What do you think of when you hear the word “brand?”
Is it a company’s logo?
Is it a company’s name?
Is it a company’s image?
It is made of the marketing messages a company tells prospects and customers?
Brand is all of those things — and none of those things.
The truth is, neither logo, name, image nor messaging make a brand. At most, they play a small part in supporting a brand.
Brand is much, much more than these things. Brand is the entire relationship that customers have with a company.
That’s right. Brand is a relationship. Just like we have relationships with other people, we have relationships with companies. The way we perceive our relationship with a company becomes the brand of that company.
How are good relationships made?
Relationships are built with every single interaction a person has with a company, its people, its products, and yes, its logo, name, image and marketing messages — among many more things.
Good relationships are based on trust. And trust comes from having a consistent and good experience with a company with every single interaction.
Good relationships are mutually supportive.
A company supports customers with a delightful end-to-end experience that includes attractive marketing, products and services that elegantly solve problems or provide desired benefits, and post-purchase support that makes the customer feel well cared for.
A customer in turn supports a company by purchasing its products, and referring others to have a relationship with this company.
As long as a company behaves consistently, and in a way that pleases customers, it will reinforce its relationship with those customers, which will ensure a strong brand.
House of Cards
Relationships take time to build
But, they can be severed in an instant. Literally, all it takes is one false move.
Have you ever been lied to by someone? What instantly happened to your trust of that person? What did that do to your relationship with that person?
It’s the same for companies. Inconsistent or dishonest behavior can kill a customer relationship, and tarnish that company’s brand — forever.
With social media’s immediacy and global reach, a brand can suffer cruel and irreparable harm in the time it takes to click “post.”
Sum of the Parts
If brand = relationship, and relationship = every interaction a customer has with your company, then it stands to reason that everything that affects how your company does business really is part of your brand.
That includes a company’s operations, its financial strength, its customer service, its employee morale, its crisis management strategy, its risk management strategy, its social and environmental practices and views, its marketing messages, and how well its product or service actually delivers.
All of these variables and more can affect a company’s ability to deliver a consistently delightful experience to its customers. That experience defines the relationship customers have with that company. And that translates into brand.
So there it is. Brand is the grand sum of a great many parts, all working in harmony to keep customers feeling good about a company. Any part that doesn’t harmonize with the other parts can threaten the very livelihood of a brand – and the company attached to that brand.
Here’s to the Marketing Champion in all of us. See you in the next post.