When you think of branding you might think of large global companies like Nike, Marriott, McDonalds and big, big advertising budgets. You might think of designer gear and expensive logos.
But the concept has been around ever since Man started trading: when symbols became the mark of a person’s trade and consumers used this information to choose between them.
With a world full of information, I consider branding more important than ever before. It is accessible to all businesses and it need not be expensive.
I think most of us realise now that branding is not just about the company name, the logo, the uniform, the shopfront, the website, the brochure. All of these things are important and must be professionally produced because they will become symbols for the company’s reputation and what it stands for. But what a company stands for in one person’s eyes will probably be different in another’s and thus branding is also about what people experience when they do business with you. A person will want to know what it’s like to be your customer and they will use their experiences to make a judgement about your company or organisation.
In the August issue of Fast Company magazine, Harley Manning wrote an article entitled “Why Customer Experience Is The Only Thing That Matters.” To quote:
… we’ve entered a fourth age, which we call the age of the customer. In this age, past sources of competitive advantage have been commoditized: Now every company can tap into global factories and global supply chains. Brand, manufacturing, distribution, and IT are all table stakes. And with online reviews, social networks, and mobile web access, it’s easy for your customers to know as much about your products, services, competitors, and pricing as you do.
In this age, the only source of competitive advantage is the one that can survive technology-fueled disruption: an obsession with customer experience.
The emphasis is mine. Although some people might consider this is “common sense”, the fact that so many people have so many bad experiences with so many companies even now, in the 21st Century, suggests otherwise.
Take some of the best known brands and think what they mean to you: for example. Barclays Bank; Sony; Toyota. What is their reputation in your eyes? Your personal experience, what you have read, what you have been told, all these things will affect the way you perceive these companies.
And of course whenever you get the chance, you will share your experience of a brand with someone else, whether the company likes it or not! There was a time when a dissatisfied customer would tell on average 9, other people; today, thanks to social media and social networks they will tell the world!
The crazy thing is that, while companies spend a fortune on advertising and other paraphernalia to create a brand, for little financial cost all they really need do is make sure their customers have a positive experience and one that sets them apart from the crowd.
Give your customers a remark-able experience and they will do the advertising for you through word of mouth.
What do you believe it looks, feels and sounds like to do business with your company?
Now ask some customers and discover whether or not there is a difference between your perception and their reality.