If you are one of those people who believe that memorable brand experiences can be designed, I have bad news: it’s not possible. I explain why.

Companies spend time and money to design the perfect brand experience. They create the best products and services, supervise every phase, design customer journey maps to identify touchpoints and prevent pain points, they train their employees giving precise instructions on what to do in every situation … and, finally, the customer isn’t satisfied. What happened?

We cannot control all the elements that determine how customers perceive their experience. Experience also includes interactions that are not directly related to the product and service and, obviously, the experience is, ultimately, a subjective perception.

I’ll illustrate this with two real situations.

Alongside my work as a blogger and designer, I’m head of information and studies at AMEC, a business organization that promotes the internationalization of Spanish companies. One of the most important activities that we carry out is the management of the participation of companies in international fairs. Once the fair is over, we send them a satisfaction survey.

The surveys obtained in two different fairs showed us that memorable brand experiences cannot always be planned.

First example. Helping dismantle a booth.

In the satisfaction survey of one fair, one company answered: “Without your help the last day would have been unmanageable”. What did they mean?

The last day of the fair, the head of the company returned to Spain in the morning, leaving only one person responsible for the booth. This person had a problem: he was overwhelmed because between the closing time of the fair and the departure of his flight he had very little time to dismantle the booth. The AMEC’s representative at the fair helped him with the booth dismantling and handled the dispatch of the material, even though this wasn’t among her duties.

During the previous months, my colleague had been helping the company to manage their participation in the fair. However, they didn’t mention this. They only valued positively the fact that we had solved their problem.

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Second example. Acting as a messenger.

On another occasion, one of the Spanish exhibitors had to receive some samples of their products to show them at the fair. They should have arrived the day before the opening, but there was a delay.

The fair began and the company installed the booth without the samples. Just then, the messenger told them that the samples were waiting at the hotel. The person responsible of the booth had a problem: he was alone. If he went to the hotel he couldn’t attend the potential customers. If he didn’t collect the samples until the evening, he would have lost a whole day. The AMEC’s representative at the fair went to the hotel, picked up the samples and carried them to the fair.

The company has always remembered this fair positively and they are very grateful.

We cannot design human beings

In both cases, we obtained a memorable brand experience. The management of the fair was excellent and the companies were satisfied. However, the decisive factor wasn’t a planned element. We had no obligation to do those favors to the companies.

Employees can be required to smile, say a few words of greeting, be gentle with the customers and carry out their functions correctly. However, we cannot force them to be “human beings”. And yet, that’s what customers really value and what, ultimately, determines the difference between a good experience and a memorable brand experience.

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