Brands are emblematic of all the information connected to a company, product or service. They create associations and expectations to establish a point of difference for a company, and best-in-class brands establish that point of difference at every touch point.
Consider Apple Inc. — the look and feel when you walk into an Apple store, when you talk to someone at the Genius bar, or when you get that iPhone in a box and take it home. Every ounce of that experience has been orchestrated to give you associations back to the Apple brand. Apple understands that brand is more than the product and or service that’s offered. It’s encompassed by the experience and value it generates on behalf of a company and what it does for the end user.
But even an Apple can rot.
Regular “brand MRIs” that examine qualitative and quantitative markers can give a sense of when it’s time for a brand to be relaunched, reinvigorated or restarted. Quantitative markers include whether your brand is experiencing prolonged areas of slow to negative top-line growth. Qualitatively, if consumers or members aren’t enamored with the brand even though they’re continuing to buy, it could be a loss of relevance or something new in the marketplace that exposes a brand weakness. Where and how you start your brand examination depends on how established your brand is. Startups require different thinking than established brands. A startup is likely to have just a few people working to bring their brand to life. The focus should be to think big, start small and scale fast. If you have an established brand, gain raw, brutal and honest feedback from your end users. What’s relevant about that product or service in their life? Is your product an integral part of their lifestyle? Is it something they tolerate from a utilitarian standpoint? What is the key value that your product or service delivers?
When evaluating your brand, no matter how established, you should return to the classic consumer moment of truth: how a customer’s feelings change from the moment they purchase a product to the moment they start using it. Did your product really do what it was supposed to? Put together an emotional resonance heat map. Ask what really matters emotionally to your end user. If you can figure this out and effect a positive emotional reaction to your product or service, you’re going to win because it means they’ll build your brand into their lifestyles.
Finally, the Five P’s really matter — your product or service, your people, your pricing, your placement and your promotion. The symbiosis of these touch points is essential for strong brands. Here are some questions you should ask to ensure your brand is differentiating you at these five key touch points:
- Are you a premium priced product/service or value brand?
- How are your people deployed, and do you have them in positions to help you win?
- What do your physical locations, your headquarters and/or your distribution outlets look and feel like?
- Does the thing you claim your brand stands for, your mission, shine through?
- Do your promotional efforts from how you market, how you advertise to how you communicate all work interactively to drive your mission?
Every touch point in your company has either a positive or negative impact on the brand. Each activity either makes a deposit or withdrawal from your brand equity. Great brands orchestrate every customer interaction to provide a consistent experience of who a company is and what it stands for. They instill in consumers not just the desire to buy once, but the intent to repurchase. Best-in-class brands are designed to create and retain those heavy users.