The article below was published on April 27, 2017 on, written by Jeff Barrett.

Think of your five best friends in this world. If you don’t have five add in Myspace Tom, he’s always happy to help. Are these relationships transactional or emotional? Do you remember the person or a favorite memory of that person?

Emotion plays a critical role in how we make friendships. And memory is the callback of those emotions. So why can’t we be friends with a brand and vice versa?

Recent events in air travel have put in to even greater perspective the importance for brands to create positive experiences. Everyone has a camera and a loudspeaker called the Internet to share their opinion. Brands that understand this and the importance of connection are paving the way in how they build relationships–rather than transactions–with their customers.

Why Experience Matters

“Experience is about the emotions we have when we interact with brands. I believe we’re not just marketers anymore. We’re not even stewards of experience. We’re ambassadors of experience and we own the milliseconds that make up the journeys that our customers travel with us on in our marketing, in our sales, our support, and increasingly, even in the products we design and develop,” said John Mellor, Vice President of Strategy, Alliances and Marketing, Adobe. “We know that if those experiences are rewarding, that our customers will have an even greater connection with our brand.”

Just like in friendship how we remember someone and the feeling that creates is based on the totality of our interactions. The customer journey has changed. Their access to information–both from the brand from peer reviews–is greater than ever and impacts every decision they make.

“If you think back to years ago before the digital age, people had to walk into the hotel for their experience to start. Now, those experiences start well before they come into our hotel,” said Andy Kauffman, Vice President, Digital Marketing and, Marriott International. “It may start when they interact with us on our website. It may start after they’ve made a booking and they check in with our mobile app. Or it may start when they are using some of our mobile guest services. All in all, our job now is to enable the journey for that guest to be seamless all the way through that experience.”

Marriott treats the challenge of creating consistently positive experiences across all touch points as an opportunity. “We’re a 90-year-old hospitality company whose charge is to deliver great service. We have a spirit to serve that’s innate in who our company is,” said Kauffman. “And now through digital experiences, we’re taking that to a whole new level and engaging our guests on a global scale that’s never before been possible.”

Using Data To Create Experiences

“Lasting brand loyalty is built on an emotional connection with the brand across every customer touch point. Brands need a content strategy which is informed by data to elicit emotion and build connection — regardless of device,” said Loni Stark, Senior Director of Strategy & Product Marketing, Adobe Experience Manager. “For example, a hotel group may serve up personalized content across its mobile app and physical screens at the resort based on data insights on what would inspire the greatest excitement and anticipation. Images and videos may feature guests relaxing poolside with cocktails or strolling at the nearby yacht marina.

The relationship between data and emotion is a strange one. In theory they don’t mix. We can use data to understand emotion. But there still needs to be someone on the other end interpreting that data and using it to create the right experience. It’s why the most important new job of the future will be someone who can creatively apply all of the data that is being collected online.

“With brands under more pressure than ever to deliver engaging and authentic content, we’re very much focused on helping our customers source and manage the most compelling content across every connected screen. The value of data rests in understanding what type of content will create a memorable experience for a particular customer in the moments that matter,” said Stark.

Experience Creates Culture

“Everyone within my team is an experience ambassador. Part of the beauty of the transformation is that we are exposing tools that everybody on the team can utilize so everybody can evangelize the changes and are empowered to make changes to portions of the user journey that they’re responsive for,” said Nick Drake, Senior Vice President of Digital, T-Mobile at Adobe Think Tank.

I visited Drake in October at T-Mobile HQ in Bellevue and was delighted to see this in action. He was focused on creating the right experience for his team, the right office, the right place to create, to live their message so it was genuine for the consumer.

“I like this notion of all of us becoming experience ambassadors and instead of having a hierarchy where somebody at the top dictates what’s going to happen for the entire customer experience, we have people iterating constantly on the portion of the customer experience that they’re responsible for and I think that’s a huge culture shift,” said Drake.

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