Experience design in hand

20 Jan 2005|Christoper Ireland

I currently have two pens in my purse. One is a beautiful silver heavy-weight pen sent by Jaguar in an attempt to win back my business. The other is a simple plastic ballpoint courtesy of The Bellevue Club from a recent stay.

I’m reasonably sure both were the result of a marketer trying to extend his or her company’s brand experience as far as possible. One pen does this very effectively; the other has actually driven me further away.

The Bellevue Club pen is a slim, soft black minimal design that evokes the aethestics of the hotel itself. It fits well in my hand, doesn’t call too much attention to itself, and most importantly, it functions well. Each time I use it, I think about how comfortable I feel in the hotel and how well-suited it is to my needs as a business traveler.

The Jag pen has trouble staying together. Its cap routinuely falls off because it’s too large for the pen. As I’ve used it, the “silver” has flaked off onto my hand, leaving the pen looking like it has a bad skin disease. It occassionally works, but the ink supply seems to be random. I’m not sure why I continue to carry it–probably because it feels too expensive to toss out, but it’s not living up to its first impression. When I use it, my first emotion is fear (will it work?) and my second is disgust (what a worthless and inauthentic gift!). I’ve transferred these feelings to the dealership itself. Now, in order to win back my business, they have to offer a hybrid engine Jag AND they have to overcome my suspicion that they only care about the appearance of luxury, not quality or long term relationship.

In terms of marketing ROI, the Bellevue Club is scoring in the triple digits or higher, while Jaguar is clearly in negative territory. The moral? If you’re intent on extending your brand’s experience, take the effort seriously and make sure it really does reflect all aspects of your brand’s identity. This is powerful stuff–it both attracts and repels.

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