What’s the power of brand? It’s not just name recognition. Branding sets a floor underneath your expectations, a point where people know what to expect. Stand in front of two restaurants, one with a well known brand and one that isn’t. What goes through your mind in a split second? The brand of one reaches out and in your mind invokes what that restaurant is all about. You know what kind of service to expect. You know what kind of food to expect. You have a fairly good idea of what is going to happen. The power of the brand sets a minimum level of expectations, a floor on which you can stand to make a decision.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you’ll perhaps try the restaurant you don’t recognize, but if you’re crunched for time or are tired, chances are you’ll choose the brand because the power of that brand communicates a minimum level of expectations. As long as the brand expectations meet your standards, the brand will get your business.
This is why both building a brand and damaging a brand are so much more complex than reflexive statements about the brand. Building a brand is all about creating that floor and reinforcing it, perhaps ratcheting it up a notch or two with each experience. Every time a consumer has an experience with your brand, that floor either weakens or strengthens. Your goal is to add strength to the brand through every experience.
This is also why tempests in teapots rarely damage brands significantly or for long periods of time. Take any brand that has suffered a social media oops, a kerfuffle. Most of the time, the mis-step has very little to do with the core of the brand itself, that floor on which the consumer stands. Take Kenneth Cole’s tone-deaf mis-statements about Egypt a while back. As insensitive as they were, they had no relevance to the core brand of Kenneth Cole’s business. Conversely, look at the Domino’s pizza incident. This was more damaging because it directly related to the core brand experience itself, the quality of the food you receive.
There’s an expression we use in my martial art – shikin haramitsu daikomyo – which means that every experience contains the potential for the breakthrough we’re looking for. Every experience you create for a customer either weakens or strengthens your brand, and any one of those experiences could be the one that turns them from a casual customer into a loyal customer, or a loyal customer into an evangelist. The difference between today and ages past is that some of those experiences get put on YouTube or Facebook, so if you score a hit with a customer, a whole bunch of other people could become customers too.
Create a strong brand floor to stand on by reinforcing with every experience the customer has with you!
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