Editor’s note: Martin Thoma is an author, speaker and blogger on how to live your brand. Opinions, commentary and other essays posted in this space are wholly the view of the author(s). They may not represent the opinion of the owners of Talk Business & Politics.
Al Reis, one of our time’s most prolific marketing writers, argues that the great brands today are built by public relations and only defended by advertising. Scott Bedbury, another notable brand thinker and author, says “Everything you do is in your brand.”
It’s a good question for the brand builder: If your brand is a wall to keep out the competition, what are the bricks? What’s in your brand?
Customer experiences are in your brand
Every single person who has ever encountered your company, service, or product had an experience – every single time. That experience had physical, mental and emotional components: pleasant or unpleasant, memorable or forgettable, meaningful or not.
Brand-minded organizations are definite and intentional about the experiences they create.
Chick-fil-A’s customer-service signoff comes to mind: “It’s my pleasure to serve you.” You’ll never leave a Chick-fil-A without hearing that phrase, and despite its scripted nature you’ll rarely find it rings untrue.
Your company is an experience factory. Every interaction is capable of adding or detracting from your brand equity. Every customer’s every experience is in your brand.
“Word of mouth” is in your brand
It’s a commonplace that “word-of-mouth” is the most powerful form of advertising. Whole books have been written about it. Some marketing firms do nothing else. Wordsworth called poetry “emotion recollected in tranquility.” Word-of-mouth is experience recollected in conversation.
While a major hospital was running a heavy ad schedule about its quality of care, my neighbor visited their ER with his wife. They had a two-hour wait; they saw dried blood on the floor; nobody talked to them or told them when they might be seen. Finally, they just walked out and went across town to try again. How much were all those ads worth to the friends and neighbors with whom they shared this story?
Everything that anyone says about you is in your brand.
A lot of “ink” is in your brand
Give that person talking about you a 100,000-watt megaphone and you’ve got the media … print, broadcast, online, social.
Chipotle is a company that’s earned a lot of coverage lately for its food safety issues. After aggressive improvements in its food-handling practices, the company now says its standards are the highest in the industry. Even if it stops poisoning customers, it will be a long time before millions of people who never got near an implicated store will feel good about their Chipotle burrito bowl.
Everything that’s printed, broadcast, and posted online about you is forever after in your brand.
Every image is in your brand
One of your most critical “bricks” in your brand image is comprised of the images in your brand – what people see of it. Buildings and signage, trucks and service vehicles, correspondence, sales materials and advertisements, employee uniforms, product packaging and store furnishings create a composite image of your brand.
What do the pictures, environments, and designs you project say about your business? Everything your customers see is in your brand.
Feelings are in your brand
Consider your physician. You likely have no idea how clinically competent he or she is. But you darn sure know how you feel after a visit.
A nationwide survey of security system customers by the Electronic Security Association underscores the fact. A security system is hard to value – it’s like insurance in that you know you need it but hope you never use it. ESA’s research underscored that high customer service perceptions directly correlated with high perceived value. Once customer service scores dropped below “excellent” or “very good,” perceived value plummeted.
People forget facts and figures in a hurry. People forget the reasons to do business with you. But they remember their feelings forever. Every emotion ever felt about your company, product or service is in your brand.
All of your advertising is in your brand
As marketing has become more accountable and the Internet has enabled extraordinary visibility into campaign performance and user behavior, advertising has shifted sharply from image-making to lead-generating.
Gone are many of the glossy “branding campaigns” focused on telling stories or shaping impressions and here are many hard-core price-and-item, direct-sale, call-to-action efforts.
A fascinating white paper circulating in digital marketing circles explores the most surprising landing-page split test results from some of the country’s most notable experts. (A split-test pits one creative solution against another in a website or online campaign, allowing the higher performing solution to then get all the traffic. In this way online efforts can be continually optimized.) In many cases the junkier, less aesthetically appealing solution earned more traffic or conversions.
It’s a quandary for the brand leader: go with ugly, high-performing content or drive for solutions that perform well while presenting nicely.
An accomplished CMO told me they now call their direct-response TV “brand response advertising” in recognition that every dollar spent on an ad makes an incremental contribution to the brand image.
The fact is that the viewing public doesn’t discern one type of ad from another. Every ad you run is in your brand.
Everything you do is in your brand.