This article originally appeared on The Guardian.
Great brand experiences come from a mission or purpose that employees and customers can relate to and, vitally, get behind.
When marketing experts talk about brand experience, most focus on the role of digital or how consumers interact with the brand, stressing the need for a positive and consistent experience across every channel, whether it’s mobile, tablet, out-of-home or in-store. While those conversations are important and have traditionally been the mainstay of branding work for decades, one component that’s missing is the role played by a company’s mission and values.
Consumers today define brands not just by the words and messages they put forth, but by the brand-specific experiences they create; for example, crafting a mobile checkout to shorten the amount of time customers wait in line (Nordstrom), guaranteeing refunds in the chance of fraud, as done by one of our clients, American Express, or one-on-one product demonstrations (Apple).
No brand wants employees who are not committed, inspired or empowered to deliver something positive. Even if you objectively have the best product or service on the market, if the people responsible for delivering that product are not living your values or behind your mission, customers will feel it, through lacking customer service, inefficient technology systems or processes, poor sales associates and poor product quality or service reliability.
The best way to rally your organisation to deliver consistently a great brand experience is by creating a mission or purpose that your employees and customers can relate to and – vitally – get behind.
But it has to mean something. A brand with a real purpose is not one with an empty, do-gooder slogan; it’s one that puts in the effort behind the scenes to implement it properly so that it becomes a way of working and doing business.
Consumers are drawn to brands that highlight and deliver on their mission and values. But what does it look like in practice? Here are two examples.
In an age when air travel is synonymous with a few stale, uncomfortable hours in the sky, one airline has managed to go from being one of the industry’s least loved brands to perhaps its strongest; its customer satisfaction rating has been on a steady increase over the past few years. It’s all down to its values. In this case, the brand’s well articulated Rules of the Road – behaviours that lay the foundation for how Delta employees treat one another, their customers and how they partner and work with the outside world.
It’s not shareholder or management mumbo-jumbo; it’s clear language that speaks to a company driven by clear values. For example, Delta has equippedflight staff with phablets (mobile/tablet hybrids) to store and update information on flight procedures and personalised data about passenger preferences. It has also created a dedicated Twitter account for customer assistance – a very public way to help correct customer complaints. Both initiatives are driven by a commitment to better customer service.
It shows: Delta was recently placed second-best for the traditional carrier rankings in the JD Power 2015 North America Airline Satisfaction Study. It improved in all seven factors of the study. Rather than putting emphasis on new planes like so many competitors, the brand has emphasised the power of its people, transforming the brand experience from the inside first.
Online shoe and clothing brand Zappos shows its brand purpose from the inside out and isn’t afraid to talk about it. The company has clearly communicated, both through its branding and how it does business, that it has customer service at the core of everything it does.
It’s been very vocal about its unique business model, which requires every employee, across all levels, to be trained in customer service in their call centres. Even if employees will not normally have traditional customer interaction in their position, the brand wants to ensure that from the top to the bottom, everyone is aligned on what matters most.
That model has worked for them too: Zappos was sold to Amazon for $1.2bn in 2009 and is still referenced as a best practice in this area.
Tips for brands
Determining the right company values that will resonate with your audience is only a small part of the battle; the bigger challenge is implementing it, so consider the following:
- Be credible and honest: If your employees don’t even believe your mission or values are true and legitimate, there is no way they will be communicated to consumers.
- Continued training: Your values should not be drafted, taught and then forgotten about; there should be on-going training and constant reminders for employees.
- Rewards: Rewards and recognition programmes are great ways to get employees to understand and deliver on your brand’s values. The right system and approach can help them get excited but also provide execs with clear performance metrics and goals.
Jason Cieslak is president, Pacific Rim at Siegel+Gale.