Even more important than a logo and tagline is the way your brand manifests itself to consumers across all touchpoints.
Every encounter—viewing a commercial, visiting a website, chatting with a customer service rep, reading a confirmation email, and receiving a product in the mail—is an opportunity for your brand to deliver on its promise and convey its purpose. Those encounters can strengthen the overall brand experience.
Far from being just a marketing buzzword, brand experience requires the support of myriad departments and encompasses policies, people, processes, and products.
Marketers may determine the branding, but everyone in the company—the CEO, Web designers, sales staff, and everyone in between—must enact the brand promise and contribute to a unified brand experience.
Why Brand Experiences Matter
A unified brand experience sounds great in theory, but why does it matter to your company?
Consider Apple. We all know an Apple experience when we see one: clean, sleek design; intelligent but accessible language; and ambitious and vaguely futuristic systems. Whether you're visiting the website or the Genius Bar, Apple's values are on display, reinforcing its brand in customers' minds, generating loyalty and turning customers into advocates. And when you look at Apple's business performance compared to its peers', you can see that building a solid brand experience has been a worthwhile endeavor.
A meaningful brand experience can also distinguish you from your competitors.
For example, Tesla Motors has disrupted the high-end luxury car space by projecting a unique blend of excitement, refinement, and intelligence presented across all touchpoints, from the product itself to its dealerships (which, unlike many other car companies, Tesla actually owns), to the actions of its CEO, Elon Musk.
You may not see a Tesla in your neighbor's driveway yet, but the company is completely revolutionizing the automotive sector, and its impact will be seen over the next 10 years.
Moreover, a solid brand experience benefits employees as well.
When employees find their work environment in line with the company values, that inspires trust, which in turn inspires loyalty, leading to a lower turnover rate and higher morale. Your business will also achieve the enviable status as being a great place to work.
Prepping for a Brand Experience
Once you've developed a brand story that asserts your purpose in the world (i.e., the promise you make to customers and the values that define how your organization behaves), the key to building a meaningful brand experience is to ensure that it is not written off as just a marketing initiative.
Instead, a brand experience must be perceived as a process that requires a commitment across the organization.
Every single person at your company must be invested in and capable of living your brand promise.
An airline can spend billions of dollars advertising how it puts its customers first, but if the CEO appears disingenuous, the airline's policies appear adversarial to the consumer. If a surly flight attendant refuses to help a customer with his flight change, the brand promise is broken, the brand experience is negative and the airline loses credibility with its customers—and their friends who will inevitably hear about the bad experience via social media.
Everyone's on Board... Now What?
Once you've achieved a sense of alignment around your brand story, do some customer-journey mapping to understand the experiences that define who you are and the critical gap that exists from where you aspire to be.
To identify opportunities for improvement, look at the customer experience of your organization through your customer's eyes—not yours.
For example, when a customer's order is delayed, all she sees is a late order. She doesn't know or care about company procedures that have to be followed. All she knows is she's dissatisfied with her experience.
Remember that customers are like audience members at a show. They don't see the lighting director or the makeup artist at work behind the scenes; they only see the performance on stage. Processes and procedures are just as integral a component of brand experience as the final product.
Armed with an understanding of customer journeys, assess how well you are delivering on your brand promise at each step. Focus on the high-priority touchpoints, and ensure that employees who manage them are trained in all aspects of the brand.
* * *
Know that, especially for older and more established companies, developing and maintaining a great brand experience doesn't happen overnight.
You have to find employees who share your brand values, train them to meet expectations, and ensure that nothing would impede their ability to bring that brand experience to life. To do that, you may have to redesign products or processes. You may have to create or dismantle infrastructures. You may even have to eliminate and replace certain cultural norms within the organization.
Creating and developing a great brand experience takes time... but doing so is worth the rewards.
Experiences are what define brands today. If your company can deliver a meaningful brand experience, you're guaranteed to win loyal, passionate customers.
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