Innovative thinking, practical tips and some crazy ideas

“Wow” is not the “how” of brand building

Last week I read a post on the HBR blog that described two “wow” customer experiences. They really were amazing. One involved a tech company customer service rep who was on a very long troubleshooting call and upon hearing the client say that he was hungry, had a pizza delivered to the client’s office. The other involved an employee at a restaurant chain who delighted a three year old with a “ride” on his mop.

So your first instinct might be to think about all the ways you can create those kind of “wow’” experiences for your customers (or donors or parents). But here’s the thing. If you’re relying on those kind of out of the ordinary experiences to distinguish your brand, you’re making a big mistake.

The reality is that you can have an amazingly successful organization without ever having created one of “those” moments. Let me illustrate by looking at things in reverse. Let’s say you have a company that delivers a sub-standard product with salespeople who are generally less than attentive and one day one of your reps does something truly heroic. Guess what? You’re still going to have a lackluster brand that doesn’t get much attention.

The latest installment in John Moore’s Talkable Brand video series makes the point. The video tells us if you want people to talk about your brand, it has to be loveable.  And what makes a brand loveable? Things like always doing the right thing by customers, consistently delivering more than promised and keeping promises even it means losing money. These are all exercises in consistency. Great brands are defined by what they do every day – not just on a good day.

So what is the “how” of delivering a great brand experience? Whether it’s for a business, a nonprofit or an independent school, I believe it revolves around three things:

1. Quality – you have to have the best possible people delivering the best possible product or service. Period. Good marketing can’t compensate for mediocrity.

2. Know your brand and make sure that everyone in the organization does as well. Seth Godin defines a brand as “[a] set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships…” Make sure you know the expectations you’re meeting, the memories you’re creating, the stories you want told and the relationships that you want developed.

3. Be consistent. Develop the systems that make it possible for your organization to distinguish itself in every interaction every day.  This involves things like quality control, research, staff training, professional development and incentive programs.

Counting on exceptional experiences to distinguish you brand is like developing online content designed to go to viral. They’re both not going to happen. Being strategic by knowing your target market and how to meet their needs – every day – is a much better approach.

What do you think? Is it really the “wow” experience that makes a difference? And if not, what are your “hows” of brand-building?

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