How User Experience Matters to Brand Experience

July 30th, 2017

  Steve Ellis

Viewed through the lens of SoundingBox, the web becomes a massive brand laboratory, showing how brands perform relative to other brands, pointing to gaps, opportunities and cultural shifts.

In a 2008 paper, a group of marketing professors codified the “sensations, feelings, cognitions, and and behavioral responses evoked by brand-related stimuli,” and called it “brand experience.” The paper has been cited more than 1900 times. Brand experience is still a hot topic. A 2016 Forbes article argues that successful companies don’t just have a “brand identity, they create a total brand experience” which cause people to “FEEL their brand.”

Brand experience + UX
A mashup made in heaven? Perhaps, if we want to start to expand the scope of what we can measure.

People working in the interactive world might think the marketing profs are a bit late to the party. We’ve been talking about “experience” for the last 20 years or so, ever since our field started shifting away from old, purely functional or usability-based models of interaction to newer more inclusive models of “user experience.” These models account for all that “experience” implies—sensations, feelings, cognition, behaviors—the same stuff it could be argued that the marketing profs are talking about when they talk about experience.

I think both “brand experience” and “user experience” continue to be discussed because both ideas are obviously important and yet hard to pin down. What do we mean by “experience” after all? What is the right lens to use to see it? And while we’re at it, what is the right lens to use to see a “brand”?

The brand experience gurus have been busily creating measurement scales in an attempt to capture how people experience brands. These frameworks are typically administered via opinion surveys. Some examples of these frameworks include Accenture’s Love Index, and Edelman’s Trust Barometer.

The user experience people have also developed measurement frameworks for online experience, the most well known being the system usability scale and the more website-oriented SUPR-Q. Our own REVERB framework attempts to reconcile the brand experience approach with user experience, taking its cues from both domains.

With SoundingBox and REVERB, companies can measure how brands are experienced through the interactive channel. Because SoundingBox combines behavior (what they did) with measurements about experience (how they felt), we think it provides a highly accurate and nuanced picture of how a brand is actually perceived in-the-moment than traditional survey-based approaches. By nature, surveys ask people to reflect on what they remember about brands rather than how they actually experience them online or off. Because of this distance between remembered and actual experience, it can be much harder to connect the effects of sensations to perceptions to determine what's working and why.

Iconic brands are constantly tweaking their online presence to represent the brand in the best way possible. SoundingBox provides a framework and platform to discover how people experience and interact with brands online, to compare the relative strength of interactive strategies, and monitor their performance over time. This elevates the importance of the online channel to brands regardless of whether the brand has a significant online presence or strategy, simply because online lends itself to measuring brand experience so well.