste or smell is stimulated.

This impact is said to have a greater propensity to drive consumer purchase is what research reveals.

In Sri Lanka McDonalds tends to come very close to practising this with face painting being done together with the sampling apart from stimulating the taste, smell sensory receptors with the food that is being served.

Visual appeal can be stronger and together with McDonald related music. On the latter two aspects Odel comes closer to driving a clear identified brand value.

Throw away models

If one wants to practise the concept of the 360 degree brand experience the most important thing to do is to throw away those models, best practices or structured strategies that you have been using in business.

Start with a clean sheet of paper where you at first map the consumer behaviour as per reality. Then, at each step of the way you need to articulate as to how the brand can be made to connect with the consumer. This is what the 360 degree brand experience is all about in simple words.

Whilst there can be many issues in Sri Lanka’s economy, the fact of the matter is that in the last quarter growth topped a 6 percent from the 4.2 percent in quarter three which means the economy has turned around. Sri Lanka is poised to cross the 6.8 percent mark this year and we must use all the modern techniques so that we can determine how best we could ride this wave of growth.

The logic being, almost seventy five percent of the GDP of the country is driven by the private sector which means that unless organizations do well this year, there cannot be a macroeconomic growth as forecasted.

Hence, if you want to be competitive in this high growth market one way out is to practise this new concepts called the 360 brand experience. As I mentioned, research reveals that companies who engage in the 360 degree brand experience tend to have a higher propensity to get picked up at the point of sale. So just go ahead and use it. There is nothing to lose.

Naumi story

One of the best examples in the world on 360 brand experience is the small boutique hotel in Singapore that focuses on the business sector called Naumi. From the parking bay to the elevator, from the reception to the hotel room that includes the television remote, guests experience a 360 degree sensory experience that supports and reinforces the brand’s unique brand position.

The architects of the hotel have also devised the original Naumi music, Naumi personal concierge Aide, Naumi fragrance and a personal chill out place that gives every sense of the body to experience the touch unique touch of Naumi.

I guess this concept may not be sensationalized in the same way in Sri Lanka but, Vil Uyana, HSBC or even the Body Bar in Jawatte may be practising some elements of this concept in the service industry.

But to really get the best of this concept, potential consumers need to be exposed to it. It is only then, that the sales number begins to pick up and this becomes a business concept. If not it just remains a sexy piece of work that the marketing department revels in and watched with envy by other departments.

Taking it further

To take this concept further let me capture a study done in the 1980’s in a nursing home. On one floor the residents were asked to make their choice on the pots and plants and were also allowed to water them. Collectively they were also asked to choose a day to run a weekly movie on one night.

On the other hand residents in another floor, got the same exposure but the choices were made by the staff.

After some time it was observed that the patients on the floor with a ‘sense of control’ not only became more cheerful and active but also became healthy. After 18 months under the regime the death rate on the ‘sense of control floor’ was half that of the ‘no control’ floor.

This is the next stage of the 360 degree brand experience that can be taken to. The self esteem of being asked to choose and being trusted drives up satisfaction and loyalty towards the brand.

* Companies must capitalize the 6.8% GDP growth projections

* New Marketing techniques must be tried to win consumers

* Marketing must ensure sales pick up

The best case in point in Sri Lanka is where the Sri Lanka Tourist Board and CNN has creatively conceptualized a cyber space on the concept of a 360 degree brand experience.

This is the first promotion that I have seen where a 360 degree social networking campaign induces a customer to select the itinerary of dream vacation in Sri Lanka through CNN either by using Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and Flicker and the winners get their dream holiday free.

This includes nine of their friends that makes the experience unique.

If the real experience matches up to the dream holiday that was sketched by the traveller then we have the best endorsements that the company can really shout to the world.

How brand SL use it

From a more macro end this concept can be made use of. Let me take Tourism industry once again.

A visitor to Sri Lanka on route to Sri Lanka can be exposed to the Sri Lankan cuisine, so that the sense of taste and smell is exposed together with a documentary on board so that it stimulates the visual senses. Thereafter from the point of entering BIA, Sri Lankan dances and a fragrance of flowers can touch a visitor that makes the first impact.

Then from the point of purchasing of a SIM into hopping into a Sri Lankan taxi at each touch point ‘Brand Sri Lanka’ can be made to be exposed. In some instances the taxi driver is asked to text the name of the visitor so that when the hotel bell boy comes to take the luggage from the taxi, he greets the visitor by name and that’s what cuts the brand experience to be unique from your competitor.

This is called the touch point basis of a 360 degree experience. It cuts across all brand models, theories and structures and focuses on the naked consumer behaviour pattern that in turn dictates the business model. The good news is that Sri Lanka Tourism is already on to this strategy of communication, that tells us why Sri Lanka is registering a +31 percent and +67 percent performance in January and February 2010.

Sri Lanka will sure surpass the 600,000 visitor barrier this year.

But the challenge is how we make these numbers build brand Sri Lanka that is just getting an inundation of tourists from overseas just because it’s safe.

Democratic consumerism

What we see is that the 360 degree brand experience dictates to the business what needs to be done from a consumer perspective. Some call it Democratic consumerism.

This new dynamism of the marketer-consumer relationship opens a new dimension to the age old concept of making a company marketing oriented.

At the end of the day, in today’s work if the financial performance is not better than the bank rates then you are bound to be taken over by someone else. Hence this form of consumer dictating the business strategy is one way to keep the numbers ticking.

The critical success factor being the leadership that is being given to ensure this 360 degree brand experience actually takes place at the ground.

So far research reveals it works. Now the challenge is to make it happen passionately at our place of work.

Next steps

The 360 degree brand experience to my mind is all about moving brand awareness to actual buying behaviour. With the average Brand Managers life span in a company at three hours there is a tendency to lean on to sexy multi media advertising campaign to be launched rather than a hardworking 360 degree brand experience investment.

Hence the only way to make this concept to fly will be for research organization to invest of getting information on the Brand Intent score. After all a 90 percent awareness score is useless with a 15 percent actually purchasing the product. It’s better to have a 40 percent awareness and a 30 percent brand intend score so that end of the day 25 percent consumers are actually purchasing the product.

I remember playing this number score when I was leading the Dettol brand. It works. But it must be managed scientifically with a constant shift between tracking the number game and moving to the operations to drive the 360 experience.

It’s very exciting provided the leadership you get is right from top management.

This is the actual challenge as it requires freedom and responsibility to be empowered.

(The writer is the Head of National Portfolio Development for Sri Lanka and Maldives in the United Nations Operations (UNOPS) based in Sri Lanka.)


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