We hear this a lot; “Our image is our brand!” “Our logo is our brand!” “That ad is our brand!” “Our name is our brand!”
Wait, so what the hell IS your brand?
I like Bill Leider’s definition in his amazing book Brand Delusions:
Your brand is a widely held set of beliefs and expectations of what you deliver and how you deliver it, validated by customer experiences.
Until communication was put on steroids thanks to the creation of this little thing called the Internet, “your brand” was just a set of beliefs and expectation of what you deliver and how you deliver it. Customers for the most part never talked. There was no Trip Advisor, Urban Spoon or Yelp. Back then your expectations of a product or service could be influenced by commercials, billboards, and other advertisements.
Companies (Brands) could change the way you thought of them based simply on a catchy tune played before a movie or during your favourite sitcom….
“My baloney has a first name…”.
“Everyone loves Marine land!”
“Don’t cha put it in your mouth…”
“Let’s go out to the kitchen…”.
Have you heard an amazingly catchy jingle as of late? Possibly the Charlie Bit My Finger kid or Susan Boyle would be the closest.
Back then it was much easier to get your message out to the masses. You really could create major awareness for your brand or product, and it worked. The problem now is we don’t have one channel we always watch, there’s several hundred. Also, because we’ve been seeing these ads since we entered the world it’s hard to differ the signal from the noise.
Back to the definition of a “brand”.
You no longer are in control of your brand.
Everyone else is. Your brand is what people say about you behind your back. Your brand is what I find when I Google you. Your brand is what your customers say about you once they’ve left your store. Your brand is what people think of you whether you like it or not.
You can’t control it. You can only influence it. Customer service can help it (think Westjet), advertising can grow it (think Tim Horton’s), a smart HR policy will enhance it (think Whole Foods), but it’s the combination of every tiny little thing you do. Every time you come in contact with a customer or potential customer they either like you a little bit more or a little bit less. If you still think people can be indifferent to your brand, they probably can, but that’s a recipe for a competitor to come in and steal those customers away from your mediocre organization.
You’re better off creating remarkable experiences with every touch point you have with customers. From answering the phone and e-mailing, to your business cards and promotional items. Everything communication tactic is a chance to show the world what your brand is made of. Hopefully, after coming across your innovative brand several times over, your potential customer says:
“aww shucks, who is this amazing company that keeps making me smile?”. Now you don’t have to sell to them, they already are sold.