3 Steps for Creating Authentic Brand Experiences

This past weekend my husband and I visited a new brewery called Hop Lot Brewing Company. It’s located in Suttons Bay, MI; a quaint little town nestled on the banks of the Leelanau Peninsula.

We had no idea what to expect, other than the fact that my hair stylist recommended we go and one of my coworkers said it was a “neat” place. No offense to said coworker, but “neat” is an unworthy adjective to describe such a marvel. Vintage cars are neat. The clearance aisles at Target are neat. Cake batter ice cream is neat. Hop Lot Brewing Company, however, is an establishment that can only be described as a place beer-fanatics go when they’re looking for a pint of heaven. It’s not neat. It’s freaking marvelous. We fell in love. Fast.

But it wasn’t the beer itself that made our knees weak. It wasn’t the food or the cool apparel they had for sale, either. Although absolutely divine (ask my husband about their BLT sandwich), Hop Lot’s products were not the things that stole our hearts and sent us into a state of tranquility.

Rather, it was the atmosphere; the vibe, the way it made us feel.

It was the smell of the bonfires burning in the courtyard, the Mumford and Sons playing in the background, the laughter coming from the corn-hole area. It was the community picnic tables that encouraged friendly conversation with strangers, the gigantic green umbrellas, and the fact that the rushing cars from the nearby highway were muted by towering trees. It was as though we were transported to a campground in the middle of the woods, and it was pure perfection.

Our experience, our connection to the Hop Lot brand was genuine, memorable, and it made us feel really good about spending our money at such a high quality place.

So what does this mean? Why did I just declare my undeniable love for Hop Lot Brewing Company? No, they didn’t pay me. I don’t do restaurant and brewery reviews on the side (although that would be fun. And delicious. And fattening). I wrote this post to prove the point that brand experience, no matter the industry, matters. It matters hard.


Consumers are exposed to nearly 5,000 advertisements every day. We see them on TV, in the car, on social media, at work, in stores. We hear them on the radio and we read them in magazines. Brands are all around us, yet a mere 11% of those 5,000 advertisements are actually noticed and only 3% are likable.

Brand marketing is evolving, and it’s evolving fast. With things like DVR, Netflix, and On Demand, our tolerance and appreciation for commercials have plummeted and, according to a survey from Goo Technologies, 82% of Americans ignore online ads.

On the contrary, millennials have shouted their admiration for brand experiences from the rooftops, and it seems the rest of the population is catching on. We don’t like being sold to. We’d rather spend our money on an experience than a fancy article of clothing – it’s a fact. Psychological studies have proven that people are much happier when they invest in life events, rather than store-bought things.

With consumer’s shift in money-spending behaviors and priorities, it only makes sense for marketers to follow suit and shift their own branding strategies to involve more experiences and shareable moments for their customers. Here are a few tips for creating experiences that make loyal consumer connections and get your brand noticed:

1. Understand & appeal to the type of customer you’re trying to attract

The reason Hop Lot Brewing Company made such a genuine impression on me and my husband was because they centered their brand around something we hold near and dear to our hearts – the outdoors. The picnic tables, the acoustic music, the bonfires, the woods – all of these elements worked together to create an experience that was attractive to our lifestyle. Hop Lot figured out their buyer persona, they determined that there’s a lot of people living in Michigan who value camping and outdoor activities. Thus, they created an atmosphere that spoke to a specific audience’s interests, passions, and desires, resulting in memorable, shareable experiences their customers will take with them when they leave, long after the beer has worn off.

2. Humanize your brand and cultivate a personality

People like feeling connected to other people. It’s in our nature. We’re happiest when we feel like we belong, and one of the best ways for brands to appeal to their consumers is to connect with them on a more personal, authentic level. Just like a writer seeks a distinct voice, a brand should seek a distinct personality. Give your customers something to relate to, aside from what you’re trying to sell, and you’ll increase brand awareness and customer loyalty.

3. Provide value to your customers

86% of consumers prefer brands that are useful over brands that are are interesting. Nowadays, consumers expect some kind of reward for spending their time and money on a new product. They’re more likely to remain loyal to a brand that goes above and beyond the simple act of selling goods, and they want their life made easier by brand relationships. Implement a rewards program, install in-store activations that promote face-to-face interactions, or create an enjoyable experience that consumers will want to share on social media. People love showcasing their life experiences to their social media channels – give them a reason to do so and you’re golden.

Ready to dive in to the power and impact of brand experience? Learn more about how we can help you develop an experiential strategy here.

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