When I Google “define: brand,” I get the following result:
trade name: a name given to a product or service
Is this definition accurate?
Traditional marketers would agree with Google’s definition. These individuals spend lots time and money developing a surface image of their brands. They create recognizable logos, catchy taglines, memorable ad campaigns and more to build awareness of their businesses and products. While this design, messaging and advertising might be necessary to promote a brand, they are not the key ingredients that dictate how a brand is established and perceived.
To me, the Google definition seems incomplete at best, superficial at worst. It’s unfair and unwise to presume that good looking logos, clever taglines or high-profile ad campaigns are enough to win customer loyalty.
Rather, brand should be defined as the sum of experiences customers have with a company. In this way, the brand is established and reinforced through every service experience and it embodies customers’ expectation for companies’ products and service experiences.
Wal-Mart is a good example of a powerful brand. When I walk into Wal-Mart, I expect cheap prices and reasonable service. And, that’s what I get. FedEx consistently delivers on what its brand promises: timely delivery. Similarly, Starbucks fulfills customer expectations by offering good coffee and pleasant ambiance. Every Starbucks I’ve visited has the same menu, service and décor. With its hallmark blue box and white glove service, Tiffany’s signifies good taste and high quality. My wife has never been disappointed when she finds a Tiffany’s box under the tree; nor have I when I arrive at the jewelers in need of some helpful suggestions about what she might like.
Brands like these have become powerful because customers get what they expect. Brand value has been established because these companies align their brand promises, or their surface images, with the products and services they’re offering. When they deliver on these promises, consistently over time and through every service experience, they’re able to reinforce and hone customer expectations. In this way, brand is formed through a set of ongoing experiences.
It’s time to stop thinking of branding as a marketing event. Establishing a brand is a journey. And, it starts with aligning brand promise with the service experience a company provides.