Creating peak moments and positive brand memories at Microsoft

If any brand could pick a guaranteed human relationship with each consumer, there’s a huge chance they’ll want to be ‘the best friend’. Best friends are serotonin bombs, waiting to detonate on contact. They are living epitomes of moments that make the great memories people are willing to spend money to replicate and celebrate. So how do you create positive brand memories?

Is your brand invited to the party?

David Evans, Senior Market Researcher at Microsoft, dug into the thick of things to discover the defining moments of positive brand memories and how it affects brand perception and conversion rates. He found that it’s not really about the UX design we keep refining to be ‘hitch free’; it’s about the moments of human connection. Read the summary of his presentation at MRMW NA 2021 below.

Look at these rankings for Microsoft

Microsoft is one of the best brands in the world, and that points to its efficiency; however, when it comes to customer experience, it brings up the rear for the top 25.

That’s not too shabby. But when you consider the enormous room for improvement available, you have to start asking questions like: what is Disney doing that we need to do better? The answer is what co-author of The Power of Moments, Dan Heath, calls the Disney Paradox.

According to Heath, if one sampled the happiness level of each person in a Disney park at about a dozen different times, at most of those points they’d be better off at home: less humidity, no queues, cheaper food etc. But when asked to reflect on the park visits, it could easily be one of the highlights of the year. Why? Because psychology shows people remember three kinds of moments: peak moments, pit moments, and the ending.

These moments mean exactly what they sound like

By creating a variety of peak moments e.g rollercoaster experiences, family bonding, meeting ‘live’ cartoon characters; Disney successfully overrides the memories of inconvenience to engrave a positive memory of family and fun (values). In a nutshell, a great brand experience.

Great experiences hinge on peak moments

This simple formula is difficult to apply because the focus is almost always on fixing problems. We are trained to deliver hitch-free consumer experiences. Unfortunately, that’s not memorable enough. There needs to be something extra.

We must invest in both types of excellence: frictionlessly forgettable user experiences, and delightfully indelible brand experiences. While fixing potholes, we must engineer peak moments; and here’s how.

Think E.P.I.C

  • Elevation
  • Pride
  • Insight
  • Connection

These are the four characteristics of moments that directly touch the humanity of your consumers, creating positive memories. Here’s how Evans applied this to Microsoft Teams.


Firstly, elevation. This involves peak sensory or emotional moments. Something fun, that can get your consumers a little bit elated. One idea that came up was to introduce rolling credits at the end of every meeting. Just like the credit roll in movies? This  feature was trialled as a garate prototype but ultimately did not make it into production.

Scott Hanselman, an engineer at Microsoft, created this fun moment to get people MORE elated at the end of a meeting. You get to see who the ‘director’ of the meeting was, the supervisor etc. The big idea here is that fact people have an emotional reaction to seeing their names; remember the ‘Share a Coke’ Campaign? Same principle–causing elevation.


Next is pride. The only principle with an entire month dedicated to it. Creating a peak moment of pride means recognizing milestones and achievements. Simple recognition is always a celebration of hard work. With Teams, Microsoft achieved this by bringing a very underappreciated group of people-poll workers-together to watch an NBA game with stars and former President Barack Obama. This moment of recognition pushes a positive brand story of teamwork: everyone counts! (lame pun intended).


Then there’re the moments of insight. These peak moments are all about discovery. Like finding out you can share files in Teams too, join a channel or have a persistent chat with someone, that’s an ‘aha!’ or ‘oh!’ moment that helps build positive brand memory.


Lastly, but hardly the least, is creating moments of human connection. To Create a way of deepening ties among your consumers, to make them feel like a community when you create shared meaning. In Teams, Microsoft manages this with ‘together mode’. This mixed reality function casts your video feed into an interesting background e.g stadium or a classroom. It’s such a little thing, but it helps people feel more connected and helps create positive memories.

So where’s the proof in the data?

This is where the results of Evan’s market research, The Brand Memory, come in. The results show not only a general correlation between people who experienced peak moments with the Microsoft brand and higher spending but a great propensity–hence causal impact–to spend more in the wake of a market shifting effect like COVID-19.

Firstly, the team measured the brand memory by asking people what their most vivid (positive or negative) memory was regarding Microsoft Teams. And discovered that a lot of people have neutral memories; neither overwhelmed nor underwhelmed, just whelmed.

However, the data revealed that people who recalled peak moments spent 23% more than those with a neutral memory, who in turn spent 29% more than those who experienced pit moments.

This pattern also emerged when customer spending was measured before and after COVID-19 struck. Customers with peak moments spent a lot more than those with pit memories, even though everyone was out buying more laptops and packages for work, school, etc.

Peak moments convert

If you focus on engineering peak moments to lift the positive brand memories of the neutral consumers, you’ll be tapping into a 6X higher revenue opportunity than if you simply focused on turning the ‘pit moment’ customers into neutral ones. The latter is usually a matter of improving functionality.

The opportunity is yours for the taking. Use the EPIC principles to engineer peak moments, and you will be creating more positive brand memories, increasing brand love and putting your revenue on crack. You’ll become the ‘best friend’.

Find more presentations from MRMW NA and other events in our video library. Your next chances to join MRMW live are during our MRMW Europe (Berlin, October 20&21, 2021) and MRMW APAC (Singapore, November 10&11) editions.

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Jens Cornelissen

Jens Cornelissen has been writing for over two decades – initially for general newspapers in his home country Germany. After receiving an MA degree in Communications, he joined a new media start-up in Amsterdam as consultant on new media technologies and country editor for two daily newsletters. In his current day job, Jens runs the global conference division for Merlien’s dedicated marketing research events. Jens is a trained journalist with a BA in Journalism from Westminster University in London and has authored several media industry reports and articles on mobile and media technology.

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