Everyone has jumped onto the brand bandwagon so to speak and everyone has an opinion on why brand is important (or not). But we figured we should let the brand experts have a say. Read what Bruce Gourley, Head of Brand Experience at leading Auckland agency Stanley St has to say.
What’s left to say about branding? I would argue most marketeers agree about the fundamentals. I would suggest that most CEOs and business leaders understand the power of branding and its role in equity building. So what can I add to the discussion? As a brand strategist who has worked across regions and industries and who has increasingly focused their attention on the wider brand experience more than just the marketing executions perhaps it is more about how I still see most businesses ignoring the brand metric outside of their marketing department.
One of the most frustrating aspects of being in this job is experiencing a client’s brand through the eyes of a typical consumer. As much as we may have done great work developing marketing communication that engages the brand’s audience, there are often times when we encounter a less than ideal aspect of the brand via service, fulfilment, store experience, digital UX or even most fundamentally via poor product design. Why does this hurt us so much? Because it calls out a certain weakness in our own model. How we can’t affect more of the brand. We may see ourselves as curators of the brand but we often are consigned to the ‘conversation’ with consumers, the marketing, the so-called sizzle.
I was asked to contribute an article about what makes a great brand and really struggled to offer up some piece of advice that hadn’t already been spoken to thousands of times by people better known than me. But one thing I can personally attest to is what I think holds a brand back from becoming great. Think of it as managing consumers’ experiential expectations.
Brands are more welcomed by customers when their experiences match their expectations. Not only that but when all of their experiences across all of the touchpoints match their expectations. In other words, brands have an imbalanced experience when their in-store experience is wildly better (or worse) than their online experience. Or when their customer service is wildly better (or worse) than their fulfilment experience. Such dissonance in experience builds up expectations or perceptions in touchpoint silos (usually legacy strengths) which in turn are unmet elsewhere in their customer journey, ultimately leading to customer disappointment.
Good brands are consistent. It feels as though it is one brand, not a series of individual departments responsible for different customer touchpoints which don’t speak to each other and feel like they’re wildly different versions of the brand. This comes back to the idea of taking the brand beyond the marketing department. How are we measuring our brand throughout the customer journey? How are we auditing brand perception through our online UX, or our customer service or our delivery staff, or our retail spaces?
Great brands use their brand as an operational tool within the business, helping bridge silos, integrate deliverables, connect departments? It becomes a functional asset owned by the C-suite, not a plaything of the marketing teams.
2020 has already been a year most will try and forget but all these problems have had a strange effect. They have forced companies to quickly ramp up various initiatives, from e-commerce to fulfilment options, from CSR positions to social purposes. My parting word of caution is that brands manage their customer experience across their ever increasingly complex ecosystem of customer interaction points and the only way to audit and assess these is through a brand lens lest they create efficacy without differentiation.