A costly mistake for any business is not to consider their brand experience from start to finish, and the long-lasting impression that it may leave on their customers. By taking a good look at your customer’s brand journey, you can gain an edge over your competitors. This is also essential to brand survival within the ‘citizen journalist’ age where everyone can publicly voice an opinion on customer service. Your differentiation can start with the way you think about how your brand is seen and heard at all touchpoints.
We know how important it is to be in-tune with how your customers ‘feel’ and how those emotions are impacted along the way. The brand journey should encompass the entire customer experience, and it matters even before your service or product is consumed. The journey begins upon ‘first awareness’ and arguably doesn’t end until memories are formed, which provide the everlasting impression. The important thing to remember is that consistency is key. Look at all the channels in which your brand exists, be it social media, press advertising, online forums, printed materials or, indeed the person who picks up the phone when a potential customer calls to enquire. And then take a look at how your brand is expressed in these. Does it reflect a true and uniform representation of you as a brand, both visually and verbally?
We all know the adage that if something was excellent, you’ll tell everyone; if good, you may do it again; if bad, you will probably not repeat or, disastrous, warn others! Remember that there’s an opportunity to make an impression (good or bad!) every time someone interacts with your brand. But even if you are making mistakes and there is still room for improvement during the customer journey – all is not lost. Marketing tactics such as revitalizing your brand positioning and streamlining your direct communication, all give you a chance to shift any negative perception of your brand. Doing these things with a consistent tone all help to consolidate a compelling brand personality that customers are more likely to make an emotional connection with.
But if you choose to ignore the power of providing a positive 360-degree brand experience, you could ultimately pay for it with damaged reputation, lost loyalty and reduced future trade.
I will quote a recent example of a weak 360-degree brand experience as case in point:
On a recent jaunt, with extended family in tow, to hipster Kentish coastal gem, Deal, we visited a new gastro pub. We were expecting ‘big things’ having read glowing reviews in the papers and were therefore sold into the concept at first awareness of the brand.
And the first impressions were good with a stylish and versatile menu plus our order was taken quickly. Then came the let-down: very small portions, slow follow-up service, a wait on everything. Then we were asked if we wanted puddings without mains being cleared and a subsequent delay in getting the bill meant, jeez, a 25 minute wait to get out of there.
So where did they go wrong? For me, it was mostly the service that failed to deliver due to the lack of consistency. They had ample staff, but they were badly managed, and nobody was overseeing the process to ensure that all their customers were enjoying a positive 360-degree brand experience.
The outcome? We won’t go back. Friends asked us about our experience and we told them that we were disappointed. If this happened to other customers across the board, this negative starting point could be catastrophic for a restaurant operating on slim margins in a local town.
What can they do? Is all lost? No, never. But they did fail on a couple of key marketing counts: they didn’t find a way to ask me about my experience at the time, nor did they take measures to get my details at the booking stage or whilst we were there, so they cannot re-market to me and tempt me back with any promotion. But, the truth is, even though I had a poor experience, I have been emotionally impacted by them and will be curious to learn how they evolve.
This is just a small incident in the wider scheme of the do’s and don’ts in the marketing world but the principle remains the same if you are operating within a hospitality, business or a corporate entity: understand where and how your customer is experiencing your brand and make sure that you are accurately represented at every stage.
Let’s consider a larger b2b business, who still need to focus on consistency of messaging when it comes to their clients’ interactions with them; what should their brand custodians be considering in how to ensure a 360-degree positive brand experience? Common mistakes are:
• Poor detail and accuracy in pitches. First impressions count and all decisions we make are made with the shadow of the future in mind
• Not saying thank you for the business – showering key clients with hospitality perks has become a complex and often frowned upon action, but just saying thank you is still appreciated and goes a long way to building close and trusted relationships
• Not managing expectations at key stages including pointing out issues the moment they occur
• Poor and irregular communication, plus resting on assumptions
• Starting projects with vigour but enthusiasm noticeably dwindling as time goes by
It is apparent that a large part of a customer’s brand experience can be met through straightforward processes but on an emotive level, it must still be personal. Above all, it is about consistency of communication. We all make mistakes but through well thought-through communication as part of a revitalized marketing strategy, something that our team at Think can help you with, you can have an effective, compelling, consistent, clear and honest dialogue with your customers. They’ll see you as dependable and it’ll keep them coming back for more…