Part 3 of 3
1: Brand Essence
2: Brand Harmony
I was driving as my associate, Diana Lackner, rode in the passenger
seat. Her phone rang, and as she answered it, I realized she was receiving
a return call from one of our client’s customers. Diana had been
trying to set up a conversation with this person to get his views on
our client’s company. He must have asked, “Is this a good
time to talk?” because I heard Diana answer, “Sure, as long
as you don’t mind that I’m riding as a passenger in a car.
If it’s ok with you, it’s no problem for me to interview
Diana then asked a very simple question. “To get started, can
you tell me what it’s like to work with them?” referring
to our client’s company.
For the next 15 minutes, I heard Diana say, “Yes, I see…
uh-huh, ok… I understand,” as she took about three pages
of notes. Clearly, this customer had in his mind a very detailed and
active story about our client’s company. He was speaking passionately
and with detail about a company that, by the way, sold him corrugated
boxes; my client was in a not-too-sexy business. His comments were multi-faceted
and thoughtful, combining hard-earned compliments with well-reasoned
complaints and ideas for improvement. I am certain that during this
15 minutes the customer spoke more words than were written in all of
my client’s company’s printed sales collateral.
How did this rich story become formed in his mind? As I wrote in the
last issue of this newsletter, (which served as part 2 of this 3
part series on branding) my most fundamental belief about branding is,
“You don’t brand your customers, they brand you.”
Through involvement and interaction with my client’s company,
this customer created this detailed story in his mind. Yes, some parts
of his story matched up with the promises made in the company’s
brochures, web site and sales pitches, but the customer’s brand
story also included some negative elements that were the result of service
and product problems, as opposed to sales and marketing promises.
Why is this brand story so important? Because it drives the customer’s
actions. If a customer forms a brand story about your company that is
clear, compelling and differentiating, he will be more likely to buy
from you, pay more to you and rave more about you. If, on the other
hand, a customer forms a brand story about your company that is not
very clear, compelling or differentiated, you will not realize all of
the potential that is possible with that customer.
How do you encourage customers to create motivating brand stories about
you in their minds? This newsletter is part 3 of a 3 part series on
branding. In the first of this series I wrote about brand
essence, which is the “DNA” of your brand that should,
ideally, be resident in every interaction you have with customers. In
the second issue in the series, I wrote about Brand
Harmony, the idea that strong brand stories are formed when all
interactions a customer has with a product or company blend in a way
that help the customer envision a clear, compelling, differentiated
story. A strong brand story is the result of a well-defined brand essence
that is expressed at all points of interaction with a customer. If this
happens, and a strong sense of Brand Harmony is perceptible, the customer
will create a rich, motivating brand story in his mind. To put this
in familiar terms, brand essence is analogous to the key themes in a
novel, customer interactions are similar to the novel’s scenes,
and the brand story is the overall perception of the novel that the
reader has during and after reading the book.
There is one important point, however, where the novel metaphor breaks
down. I have been very careful in this post to never encourage you to
tell your story. As I wrote in this recent post on tompeters.com,
Telling Stories, your job is not to tell your customer a story,
but to make it easy for the customer to co-create the story with you.
If you focus on the telling of your story, one thing is guaranteed:
The customer will not be focused on listening to your story. Branding
your company is something in which your customer is a very active participant.
As your story is created, be sure to share the pen.
Think of the companies you are most involved with as a customer. How
rich and detailed are the stories you have created about these companies?
Is there a correlation between richness and involvement? Between how
positive a rich story is and how much business you give the company?
Which interactions contributed most to your story?
great example for this exercise is to think of restaurants you go to.
I’ve noticed that people tend to form rich brand stories about
restaurants they frequent.)
How do you compare?
Have someone interview 10 or 20 of your customers. Pay attention to
how rich, detailed and multi-faceted their descriptions are of your
company. Are you making it easy for customers to create powerful stories
about you in their minds?
Review the first
two newsletters in this series, along with the recommend exercises
at the end of each. Thinking of your brand essence and how you can create
better Brand Harmony for your customers, write down, in a customer’s
voice, what you want a brand story to be in a customer’s mind.
Get in-depth with branding. Buy
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