There can be no dispute as to the power and impact of branding. At the heart of it, branding creates and strengthens connections among stakeholders. It is this connection that consolidates engagement and facilitates a call-to-action. Whether it is the New York Yankees, Apple, the Republican Party or an independent retailer, branding fuels one’s perception of a business. A brand isn’t just a slogan or logo, it is also about the customer experience. Experiences can occur directly with the product as well as with staff, vendors or anyone/anything that represents the brand. There are many elements to a good customer experience and to powerful branding.
“Today, more than ever, clear strategic product positioning is needed. This is especially true as purchase behavior slides more towards consuming the meanings and ethos associated with products rather than their functions,” states Michael Yaksich, senior manager of Brand Strategy and Innovation for BrandIQ, a market research and brand strategy firm. “No longer can brands differentiate their products solely focusing on features that competitors can duplicate or imitate. Products need to provide consumers with a unique and compelling idea, beyond the product itself, that they can believe in and remember.”
In this digital age, the branding experience includes online interactions. If a person has a bad experience and goes onto Twitter or Facebook to complain about it, a quick and swift response is necessary and can turn a negative into a positive. Conversely, if consumers’ concerns aren’t addressed, they may become even more disappointed. If a person orders something from an online seller and delivery does not occur in a timely manner or the product received is incorrect, it is highly unlikely the customer will order from that seller again. As every possible client interaction has an impact on branding, your staff is critical. Staff must buy into the brand and be trained on both customer interaction and branding efforts.
Consumers are looking for merchants who will consistently provide excellent products and service. They are even willing to pay extra for this, as evidenced by the success of brands such as American Express, Starbucks and Lexus. It is important that independent retailers know their place in the market, as well as how customers perceive their goods and service. According to Yaksich, “You need to understand why people need your product more than what they need it for to develop a positioning that is truly compelling and differentiated.” For example, when you think of Nike, you not only think of it as a company that sells shoes, but one that offers a lifestyle. “This is as a result of the billions of dollars they spend on branding.”
A key point to remember is that branding requires regular attention. It may only take one bad experience to negatively impact your business, therefore, address any customer concerns immediately, and be sure both your products and customer service are top of the line.