A brand. It is the image, memory, story or expectation that defines and represents a business or person. While many are busy defining their own brand by creating clever key messages, eye-catching logos and mission/vision/value statements, it is actually the public, or our customers/clients, that determine our true brand. This is because brands are subjective in nature. They are based on not just key messages, cool logos and social responsible mission statements, but on the actions of the business, both verbal and non-verbal.
Brands are actually based on how a business conducts transactions, how they interact with customers and their communities through customer service, public outreach and engagement, and yes, the visuals that we see (i.e. brochures, storefronts, signage, commercials).
Take McDonalds, when you see the logo or hear the name, what comes to mind? When people were asked on the streets by McDonald reps, the responses varied and covered many areas of the business that you wouldn’t have suspected. Keywords that were mentioned included greasy food, junk food, fast, convenience, unhealthy, to aspects of the business like factory farming, inhumane animal treatment, poor wages.
As you can imagine, the company was not happy with how the public was viewing the McDonald brand and they knew they needed to do something and quickly. “Our Food. Your Questions” was a campaign that resulted and focused on bringing transparency to the company. It involved asking the public to submitted their questions about any aspect of the company, and they would give you answer (the truth, so to speak).
With this in mind, take the two minutes to watch the video…
Now that you’ve watched the video, let’s try answering this question again: when you hear McDonalds or see the logo, what comes to mind?
I bet your view of the brand has changed. And this is a clear example how it is the public that creates a brand for a company, however, it is the company’s actions and appearance that can influence the brand overall.
Lets bring it back to you and your business. When was the last time you surveyed your customers? And by this I mean chatting beyond the initial ‘hello’ and ‘can I help you with anything’. Are you asking new customers about how they heard about your business? And are you finding out from loyal customers about why they love your business so much.
These simple questions can get you a wealth of information that can help you figure out what marketing efforts are paying off, what products or services you should enhance or discontinue, and how your customer view your business, your brand.
“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises, he is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.” – Mahatma Gandhi
To help ensure you have positive relationships with customers and maintain the brand you’d like to be known by, here are a couple tips:
- Customers do value “good” service more than “fast” service.
- Use keywords in your marketing materials that reflect how you would like your business to be known by, and ensure that your staff, services and products follow through.
- Storytelling has the ability to “transport” us to another place, allowing businesses to leave powerful and memorable messages to customers.
- Selling “time” over money helps customers see the value in your brand and the dedication of the business to serve its customers.
- Be conscious of what you share and like on social media, and make sure it reflects the values of your business.
- Consider offering a value-added service or product that doesn’t significantly impact your bottom-line (i.e. calling to remind your customer about an upcoming appointment, loyalty programs rather than gift certificates, a free sample of an upcoming product, or simple hand-written thank you card).
Remember, it is your customers who ultimately decide your brand – but, you do have the power to influence their decision. May the power be with you!