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Encountering Stella: A Beer Lover’s Experiences

by Asher Hunter , 21.02.2013

Reflecting on two of my own recent experiences got me thinking about how specific moments can make and break brands. Before I go further, let me start by saying that I’m a big beer fan. I tend to experiment with many beer brands, but Stella Artois has always been a favorite. It tastes good, and I’m attracted by what the brand stands for – Belgian heritage, quality, elegance and sophistication.  Their old-world advertising, commitment to perfection and La Societe program have built my view of the brand. But then …

Occasion #1:

I’m sitting in a Belgium beer hall; the bartenders are dressed in white aprons, the beer taps are frosty cold. I order a round of Stella,  and the theatre of the “Stella 9-Step Draught Pouring Experience” begins. I’m left with four immaculate beers in the trademark Stella chalice.

Occasion #2:

I walk into my local CVS to pick up some beer en route to my friend’s place. I get to the beer section looking to buy a six pack of Stella. I scan the fridge… no sign of my beloved brew… Disappointment sinks in, but my heart is still set on Stella, so I turn to the shelf. It takes a while for me to locate a dusty six pack on the bottom shelf.

Brand value is derived from the sum of experiences it offers to consumers. Strong brands deliver a consistent experience based on a compelling consumer proposition.  Negative and contradictory experiences threaten to diminish overall equity.

In my case, the first experience elevated my opinion of the Stella Artois brand and reinforced the desired image of superior taste, sophistication and expertise. The second experience was totally contradictory and went a long way in diminishing the positive equity.

Regardless of the category, marketers need to:

* Identify the key touchpoints that shape how consumers view brands and

* Determine how the brand is performing on these key touchpoints

In the Stella case, the lackluster presentation of the six pack on the shelf in CVS contradicted what the brand stands for, diluted how I perceived it, and, ultimately, cost Stella some equity. The question becomes, How can brands deliver experiences that consistently bring the brand essence to life – even at a CVS – or at the very least create a less contradictory experience.

Obviously I’m a sample of one, but there are ways for Stella and others to quantify the impact of each consumer touchpoint and develop action plans for delivering more consistent experiences.

Are you delivering a consistent experience that reinforces the core brand promise across all consumer touchpoints?

 Asher Hunter is Vice President, Consulting, on GfK's Consumer Goods team. He can be reached at asher.hunter@gfk.com.