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Designing Your Brand Experience To Brand Your Business

by Shonali Burke on February 24, 2010

Ready to give your business a logo? Stop.

If you’re just launching a new business and you’re thinking about how to brand and market, don’t start branding your new business with a logo, name or slogan.

Start by describing the unique and memorable experience customers will have with your company and everything else will follow.

I know, it sounds counter-intuitive, but the best way to demonstrate how this works is probably with a story of how successfully a brand can establish a reputation just by creating a distinctive customer experience.

Here’s how DK Diner does it in this great example of small scale “Experience Branding”.

After reading this story, we don’t know what the DK Diner logo looks like or what their advertising message is. They aren’t actively spreading the word via social or any other kind of media (although loyal customers’ Word of Mouth is driving the growth).

All we know is they’re growing their reputation by providing great food and a warm, uniquely TRUSTING customer experience.

TRUST here is the big idea that drives the brand experience.

Customers trust that they will always get great food and, here’s a twist: Customers, in turn, are TRUSTED to be honest about how much food they consume in the self service environment and treat the place like a home.

Ok, fine, you say, for a local diner. How about a B2B service business?

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Here are three simple (but not necessarily easy) steps you can take to define the experience your brand will consistently deliver that will differentiate your product or service no matter what it is.

Step One: Deeply understand your best customers

You probably already have a good idea who your most important customers are or will be as you grow.

Through research, surveys, interviews or just your deep knowledge of these customers, determine what they need most that they are not getting from your competitors. But don’t think just in terms of products or services. Think about the deeper emotional needs that are not being met.

For instance: A new mother doesn’t look for a baby-sitting service just to take care of her 6-month old baby.

She’s looking to rekindle romance with her husband and have enough peace of mind to relax and know that she can leave the child in the capable hands of a caring, responsible adult who will understand the unique needs of her child.

Or a Customer Service Manager needs to implement a B2B social media strategy but feels very insecure about his judgment with all the choices available and the cacophony of software vendors, consultants and marketing geniuses pitching their latest products and services.

What he really needs is someone who listens, learns and most importantly helps him make sense of his choices and support his recommendations in words he can articulate and his supervisor can understand.

Step Two: Fulfill the unmet emotional needs of your best customers

Using these customer insights, ask yourself how your business is uniquely capable of filling the most pressing rational and emotional needs of your most important customer. The answer to this question will help you create a description of the brand experience you provide.

Don’t try to be everything to everyone.

Focus on delivering a uniquely delightful experience to these best customers and more good customers will come your way.

Then create a “unique experience promise” that will guide all the decisions you make in the day-to-day operations of your business. This is the hardest part and where you need to be very creative in defining and boiling down the characteristics of your truly memorable experience.

But it won’t be just one event. It should be the sum total of all of the positive encounters your customers have with your brand and every little detail should reinforce your experience promise.

Step Three: Let Brand Experience Design lead Brand Identity and Marketing

Here’s a wonderfully simple video by Brandon Schauer that describes and compares this new approach to “experience branding”:

When you’ve clearly defined the ideal customer experience that defines and differentiates your business brand, then naming, logo design and marketing will be much easier since everything should be in alignment with how your customer experiences your brand.

Focus first on creating a unique and exceptional brand experience and, like DK Diner, you may not need much marketing at all.

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Image: Elena Lagaria, Creative Commons

Ann O'DanielGuest contributor Ann O’Daniel is founder and President of Experience Branding, a customer experience design and consulting firm that helps companies increase customer engagement and enduring brand loyalty by improving the customer experience.  Specializing in designing, differentiating and personalizing customer interactions, Experience Branding helps clients build emotionally satisfying brand experiences at all customer touch points, increasing lasting loyalty and passionate brand evangelists. During her career as relationship marketing creative director and customer experience strategic planner, Ann has helped a wide range of clients build brand loyalty and accelerate the adoption of profitable, customer-centric marketing programs. Contact her via LinkedIn or Twitter.

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