“Simply put, a brand is a promise… it delivers a pledge of satisfaction and quality.”
– Walter Landor
“A brand is the sum total of the entire customer experience. A collection of perceptions in the mind of the consumer.”
– Mark Burgess, Blue Focus Marketing
The brand experience used to be defined in carefully controlled consumer experiences and company messaging. Advertisements and press releases are still crafted to convey the right brand image, but what does this really mean today? The rise of social media has exposed those companies who don’t live up to their promises. If your brand isn’t backed up by real experiences, it will quickly be demolished.
Before the social age, companies’ images were largely untouchable, save their product quality and any huge PR disaster. But the reciprocal relationships in spaces like Facebook and Twitter have exposed brands for their real behavior. This has had a positive impact on the growing importance of Corporate Social Responsibility. How companies behave beyond their transactions is important. Are they trading ethically? Do they watch their carbon-footprints? Businesses need to be good to the core to maintain a positive brand reputation. It’s not just the best marketers who can create brand power, but the best products, service and conduct.
Customer service in particular risks damaging a company’s public face more than ever. No longer the experience of isolated customers, the collective experience of your customers is now being shared, discussed and on display to the world. Social media speeds up the word of mouth process that could gradually erode your brand image over time – a bad experience that would have spread just between friends can now be distributed to millions in just minutes. On the flip side good customer service is no longer just a cost – it also benefits and affirms your brand to other customers. What your customers say about you has greater power than what you say about yourselves. Establishing your customer satisfaction by asking customers if they’d recommend you or not, as in the Net Promoter Score, is hypothetical. But in social media, when a customer shares a positive experience, or complains publicly about a negative one, promotion and detraction are happening for real.
Unfortunately for most companies, their brands are suffering because they just can’t keep up. Every customer service issue in Twitter you ignore; every time you make claims that can’t be backed up; every time you try and shore up your image by deleting negative comments, you are chipping away at your brand value. Brand is no longer what you say – it’s what you do, and what your customers say about you.