Articles

3 Things All Strong Brands Have in Common

Type: Articles
Topic: Marketing and Branding
By Shelley Ahrens
6 November 2018
Credit: istockphoto.com/olm26250
Credit: istockphoto.com/olm26250

A strong brand is one that can stand the test of time. It exists to make a difference in people’s lives—the lives of the customers who benefit from its products and services and the lives of employees who work hard to deliver them. Many factors impact the ultimate success of a brand, but there are three things all strong brands have in common: an authentic brand promise, engaged employees that bring the promise to life, and most important, consistently meaningful customer experiences.

No brand will survive long-term if its customers’ experiences fall short of expectations, and it’s certainly not possible to consistently meet those expectations without a dedicated and engaged workforce. An authentic and meaningful brand promise helps connect the employee experience with the customer experience. When these elements are in alignment, the conditions are in place for a strong brand to grow and thrive.

Developing an authentic brand promise

An authentic brand promise, at its most basic level, gives consumers a reason to consider becoming a customer. It’s a promise that a brand will deliver a meaningful benefit, telling consumers what to expect, and setting the tone for the feelings and emotions the brand hopes to elicit. That’s why it’s so important for marketers to carefully craft their brand promise, cultivate its growth, and monitor its success at building trusting relationships with customers over time.

Developing a brand promise starts from within an organization by first articulating the intended customer experience of the brand, including:

  • Key perceptions and attitudes.
  • Core attributes.
  • Customer benefits.
  • Brand positioning.
  • Point of differentiation.

Once established, a brand promise needs to be communicated across the organization in such a way that is easily understood and embraced by all employees. Without this, delivery of the brand promise to customers is bound to fall short. A brand promise needs to be consistently demonstrated by employees over time.

An organization can have a strong brand promise, but, if employees don’t believe in it wholeheartedly and understand how to bring it to life, then it will only amount to a collection of words without any real power to impact the customer experience. A brand promise is the sum of all the actions, communications, products and services the brand delivers to the marketplace. Therefore, it’s critical that employees demonstrate the brand promise in all that they do.

Bringing the brand promise to life

The process of embedding a brand promise across the organization isn’t a one-and-done proposition. Encouraging ongoing communication, education and collaboration among employees at all levels is essential to foster a truly engaged workforce. The most successful companies treat the employee experience as seriously as their customer experience. They find ways to ensure that employees understand exactly how their daily work impacts and shapes their customers.

It’s important to have a process in place to monitor the internal adoption of a company’s brand promise. Gathering feedback in employee satisfaction or engagement surveys can help gauge the effectiveness of internal communications and identify opportunities to deepen the commitment to the brand promise across the company. Here are some questions to consider:

  • Do employees understand the brand promise and personally believe in it?
  • Do they believe the company truly stands behind it?
  • Do they recognize how the work they do impacts customers’ experience?
  • Do they have the tools, training, resources, and authority to deliver on it?
  • What barriers or obstacles, if any, might be keeping them from effectively delivering on the brand promise?

A company’s employees offer a wealth of knowledge that can be tapped into when assessing and refining the delivery of its brand promise. Without the ability to measure how well employees are aligned with the brand promise, a company could be missing opportunities to enhance their customer experiences.

The attitude and engagement they bring to their jobs carries through and impacts the customer experience in powerful ways. Companies that make it a priority to educate and empower their employees through internal brand promise communications see big dividends. In the words of Walt Disney, “You can design, create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.”

Nurturing the customer experience

The third and most important key to creating a strong brand is to ensure the customer experience reflects the brand promise in action. The Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA) defines customer experience as, “The sum of all interactions across all channels, shaped by an organization’s culture. This culture is created by the front-end and back-end processes and experiences that ultimately influence customer perceptions. These perceptions either strengthen or detract from our relationship with customers and our brand consideration in the market.”

The hallmark of a strong brand is that it consistently delivers the intended experience to its customers across all touch points. Evaluating a brand’s effectiveness at doing that starts by understanding what touch points come into play across the entire customer journey, from the company website, communications, and customer service, to specific customer experiences using the brand’s products and services. Each interaction customers have with a brand is a new opportunity to deliver on its brand promise and to enhance their experience.

A great way to monitor the customer experience is to gather feedback across their journey with the brand. It’s important to understand the customer experience from their unique perspective and to share those insights across the organization. All employees need to clearly understand the impact they have on the customer experience, not just those on the front-line with direct customer interaction. When employees can see the connections between the work they do, and the experience customers have with the brand, it can help them become more engaged, dedicated, and motivated.

Strengthening a brand promise

Delivering on a company’s brand promise is essential to building a strong brand and sustaining a growing business. Evidence of a brand’s strength can be seen in many quantifiable ways, from sales data, and brand awareness figures, to volume of positive word of mouth, and even employee retention.

To truly understand the impact a brand promise is having, whether internally among employees or externally among customers, it’s important to engage with those audiences directly. Gaining insight into those relationships can uncover ways to strengthen connections between the brand promise, employees, current customers, and future ones.

Shelley Ahrens

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