In our current digital age, the customer is in the driver seat. They decide upon the success or failure of companies and their brands, including yours. Consumers now have a wider range of interaction with companies, and greater choice in the ever-growing landscape of commerce. Brands play an important role in the customers’ experiences, composed of visual, tonal and behavioural brand components throughout the entire customer journey.
Offering your products and services online simply isn’t enough these days. As a company, you have to present your brand story and heritage consistently throughout all touchpoints. It’s up to you to make your customer experience memorable. The main purpose of brands is to differentiate products or services. To truly attempt to influence consumers’ perceptions and choices within a market, setting your brand apart from the competition in the mind of customers.
If you’re part of a competitive market this question might have been raised before: “Why do people feel attracted to certain brands, and what makes our competitors different from us?”
Successful brands have a resonating story to tell, one that reflects the world of their customers and leads to an engaged and loyal community.
As a business, you obviously want to sell a product or service, but you’ll have to convince your audience why they should buy the product or service from you specifically.
From the first moment of interaction your brand story plays an important role. Your digital channel must be more than a smart transactional e-commerce machine with the perfect personalized customer journey. Brands should make purposeful choices about what they stand for and how they act.
Why do people prefer buying a brand they know, even willing to pay more for a branded product?
First you need to attract and entice your customer to engage with your brand and, after having had a good experience, make them ambassadors for your brand. Ideally, your customers start spreading your message and story for you. One of the strongest brand communications possible, as brands provide consumers the means to simplify their product decisions. Buying from a respected brand gives consumers a certain guarantee on what service they can expect, and the quality of the product. This creates trust and saves the customer valuable decision-making time.
In order to become as successful as possible, a brand strategy is more than a luxury. It’s a necessity. One of the main benefits of having a clear brand strategy is the ability to successfully identify all different phases of your customer journey, make them actionable, influence your customers, and build loyalty.
When most people think about a brand and its various layers and elements, they tend to gravitate towards the logo, colour scheme, slogan and tone-of-voice. But these are just the superficial elements that convey your brand and story. It’s understandable that these elements are the first things that spring to mind, since they’re the instantly visible outcome of adopting a brand strategy. But your brand strategy also defines what you stand for as a company. The promise you make to the world. At its core, it determines the value you deliver to your customers.
A brand lives through every touchpoint and interaction you have with your consumers. In addition to your digital touchpoints, your brand is also represented in the physical world. Think of the delivery service that’s in direct contact with your customers, and the way they deliver your packages (hopefully with a smile and swiftly). The packaging itself, responsible for the message and experience you present when the consumer unpacks their package. These are all important touchpoints you can use to communicate your brand message.
Many brands have adapted to the digital world, evolving to represent a broader set of experiences across all channels. At the same time, consumers have gained access to information through a multitude of digital channels and have become increasingly influential. Making sure all these channels and interactions live together in harmony is simply impossible without a consistent and relevant brand strategy.
It’s important to first design and define your brand, before creating all the communication deliverables that ensure your brand resonates with your customers. The way your company and its brand is currently perceived by potential and existing customers is a vital ingredient when crafting a new brand strategy.
Your company’s visual, audio, and behavioural traits should all be treated as equal components of your brand, to match the perception of a customer or prospect. The way consumers experience a brand can be described by three pillars; visibility, communication, and behaviour.
Visibility consist of any and all visual representations used to communicate your brand.
This includes your logo, colour schemes, all photography and illustrations, and even a potential mascot.
Communication represents all verbal and written messages from a single brand. This is the most flexible of the three pillars, and can be used quickly and strategically to convey your brand story. The digital age demands open and honest communication when it comes to the promises you make as a company, as well as the way you interact with your customers.
Behaviour is the most important and effective brand pillar of the three. Ultimately, it’s the actions of a company that consumers will judge. Of course it’s possible to further underline certain behavioural traits with additional communication and symbolism, in order to steer your customer’s opinion of your brand in the desired direction, but actions speak louder than words.
Why is it important to understand the components of brand, and to differentiate brand from its common misinterpretation as simply being a logo, or a product?
In your digital ecosystem, customers interact with the representation of your brand through various kinds of online touchpoints and interactive services. Apart from your brand’s voice this also includes AI, which relates to the interactions consumers have with your company or products enabled by the rise of IoT (Internet of things). This combination makes behaviour a crucial pillar for any brand.
These pillars are your branding guidelines when creating your style guide, which in turn should be the source of all your deliverables. It’s important to realize your brand is much more than a logo or slogan. It’s a tool to influence choice. Only when all three brand pillars — visibility, communication, and behaviour — are present and true to your core message, can your customers experience a truly consistent user experience across all touchpoints.
In a different article we talked about creating websites, and focused on User Experience (UX) and Customer Experience (CX). Both terms stem from a time with only one digital communication channel; the computer. All interactions through a computer with your company were labelled as user experience. Customer experience was used to describe all these interactions with your company combined, over a prolonged period. Read more about UX and CX here.
Brand Experience (BX) is much broader. It captures the overall impression a customer gets when interacting with your company, and how they share this impression with others. It reflects the value they get out of this interaction, your product, and services. How do they talk about the relationship or experience they’ve had with your company? Do they feel you kept your promises, and do they believe the story you told?
Trust is build by a consistent customer experience that meets expectations. The most memorable brand experiences take customers on an emotionally engaging journey — one that offers meaningful moments and nurtures lasting relationships. It’s trust that forms the foundation of engagement. A truly engaged customer will be passionate, and sometimes even protective, about his decisions. Functioning as an influencer for their community.
Branding can perpetuate your story long after you’ve ‘left the room’. Your message sticks in people’s heads, and should contain your most important unique selling point. This message transcends platforms and channels, as long as it’s consistent and true.
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