Branding = Customer Experience

Your logo is not your brand.

Your messaging is not your brand.

Your marketing is not your brand.

Marketing, product lines, messaging, ads, niche, logos… these are components of your brand.

Branding, in a nutshell, is how a customer experiences you, your employees, your company, your services, and your products.

Think about an Apple Store experience.  Visiting an Apple Store is an experience. Standing in line for the launch for the next iPhone or iPad is an experience. Purchasing an Apple product at an Apple Store is a different experience than purchasing an Apple product at Target, Walmart, Best Buy, Costco, or even an AT&T store. Talking to an Apple Store Mac Genius is a completely different experience than talking to a staff member at Office Depot or Best Buy.

Most importantly, how people interact with or talk to (experience) an Apple customer is different than how people interact with and talk to a Microsoft customer.

Apple also happens to create well-designed products, which is also part of their brand experience.

Zappos is the same way. Zappos does not make shoes; they sell shoes.  But their branding isn’t about shoes. Zappos doesn’t produce shoes. They produce happy customer experiences by producing happy employees.  That’s what customers are really buying when they buy from Zappos.

To give a personal example, I recently went to a local hardware store to find a solution to office furniture problem I was having.  The clerk there was not very helpful.  He was actually kind of condescending.  I walked out without a solution to my problem.  I then went to Home Depot.  Not only did the clerk talk to me like a human being, he admitted he didn’t know the solution right off hand, and found a clerk for me who did know more about the subject matter.  They found a solution for me, but they didn’t have anything in their inventory that would work.  So they suggested a store that might have it:  The Container Store.  Sure enough, I got a similar friendly customer experience at the Container Store, and they did have the solution I was looking for.

But what I remember most about this experience was how helpful the Home Depot folks were.  Ironically, one of the selling points of supporting locally run businesses is that they are suppose to be friendlier and have better service than the big box stores.  Perhaps if small businesses spent less time trying to spread that message and more time in training their staff about the importance of a customer’s brand experience, they can actually live up to that message.  Then customers would spread the message for them.

Whether you’re a large company, a solopreneur, an artist, or even if (or especially because) you’re unemployed, people experience you in a specific way. That is your brand experience:

  • What are you emotionally known for?
  • What does it feel like to be your customer?
  • When customers have completed a transaction with you, what emotion or opinions are they walking away with?
  • Do you talk to your customers as a friend or a number?
  • How often do your customers talk you up in a conversation?  What are they saying?

Before you spend too much time trying to find the perfect Pantone color for your logo, developing a clever tagline for your ads, or deciding what your mascot should be, nail down your branding experience first. There isn’t a tagline, logo, or mascot in the world that can compete with good customer experience.

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