With so much brand choice available, customers need a differentiator, a reason to buy in and keep coming back. Today, that differentiator is brand experience. Customers are demanding consistently positive interactions with their brands and if they don’t feel that connection they’ll look elsewhere. In the words of Forrester’s Laura Ramos: “Exceptional experiences are now your best competitive advantage.”
‘Brand’ is now defined by the customer journey. So what do organizations need to do to ensure their brand experience stands out in the marketplace, and what do these efforts look like in practice? The findings of a recent survey Brandworkz conducted together with CIM (Chartered Institute of Marketing), highlights the everyday issues that, for marketers, risk compromising customer experience. Here we’ll look at the top six challenges, and at the same time, what some brands are doing to get it just right.
Make sure every area of your business understands your brand
Of the 2,200 marketers we spoke to 63 percent believe the Operations team is important to delivering brand experience, yet only 30 percent feel it knows exactly how to do so.
Every individual contributes to creating value for the customer, regardless the touchpoint.
Organizations need to create working environments that educate employees, across departments, so they in turn can transfer the value of the brand to the customer.
At UK bank, First Direct, every staff member – no matter their department – is reviewed and remunerated on their ability to deliver a service that lives up to the values of the brand. Account holders of this online-only bank have given First Direct a Net Promoter Score of +73 – that’s 30 points ahead of any other UK high street bank.
Great brand experience starts at the top, so get buy in from senior management
Almost half of marketers believe senior leaders lack a comprehensive understanding of their role in the delivery of on-brand customer experiences. Furthermore, just over two thirds say their senior leadership perceives brand as a tactical, communications or identity-focussed concept only. With just over one third of brands discussing brand performance and metrics at senior levels, it’s clear these misconceptions result in brand not making it to the board agenda and into the right conversations.
If business leaders are educated in the wider significance and inherent value of brand, then the responsibility for its companywide relevance can break out of the marketing department – with senior support.
Steve Jobs understood the extraordinary potential of brand and so ensured every employee knew how to make the Apple experience consistent everywhere, every time. Apple differentiates itself because it sells the story of its DNA, the ‘why we do it’ , and it’s that integrated philosophy, tangible at every touchpoint, that customers experience every time they choose Apple.
Align internal culture with external brand
Only 43 percent of staff, across levels, understand the strategic vision or direction of the company and brand. Without these shared objectives and a cohesive internal culture an inevitable discrepancy exists between messages promoted on the inside and experiences delivered on the outside.
At Nike employees buy into a team ethos; sport-related values like perseverance are an integral quality of the company culture. Because ‘Team Nike’ is an identity staff live internally, it’s transferred seamlessly to the outside.
Ensure employees buy into brand from day one
Only a quarter of marketers say that brand and its values feature prominently in employee inductions. Put brand in the picture at the outset and staff will be better brand advocates in the long term.
Global steel company, ArcelorMittal, educates employees via video and a centralized brand platform. Unusually, for a b2b manufacturing business, brand is the starting point for the entire business. Its strategic brand approach has given ArcelorMittal a huge competitive edge and put the company in the top 300 of world’s most valuable brands, according to the Brand Finance Global 500 report.
Develop an internal brand champion programme outside of marketing
Our study revealed that 68 percent of businesses lack an internal brand ambassador programme outside the marketing department.
A network of Brand evangelists can promote and reinforce key brand values and messaging, ensuring that brand experience stays top of the agenda in all departments. In reality, messages that come from a colleague inside your team carry more weight than communications delivered by the marketing department.
Zappos.com, the US online shoe retailer, takes the creation of internal brand champions seriously. Training and induction, regardless of the role, takes five weeks and is focussed on delivering the customer experience the brand is built on. Trainees learn about customer service, how to take calls, and are informed about the company’s distribution network and shipping processes. At the end of week one each trainee is offered $2,000 plus expenses if they quit, no questions asked. Those who stay understand the brand and are fully committed to its values.
Give your Marketing team the power and the voice it needs to lead the brand experience charge
Only 51 per cent of marketers believe their role has a significant influence on what other departments are doing and is respected within the organisation. Alongside brand ambassadors, companies need a team to lead that charge; marketing input in all key cross-business initiatives is essential if the value of the brand is to be leveraged to its full potential.
For Danish energy drinks brand, Cult, brand experience is crucial to building sales and generating positive customer feeling. Cult recognises that the customer journey begins with how effectively the marketing team communicates with, and facilitates, its internal teams and external distributors in their understanding of the brand. In less than twenty years Cult has grown from one man’s idea to an internationally established brand.
In the end, consistent, relevant and strong brand experiences comes down to how well the concept of brand is integrated throughout a business. If employees understand how their role impacts on the positive external experience of their brand, that knowledge and understanding will result in delighted, loyal, customers each and every time.
Originally published in The Drum