Products May Make You Happy — But Experiential Brands Make You Happier

Jonathan Kenyon, Co-Founder
Products May Make You Happy — But Experiential Brands Make You Happier

Jonathan Kenyon, Co-Founder

Over the course of the pandemic, I learned that washing my hands 20 times a day really, really does not make me happy. Washing my hands with Dally hand wash, however, does give me small moments of joy throughout my day. Yet it’s not the physical act of washing my hands itself, but the experience that Dally creates around doing so.

Dally’s entire brand and product experience is based around the idea of slowing down, inviting you to pause and take in the experience of washing your hands. Yes, the packaging design is part of it, but so is the satisfying feeling of pushing down the pump and receiving that evocative scent of fresh Cyprus. When combined, it creates a sensorial experience that delivers on the brand’s mission of slowing people down. It transports you to a time and place in nature where you connect with your true self, still and at peace.

Even Dally’s website evokes this whimsical, carefree feeling. Scroll down the page and watch how the brand name elegantly and calmly stretches and flows. That is an experiential brand done well. A cohesive brand experience, no matter where you engage with it.

Wait, am I still talking about hand soap?

Yes, yes I am. When I use Dally’s products I do feel teleported to that place of serenity. It’s like I’m microdosing on serotonin every time I wash my hands, which, let’s face it, has been a lot.

The Power of an Experiential Brand

Brands that create experiences around their products inspire feelings of gratitude in consumers. When you feel gratitude towards a brand and the experience it offers you, you’re much more likely to revisit (and purchase) that brand and its products time and time again. If the Dally product range extends to laundry detergent, I’ll be buying it because I now have an emotional connection with the brand. That’s the power of a great experiential brand.

Think Digital First

Dally’s website is a good example of how an experiential brand can be applied cohesively across touchpoints, and taking a digital-first approach has become more crucial than ever for brands to succeed. It’s not as if they’re working with a huge marketing budget, but they have made use of every opportunity.

When we partnered with PepsiCo Design & Innovation to celebrate football’s enduring role in global popular culture (during the pandemic, too), we knew immediately that the subject demanded a digital-first approach.

Football (or soccer, depending on where you are in the world) isn’t just a sport that fans casually follow. For billions of people around the world, football is in the very fabric of their DNA. The game itself is just part of the experience. Its extension into global culture, where play never really stops, is the bigger picture.

Build Connections

One of the great aspects of a digital-first experience is that it does away with geographic boundaries. With the global reach of football in mind, and the passion that the beautiful game ignites in fans, we saw a strong correlation with another global unifying entity — music. Taking inspiration from Pepsi’s roots in championing great entertainment, we delivered a digital-first campaign that marries the magic of music with the excitement of a world-class player line-up to create emotional connections with fans all around the world.

Injecting the energy and rhythm of music into our campaign through motion design, our touchpoints span broadcast ads, social activations, key visuals, point-of-sale promotions and beyond. It wasn’t just about redesigning a can (although we did that, too), the campaign’s success came from creating a holistic brand experience that consumers really connected with, across whatever channel or medium they engaged on.

Packaging Design or Brand Experience?

I talk about Vault49 as a brand experience and packaging agency, but really packaging is just one part of the brand experience. Often, the pack will be a consumer’s first experience of your brand – either on shelf, online or in hand – but if you want to create the most effective packaging design, you need to anchor it in a compelling brand experience.

Many packaging agencies don’t understand this need to create experiences, and instead focus on delivering functional packaging over experiential products and an engaging brand experience. In a world where standing out on shelf is just one aspect of how you reach consumers, that is asking a lot of your packaging. Even more so when you consider the continuing rise of ecommerce and the need to stand out on the “infinite shelf” of the digital space.

I’m not saying that there is no room for purely functional packaging design. Sometimes you really just need that pack of #16 screws and brand experience won’t play a role in your purchase decision. Equally, many grocery store own-label brands imitate category leaders and get great mileage by piggybacking off the brand equities of others, rather than creating their own unique brand experience. And that’s also ok. It’s what works for them.

Competing on functionality and price point rather than emotion is a different commercial decision, so Brand Managers need to decide how to best position their brand before writing that brief and starting the design process.

Be Authentic

Create an experience around your brand’s authentic story and you’ll see a lot more success than if you focus solely on the packaging design execution. Sacrificing authenticity is one thing if you’re following another brand’s lead and selling those #16 screws. It’s another issue entirely if you’re trying to stand out from a sea of competitors with a unique and engaging brand experience that will connect with your consumers.

Take our limited edition work for Smirnoff, where we had a very specific goal of reaching the local Mexican market during Day of the Dead celebrations.

The experience we created embodied the brand, heroed the product, was deeply embedded in the spirit of the event, and it connected with local consumers on an emotional level. The result was a powerful, experiential brand that sold out before the festival ended, and it has since been rolled out across the entire North American market.

How to Approach Experiential Branding

So next time you’re choosing an agency partner for packaging design, ask yourself this: What are you really selling? Hand soap, or blissful moments in time? Soda, or a deep connection to the world of music and football?

Starting and ending with the pack is fine if you’re selling something entirely functional. Otherwise, don’t start with the pack in isolation, focus instead on how it anchors your product to a more vibrant brand experience and think holistically about where else it will show up in the world beyond just packaging. Build that emotional connection with your consumers and seek out an agency partner that will help you deliver the experience that your brand – and consumers – deserve.

Jonathan Kenyon, Co-Founder