It’s all a question of experience

Enterprise IG has re-organised its brand experience offer. Hannah Booth takes a look at the implications

Enterprise IG has finally found a home for BDG McColl’s Retail & Leisure unit. It has merged it with the consultancy’s short-lived ‘brand expression’ unit, Enterprise XP, to form Enterprise Brand Experience (DW 29 November).

Brand Experience is something Enterprise IG’s clients want, says Enterprise IG UK chief executive officer Patrick Smith. He insists that clients are seeking longer term relationships with it, and that Enterprise IG research backs this up.

Former Fitch Europe chief executive officer John Harrison, who takes the Brand Experience helm this week, agrees. ‘[Brand Experience] is market-driven. Clients with major brands expect consultancies to offer several disciplines under one roof,’ he says.

Brand Experience has been set up because, with BDG McColl in the fold, three Enterprise IG ‘brands’, Enterprise IG, Enterprise XP and BDG McColl Retail & Leisure, were confusing clients, says Smith.

‘We were in danger of preserving our [Enterprise IG] brand names for historical rather than practical reasons,’ he says.

Enterprise IG decided to create a new business, rather than merge BDG McColl into XP, partly because the Brand Experience name more accurately reflects its brand focus, Smith explains.

Former Enterprise XP chief executive officer Brian Shepherd, who claims to have initiated a lot of thinking behind the merger, says XP was always a holding name. ‘The word “experience” is a natural extension of its XP abbreviation,’ he says.

More importantly, the XP name would not reflect the change in mindset that has emerged with Brand Experience, according to Harrison. It is not just a knitting together of two businesses, but the creation of a multidisciplinary Enterprise IG brand, he says.

‘[Enterprise IG’s] ability to create and manage major brands is something that will be strengthened by adding Brand Experience to its existing mix of skills,’ Harrison says.

Enterprise XP was established to hang on to clients long after an identity programme had finished and to try to get deeper under the skin of their brands.

But Brand Experience will differ ‘significantly’ from the XP brand expression division as it will marry BDG McColl’s 3D retail capabilities with XP’s brand capabilities, Harrison maintains.

He defines its offer as the design of physical, branded spaces, business-to-business and consumer live events and digital, film and video communications. It will continue to work with former BDG McColl, XP and Enterprise IG clients, as well as pursuing new ones, Harrison says.

Internal communications is vital to the Brand Experience mix, he says. ‘If a client invests in a brand, it needs its staff on-board to make it work. Under-investment internally can jeopardise a brand,’ says Harrison.

Enterprise IG has been considering setting up a larger brand experience offering since BDG Retail & Leisure officially became a standalone Enterprise IG division in October (DW 18 October), says Smith.

At that point, it seemed like a good idea to merge the two businesses, he says.

Brand Experience’s rivals will be a broad spread, says Smith, from event specialists Jack Morton Worldwide and Imagination to retail groups such as Fitch, 20/20 and Hosker, Moore & Kent.

In the next few weeks, Harrison will have a clearer picture of where the unit is heading, once he has assessed existing client relationships to establish its vision.

Creating wider brand experiences for clients is clearly what they want, but it is not necessarily what consumers want.

Attaching more experiential values to brands is vital with growing pressure on them to become more meaningful to consumers, says Imagination marketing and strategic planning director Ralph Ardill.

The aim of any holistic approach to branding is to connect a brand to its audience in more powerful ways, he says, and for this to succeed, consultancies need to broaden their disciplines.

Ardill points to the £30m Guinness Storehouse that Imagination created last year as an example of a successful ‘brand experience’. ‘Guinness does not have an image problem or a retail need. The Storehouse interprets one of the world’s best known brands in new and unexpected ways,’ he says.

Brands are becoming more human, and clients are realising that multisensory experiences are more memorable, he says.

Siegelgale head of research Lisa Meekison argues otherwise. The consultancy launched a ‘holistic framework’ last Thursday, called Human Brand Interaction, designed to provide ‘fresh insight into its clients’ brands’.

Brand experiences ‘happen’ to people all the time and they are not really controllable, says Meekison, who trained as an anthropologist. The simple act of drinking a pint of Guinness is just as, if not more, important than visiting a branded storehouse, she says.

This is exactly why ‘brand experiences’ are so important to clients who need to be more proactive and imaginative with their brands.

She says the challenge for groups is to identify the elements within reach without losing sight of the reality behind each brand.

‘A bank, for example, does not need to offer “brand experiences” to its customers. They just want quick, efficient service and clear monthly statements,’ she says.

The danger of ‘screaming brand messages’ too hard to consumers is that brands are playing into the hands of anti-brand campaigners and that people become de-sensitised to brand messages very quickly, she says.

Whether or not consumers are so jaded as to be immune to meaningful brand experiences remains to be seen, but Enterprise IG thinks it is worth the gamble.

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