Experiential marketing is a tactic used by brands to appeal to consumers’ senses to engage them more meaningfully. Experiential branding goes much deeper. It’s a powerful differentiator, generating excitement and pleasure for consumers that lead to stronger brand preferences, purchases and loyalty.
Entertainment brands are experiential by their very nature. With countless entertainment choices vying for attention and adoption, the consumer experience must be their central focus or they’ll be overlooked in favor of other choices that not only promise, but also deliver. True experiential brands work to deepen relationships with consumers in an effort to become a meaningful part of their lifestyles. They accomplish this by delivering the brand in 360 degrees. Every aspect – from tangible products and services offered in real and virtual settings, to each consumer touch point on every marketing platform, both traditional and digital – delivers a unified, consistent experience. These experiences are holistic: they appeal to the physical senses, emotions and minds of consumers. To all of this, entertainment brands add one more dimension: they feed the imaginations and need for fantasy that all human beings have and enjoy.
Experiential brands appeal to dedicated groups of consumers who have become zealous fans, adopting them as lifestyle choices. Experiential brand owners understand that consumers’ responses depend on their individual perceptions of, and their level of interaction with their brands as passive observers or as more engaged participants. So is it surprising that innovative apps have integrated new digital experiences for kids and adults to interact with their favorite entertainment properties in a more intimate manner? That toy and entertainment brands are working with licensees in more consumer product categories than ever? That these kinds of properties are delivered 24/7 on multiple platforms: movies, live-action and animated series, video games and dedicated websites? The key to continuing growth is to increase interactivity between these brands and consumers.
In order to be successful as Disney has been for decades, experiential brands must continue to enhance experiences and deliver surprises to constantly delight their audiences. All while remaining authentic to the brand. All while anticipating rising levels of fan expectations. It takes dedication to evolve and maintain experiential brands – to keep them on track; to keep them fresh and exciting – but the zealous fan bases they create demonstrate how effective this brand strategy is.
The challenges of brand licensing
There are significant challenges in extending entertainment brands into licensed products and packaging. Especially when perception is that many products within a particular category can be quite similar and packaging does little to change that notion. When it comes to licensed product design, simply incorporating the property’s key artwork as a visual cue isn’t sufficient. For the hottest of entertainment properties to be successful for licensors and licensees, the 360 degree core brand experience must be extended. The core values that appeal to their fan base must be infused, in a manner that is art and science, into a comprehensive licensing program. Data used from research helps to pinpoint the aspects of the brand that resonate. This information must be translated into visual cues and selective brand communication that lead to instantaneous recognition, trigger a pleasure response and the motivation to purchase. Brands that excite the consumer’s subconscious mind on an emotional level are very powerful since they stimulate the decision-making neural area of the brain.
Yet, this isn’t a simple process. When developing style guides to support a licensing program, the question must be asked: How can the brand’s core promise, visual elements and brand communication be leveraged to add value to the overall brand experience? In other words, how can the brand heighten the experience of its fans via licensing, rather than merely delivering the expected? Achieving this creates additional value because it continues to affirm fans devotion and their adoption of it as a lifestyle choice. It surprises, delights and continues to feed their anticipation of what might be coming next.
The importance of consumer product and packaging program style guides
Without having consumer product and packaging program style guides in place, it is impossible to keep product and package design in alignment with the core brand; impossible to maximize consumers’ experiences. Without these critical tools, the experiential branding strategy – a crucial part of the brand continuum – breaks down at retail. When brand owners are seeking validation for the development of these style guides, the question shouldn’t be about how much revenue they will generate on their own. The focus should be on how much value they will create for the brand that, in turn, will generate revenue through increased product sales and reinforced consumer loyalty.
Well-conceived and executed consumer product and packaging program style guides lead to distinctive, ownable products and packaging. They allow brand owners to support licensees in design and implementation, building partnerships and deepening relationships. When a well-established creative strategy is leveraged in the development of content and standardization, style guides help to reassure licensees that their products and packaging will align with that of all other licensees, regardless of category, leading to greater brand recognition and sell-through. Product application and packaging format examples assist licensees in visualizing how design assets, brand communication and package design can be leveraged in key consumer product categories. Understanding this, it’s easy to see how value is created along the entire chain from licensor to licensee to consumer.
Many highly-regarded, globally-recognized entertainment brands have decades of heritage; they must be well-understood and deftly-handled when creating the visual tools for their licensing programs. When expertly developed, consumer product and packaging program style guides ensure that there will be instantaneous recognition of these brands, regardless of how many of their licensed products appear in the marketplace. They do so by leveraging all of the visual cues that spark a strong emotional response from their fans.
It’s no accident that these brands continue to dominate in the world of licensed consumer products. As classic properties, the brand owners prove that using experiential branding strategies and well-conceived licensing programs expertly deliver great results year after year.
For toy and entertainment properties, for any consumer brands, nothing engages and excites like experiential branding. Nothing creates more buzz, a stronger fan base and deeper emotions.