Via All Business Expert : Whatever your business stands for — quality, innovation, spectacular service — that is your brand. You work hard to fulfill your brand promise because your brand has enormous impact on your ability to attract customers and keep them.
There is one component that kills brands more surely than anything else: dissonance. If your advertising touts quality but products arrive damaged, or if your website screams “easy to work with” and your customer service team buries customer complaints in red tape, you are dramatically inconsistent. Word will spread that your company does not walk its talk, and business will evaporate.
This is why it is critical to maintain a branded environment in your business, where all elements of your operation work in harmony to deliver a consistent branding message to every customer and prospect. Essential elements of a branded environment include the following:
Graphics. Consistently display logos, taglines and colors wherever they appear: on your website, business cards, brochures, signage, invoices, proposal forms, shipping documents, etc.
Interactive Media. Wherever your business communicates with the customers and prospects, their experience should be the same. If part of your brand message is responsive customer service, your team must respond quickly, thoroughly, and courteously to customer inquiries, whether on a a website chat, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, email, etc. Today’s customers interact with brands across several channels — they all have to come in clearly.
Office/Store Environment. Imagine you were led blindfolded into a McDonald’s or Starbucks and then had your blindfold removed. Instantly, you would know exactly where you were, because you were in a branded environment. The furniture, lighting, signage, and décor match the look and feel of each company’s brand. Now imagine you switched those environments; customers who entered would be confused, disoriented, and possibly leave. Your physical environment must be a branded environment to ensure a complete and consistent brand experience for every visitor.
Packaging. Does your packaging reinforce your brand or work against it? If you stand for quality or elegance, skimping on packaging materials makes you look cheap, even if products arrive in one piece. Packaging can also emphasize your brand more directly by using customized graphics or inserting a “thank you” message card in every shipment.
Delivery and Logistics. Brands that promise quality and/or innovative products are expected to have service to match. This means your systems for delivery, order tracking, and claims processing must be efficient and technologically sophisticated. Do you offer customers several ways of placing orders and filing claims, including using their mobile phones? Can they check their order status with one or two clicks on your website? Do you have a delivery infrastructure that facilitates routine next-day or even same-day delivery? These are the types of features companies with a environments branded for quality provide.
Infrastructure. High-quality products don’t happen just because a copywriter says so on the company website. Instead, purchasing personnel and operations personnel, from plant managers to people on the production line, must make quality their top priority 24/7/365. Every employee must view the quality control team as a key component of the business. In short, whether employees have direct, indirect, or no customer contact, every phase of the business must be working off the same sheet of branding music. This is a high bar — but perhaps this is why few companies have what could be called a true branded environment.
As all these examples illustrate, branding cannot be left exclusively in the hands of a marketing department. Customers must perceive brand consistency in every interaction they have with a company; sales, customer service, facility management, production, packaging, and shipping must also understand the branding message and take an active role in supporting it. Achieving this may require significant changes to internal communication, but the benefits of creating a powerful branded environment, versus having merely a superficial brand, are well worth the effort.
Joseph Lamonica is the CFO of Marketing Alternatives Inc. MAI is a privately held marketing support services company that was found in 1981. Joe has been involved with all aspects of operations and sales since joining MAI in 2008.