Your brand is a promise. It is a commitment to a value proposition. It must be lived.
The brand promise must permeate every interaction with your consumer; it must be executed day in and day out. In a world where personal interactions are rapidly being replaced with software, your software is now your brand.
It has always been difficult for a brand manager to build an effective brand. A successful brand is at its core a promise. Hollow promises mean nothing.
To be authentic, the brand must achieve the following three goals:
- It must convey a compelling benefit.
- It must be authentic and credible.
- The promise must be kept, every time.
Brand managers have traditionally been fairly adept at identifying messages that resonate with their buyers. Brands don’t typically fail because the message is off. More often than not, a brand fails because a company fails to adhere to the promise in every interaction (this is often because the promise was not authentic in the first place). As if this alignment between message and action were not difficult enough already, the rapid pace of innovation has turned customer interaction on its head.
Today, your software is your brand. Personal interactions with your customers are in rapid decline, being overtaken by interactions with your brand through software and social media. Even in situations where personal contact remains constant, the number of impersonal interactions are quickly rising, diluting the impact of personal touch.
As a result, even when marketers capture the true essence of an organization in a brand promise, it may not appear genuine if the technical interactions don’t reinforce the essence as well.
Think about a simple example. It used to be that as I walked into the barbershop, someone would say hello as soon as I arrived. During normal hours, the barber would simply remember the order in which I arrived and personally ask me to take a seat, then call me when it was my turn. If it was busy, I was asked to take a number (or, in some cases, to sign in on a paper log). The simple numbering mechanism held my place in line, allowing the barber to keep track of the order and ultimately call me to the chair.
Today, when I walk in to a barbershop, I’m asked to sign in on a touchscreen device placed strategically at the door. Regardless of whether the barber still welcomes me and personally asks me to sign in, the first several minutes of my barbershop experience are dominated by software. This is both a dangerous dilemma and a powerful opportunity.
If I find the experience frustrating and a use of technology for its own sake (or even worse, for marketing’s sake), I will quickly forget the pleasant hello with which I was welcomed. The software destroys the brand promise.
On the other hand, the software experience has an opportunity to reinforce the brand. If it is easy to use and reinforces the commitment to personalized service by remembering my favorite barber, the last time I was in, and my styling preferences, the brand has been reinforced and I am likely to have a higher regard for this barbershop. In fact, I may even be ripe for an upsell: perhaps I’ll get the shampoo and shave today.
Software is now the brand regardless of what industry you’re in. Customers are experiencing your brand through distribution channels that you may never have intended.
Is your business embracing software, or are you allowing your customers to find their own ways to interact with your brand through software? If you are embracing the need to embrace innovation, are you strategically thinking about your customer experience and how it reinforces your brand? If not, you may be building just another IT system that destroys your brand.