by Tony Fannin, President, BE Branded
Have you ever been in a shopping situation where what you experienced in a store or with a product wasn’t even close to what you expected? We’ve all had those times. That, my friend, is where the brand promise was broken. And, when you do that, your brand loses creditability. Brand is both, external and internal.
From an external point, it is accurately conveying the experience and emotions that you will deliver whether customers engage with your products/services or their time in your store/web site. If you have done a good job at communicating your brand promise with clarity and focus, customers should leave feeling fulfilled and content that they got what they expected. If you’ve done a great job, customers should leave with a “Wow!” factor that was either unexpected (in a good way) or more than what they expected, or both. Brand is about a promise you make; it’s not about the goods and services you provide. That’s just commodity stuff. If your brand keeps its promise, then you rise in your creditability to that customer. So, the next time you communicate with them, they will be more apt to believe you instead of being skeptical. For example Google’s promise is not to be evil. Apple delivers creativity – a new way of thinking.
The other side of brand is internal. In fact, this is the more critical side, but unfortunately, many companies don’t get this at all. The brand is only an idea. It doesn’t come to life if the PFC (private first class) doesn’t deliver it or the CEO doesn’t walk the talk. Who cares if the C-level creates a wonderful brand position and promise if the rank and file doesn’t buy in. If the PFC in your organization won’t go into a hail of professional fire on behalf of the company, then there is a problem. There probably isn’t buy-in from the middle ranks as well.
I had a friend who went to work for an Apple retail store. She was a PC user when she was hired and was only looking at this as a temporary situation. After her training, mentoring, and Mac indoctrination, only then was she allowed to go on the floor and engage with customers. I asked her how it was going. She was like a different person: loved, I mean really loved, the brand, what it stood for, the mentoring and training she received. She was an enthusiastic fan by the time she hit the sales floor. And, it wasn’t an act – she loved her job and talked with her friends about it outside the store on her own time. Nordstrom is the same way. Their customer service experience is the stuff of legend. Their employee handbook consists of two rules. One: “Use your best judgment.” Two: “When in doubt, refer to rule one.” They train and develop their associates and treat them as professionals. Associates get business cards, not name tags. They have a lot of autonomy to use common sense and common courtesy to make the customers happy.
Ultimately, your brand must communicate a promise that is meaningful and valuable, and it must be executed from the C-level to the rank-and-file. Without buy-in from the inside, you’ll never deliver your brand to the outside.