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Branding pigeonholes: Why experiences matter

We don’t like to think that we judge a book by its cover, but the sad reality is whether we realize it or not, we probably do. In our last blog we discussed the science behind brand awareness and now we’re addressing the importance of first impressions, and how they’re enhanced through brand-consumer experiences.


So, first impressions. What may appear to be starkly superficial second nature is actually an elaborate self-defence mechanism that has evolved over hundreds of years, embedded as part of our instinct to survive. We pigeonhole people, brands, oncoming and immediate situations in a way that we can relate to in order to protect ourselves from the unknown. When people begin to discover new information about you, whether that’s at work, through a personal relationship, a blog – whatever it may be, they’re subconsciously putting you into a pigeonhole in their minds to figure you out.

Pigeonhole contents come from two basic sources. Firstly, the direct impressions you make, and secondly, the information gathered from other external influences e.g. listening to opinions of others. While it’s true that branding helps create a visual way of identifying your business in the marketplace, we feel the emphasis should be on businesses to provide an experience that becomes associated with their pigeonhole.

In short, businesses can max out their budget on logos, fonts, colors, taglines in an attempt to reel in customers, but if the first impression during an interaction with someone who represents the brand leaves much to be desired, they may as well be pouring that money down the drain. Worse still, that brand is now placed into a very negative pigeonhole, and once you’re in one of those it’s very difficult to get out

We’ve spoken previously about CBBE (customer-based brand equity) which is generated when consumers become familiarized with brands, and pigeonhole them with favorable, strong, and unique brand associations. By bringing the focus to the interactions between brand and consumer, we believe a business is increasing the likelihood that they leave behind a memorable first impression about their product or service offering. If executed properly, even modest experiences will drive consumers to remember and tell your story better, and more authentically.

While millennials are credited as being far more loyal to brands than previous generations, steps should first be taken to begin building trust and developing a relationship with the consumer. However, there are still a great deal of brands out there who hope to create a great first impression purely through online and digital advertising, and we have just one question to those businesses:


“Why leave the quality of a first impression purely down to chance in the online world when you can shape it better through a memorable encounter in the offline one?”


Finally, think back to last weekend. Name 3 things you did. Where you went, where you ate, what you saw, who you went with. Easy, right?

Now, name 3 adverts you saw, and the brands that they represented…

If you can do this you either have a photographic memory, or you’re in the marketing business yourself, but if you asked friends or parents you’d likely get the same response as most people – a long blank stare.

In today’s digital world we are virtually bombarded with marketing messages on a daily basis, so much so that we believe they lost their effectiveness. All the while personal interactions remain as memorable as ever. Indeed, along with our pigeonholes, the reality of human nature is our experiences are really part of who we are.

Next time you’re considering a marketing campaign for your business, remember your branding pigeonhole. Remember it’s human nature for customers to judge your entire business in a matter of seconds, and consider the implementation of a personal interaction to steer the impression in your favor. Ensure that you are offering an interaction or experience to consumers that is robust and consistent across all consumer touch points and you’ll have a great campaign.

Good luck.

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