I have never personally seen a high Asian snow leopard and neither has Peter Matthiessen, author of the book The Snow Leopard. What does the super elusive snow leopard have to do with brand experience? Good question. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of reading Peter Matthiessen’s book, you might know what I’m talking about.

In short, The Snow Leopard details Matthiessen’s trek through the Himalayas in search of the mythical creature, an animal rarely seen by human eyes. If you are still wondering where I’m going with this, take a deep breath and hold on tight.

After weeks in snow leopard country, Matthiessen never actually saw the cat. Its tracks, sure. Its scat, you bet. The snow leopard in the flesh; nope, not even close. Sorry Petey. Some might call that a failure. Weeks of hardship in the snow covered Himalayas and not so much as a Polaroid to bring home. Certainly a waste, right? Not so for our good friend Peter.

Although Mathiessen never saw the cat with his own two eyes, he in fact came to know it well. He knew it had been present, even without seeing it. The journey became a spiritual experience for him, which was what he was really after in the first place.

The Leopard’s presence, although not physical, was in fact all around him. After all, if the snow leopard wanted to be seen, it would have allowed itself to be seen (p.s. Matthiessen is a practicing Buddhist) The journey, the experience, the hardships and the trek, were most important for Matthiessen. The leopard remained mythical and to an extent, all the more meaningful. The snow leopard was the catalyst for a remarkable experience in Mathiessesn’s life.

Isn’t that what a great brand experience is all about? It is intangible, yet comforting all at the same time. A brand experience, like a snow leopard, is not a simple thing to define. Sometimes, all that can be done is to create a construct, a framework in which it can happen.

Had Matthiessen come face to face with the cat, starred it down, lassoed it and taken it home for a pet, the experience would have been lost. Ultimately, a meaningful brand experience rests partly with the brand and partly with the audience. A positive framework allows the audience to create their own unique and ultimately more meaningful experience. You can’t make a snow leopard play fetch and you can’t tell an audience how they should experience a given brand; only give them a finely tuned framework in which to experience it.

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