Last week we looked at a few ways to mess up your brand, so this week I thought we should look at a few things that some great brands do well.
1. They speak with one voice
How many times have you gone to your bank and had a perfectly nice encounter with a perfectly lovely human, only to attempt the same transaction later online with perfectly hideous results? Or maybe it was the opposite? Maybe the non-human transactions for your bank are better. Great brands focus on replicating the same high-quality conversation, transaction and experience no matter which channel you use and no matter who you are. The Rolling Stones do this very well.
2. They are consistent
How many times have you had a really nice server in a restaurant who had the terrible task of bringing you lousy food? That’s an example of inconsistency. Starbucks, where I spend far too much of my disposable income, has great products, lovely staff, free wi-fi and almost universally filthy stores and toilets. That has a lot to do with the whole job description disconnect we discussed last week.
3. They say thank you
Not the perfunctory “have a nice day” sort of thank you, nor the buy ten manicures get the 11th free (though that’s nice too). I mean the genuine, human show of gratitude that just warms up everyone’s cockels. It can be a hand-written note from the business owner, or some flowers when the product is delivered (my last car had a lovely bouquet in the back) or a phone call from one CFO to another thanking them for trusting the brand (B2B are you paying attention?). Enough with the free crap on your birthday Pavlov-says-buy thing and let’s look at ways to be genuinely grateful when someone trusts us.
4. They stay in touch
Great brands, like good children, remember to call once in a while. And I don’t mean in a markety let’s-make-sure-you’re-using-the-right-credit-card sort of way; I mean in a value-added way that doesn’t involve an upsell. This can be shooting over a little interesting content, inviting your friends to an event or a conference; sending a card at the holidays. What matters here is that your customers and your non-customers hear from you just often and just genuinely enough that they feel like you might actually care. (B2B are you paying attention?).
5. They extend sensibly
You know what makes sense? Jack Daniels barbeque sauce. It has no whiskey in it, which is disappointing but I suppose I can always add some. It makes sense because whiskey and southern cooking and bourbon and Jack all orbit the same Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives bit of the universe. ZZZQuil is a great extension of the NyQuil and Dayquil brands, mostly because people without colds used them as sleep aids for years. You know what does not make sense? Maria Sharapova candies shaped like tennis balls and perfume from Zippo in a lighter-shaped bottle.
6. They use big data
Say it with me: “big data is my friend”. And it is. Big data will tell you stuff you would not otherwise figure out on your own. For example, a wireless carrier wondered why customers were calling service centres so soon after making online payments. Anayzing the calls, they discovered that people who were paying a tad late were worried their service would be interrupted and needed some reassurance that it wouldn’t. NCR uses big data from its own devices to predict when they will fail. You can do this too and you should.
7. They look beyond customers for feedback
Does your company have the misery that is 360-degree feedback? Isn’t it fun making your colleagues feel terrible? They’ll never guess it was you. Well good brands do something similar. Instead of relying solely on customer feedback, NPS scores, retention data and so forth, they layer in what the analysts are saying about them and the industry, they ask their employees what they think of the brand and the products and they ask their parners, distributors, suppliers and former customers and employees. The big ones use big data (see above) to come up with the combined narrative about the brand and, if they are smart, the competition.
8. They know exactly what drives brand equity
Awareness, value, differentiation, accessibility and emotions are the primary ingredients in any brand equity stew, but for each of us the cause and effect are a little different. That’s why great brands understand, at a very granular level, which of these is key and what that looks like for their customers and employees.
9. They can see a direct connection between brand investment and business results
Great brands don’t take equity for granted. Even the most solid brands can slip from grace unless they’re paying attention. JC Penny, Groupon, Quiksilver and Rosetta Stone are all losing ground, and I’m betting it had a lot to do with underinvesting in the brand. The most valuable brands in the world, on the other hand, are all about the brands – Google, Apple, Microsoft and IBM spend gobs of money not on price promotions but on their brands.