‘Your brand is what other people say about you when you are not in the room’. Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon
Take a minute and think about your brand. Why do people like it? Why do they use it? What emotions are created when they think about your brand? how did they hear about it? Would they recommend it to others?
The ability to share information in an instant has made customer opinion more valuable than ever when growing a business and all to often there is a gaping hole between what the company believes people think about their brand and reality.
Just a quick reminder, a brand is made up of a combination of functional and emotional experiences that can be created right across your organisation. It is not and I repeat not, just about how your logo or website looks!
Every time a customer touches your offering it is an opportunity to build or disintegrate the impression of your brand. The trap many businesses fall into is racing ahead, launching at opportunities all over the place eager to assert themselves in the market place but all this does is confuse the customer.
Spend a fortune on a beautiful website but don’t invest in the product or customer service, your investment will be short lived. In a world where customers control the conversation 24/7 they can have the last word and a mismatch in value proposition will severely stunt your growth, or send your business to an early grave.
The CIM (Chartered Institute of Marketing) benchmark points to a general vulnerability in this area: only 31% of businesses empower their employees to build and protect the organisation's brand; and only 22% strongly believe that their employees understand their role in delivering a branded customer experience.
Bad news travels fast… and it has been accelerated in the global world we live in. It also becomes increasing difficult to reposition a poor brand impression as search engines thrive on the hive of activity.
Take for example the recent social media disaster at Balgonie Castle in Fife. Henia Roy (Bride to be) was seeking advice on a wedding facebook page about last minute catering details after feeling under pressure from the venue to commit a large amount of funds ahead of her big day. Rather, than approaching the issue offline and clarifying the situation, the conversation online quickly spiraled out of control as the event manager added fuel to the fire.
I wasn’t privy to the full details, however I’m going to suggest that the social media storm wasn’t the root of the problem. Balgonie Castle, presents itself as an exclusive venue with couples painting a fairytale wedding in their mind. It would seem on this occasion that perhaps the picture they had been sold wasn’t quite living up to their expectations and worries were starting to creep in.
Whatever the problem was, the reality is it is going to be very difficult for Balgonie Castle to recover. A bitter taste has been left behind and anyone googling venues in the area will be swiftly reminded. Word of mouth remains the strongest tool in developing brand trust and without this it will be an uphill battle to convert sales.
This is a very extreme example, however it highlights how important it is to put yourself in the customer shoes and walk their journey frequently to ensure the service you are delivering is consistent with the brand promise you have set out. Otherwise the truth will catch up with you eventually and it could cost you your business.