The power of brand experience

By Neil Pawley

There’s a retail store opening on Nathan Road just down from me in Central district of Hong Kong. It’s quite large, it’s just a store but it has reminded me of the world of difference between a logo and a brand.

The opening has been going on for over a week now, no balloons or sandwich boards are outside, no free giveaways of tee shirts advertising the shop’s name. There’s no need. In fact the name of the shop has been purposefully hidden.

For many the terms brand and logo seem to be interchangeable, they mean the same thing and are essentially the product label. This is simply not the case. All companies have a designed logo but only truly successful companies have a brand that is instantly recognisable and easily differentiated from the competition. This is an example of how one company knows the value of its brand and recognises that it’s way more important than any logo it may use.

For the past week the very air we breathe around the Central MTR station has been used to subconsciously influence and advertise the coming event. It’s hung heavy with this particular corporation’s scent, pumped out into the street, it’s subtle and flowery but unmistakable to anyone that has visited these stores in the past (similar to the way the Subway smell makes you feel hungry every time you walk past it).

The other notable event in the run up to opening is the appearance of groups of muscular tanned young men in nothing more than red trunks, flip flops, regulatory six packs, sensible haircuts and a smile. Again, there have been no logos on show but there has been a queue of ladies a mile long, waiting for their opportunity to have their photo taken with these boys. Social media sites have been abuzz with this event, undoubtedly fed by the company as to times and locations.

The store itself is larger than the Fifth Avenue building in New York, is one of a handful of listed buildings in Hong Kong (any building more than 50 years old is generally knocked down to make way for something shinier) and this company has agreed to a 270% increase in the ground rent in a global recession. Of course, they’re not stupid, the Chinese market is crying out for brands like this and will suck up all that can be thrown at it. This is the land of opportunity if you have the right product and your brand says the right things.

Like it or not, when Abercrombie and Fitch come to town you better believe that you buy more than just a tee shirt when you visit their store. What you do get is a brand experience that reprograms your mind in the subtlest of ways, affecting all your senses and allows you to recall a brand name without ever having seen the logo.

Neil Pawley

I joined W3C in 1995 working for six years on the formation of guidelines for HTML, CSS, RDF and WAI. I worked with some of the cleverest people around, lectured in the UK and US and authored and contributed to a number of technical publications. I’m also immensely proud of having contributed three entries to Roger’s Profanisaurus in 1998 and they are still there.

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