Putting the ‘experience’ back in ‘brand experience’

When you think of memorable brands, what comes to mind?

McDonald’s?

Tim Hortons?

Apple?

What do these companies have in common? They’ve all successfully marketed their brands and created a loyal following through effective customer participation – an important tool for creating loyal customers. They’ve realized that through customer participation, individuals can develop emotional attachments to their brand – whether it’s simple acts like rolling up the rim of a coffee cup or collecting monopoly pieces from purchased meals.

Consider the Tims Photo Tour. The idea is to encourage Tim Hortons coffee drinkers to snap a photo with their Tims coffee and something unique to their hometown, and to upload it to the Tim Hortons website for a chance to win prizes.

Similarly, McDonald’s launched its interactive online platform, Our Food. Your Questions, which encourages customers to ask the company anything pertaining to their products. Opening up dialogue with its consumers, McDonald’s encourages participation, making consumers feel valued and heard.

Further dialing up the voltage on consumer engagement is Coca-Cola. The soft drink brand has rolled out a variety of campaigns that focus on consumer participation. The “Coca-Cola Hug Machine” campaign, launched in Singapore, gave a free Coca-Cola beverage to individuals who physically hugged the vending machine.

Recently, Coke also released a viral video, which takes a simple interaction with a vending machine and transforms it into a memorable and effective promotional tool. In the video, Coca-Cola challenges unsuspecting train passengers to “unlock the 007 in you” by running through pre-planned obstacles in exchange for exclusive tickets to the new James Bond movie, Skyfall.

I can say that I am loyal to more than one of these brands. Not because of their catchy advertisements, but because of the level of engagement they create with their consumers.

After all, what Canadian can resist Tim Hortons during Roll Up the Rim season?