It’s hard to define branding in a few sentences. In spite of this, most of us understand what it is. The first challenge is figuring out what your brand identity should be. The next step is even more challenging. How do you go about creating that brand identity and aligning it with your ultimate customer experience?
When you walk into a Hilton property, you already know what to expect. Even if you have never stayed in a Hilton Hotel, you can imagine how that experience might feel. But what options do you have when it comes to online experience?
Understanding What Impacts Branding
What impacts branding? The short answer is, pretty much everything. Company uniforms, logos, advertisements, signage, the way that stores are designed, the ‘tone’ of your content, even the scripts used by your customer service agents all contribute to your branding efforts.
The one commonly overlooked aspect of efficient branding, however, is customer service however. For online businesses, these are pretty much the only customer-facing employees, which should project your company key values and build up the customer’s anticipations. You should be using your customer support to reinforce your brand identity. And here are a couple of strategies to help you with that.
Get The Entire Organization on The Same Page
It is a mistake to assume that branding is entirely the onus of the marketing department only. While the CMO and their team should be the ones to create and manage the branding strategy, other departments play a role as well.
First, you’ll need to formulate a company-wide strategic intent, which would be in line with your brand intent as well and shared with everyone within the organization. This could be done in different ways:
- Create a brand mission statement and official style guidelines that should be used by everyone within the company, not just your marketing department
- Maintain consistency in all distributed visual assets, including the in-house materials. Your brand identity starts within your company. If your employees don’t get a good “feel” of it on a daily basis, they can’t transfer that experience to the customers. Templafy is a great tool to help you create on brand materials with a few clicks.
- Design brand-aligned customer service processes. For instance, high-touch brands should through in more efforts in maintaining human-assisted customer service, over self-service; while non-intrusive ones may want to experiment with different self-service strategies, chatbots and refrain from aggressive “live” support.
Audit as You Go
You don’t establish your brand identity in one fell swoop. It’s an ongoing process. Not every effort you make is going to be a success. This is why it’s extremely important to continually audit your branding efforts.
This can be done in several ways. Analytics certainly plays a role. Customer surveys and feedback forms are also very useful in getting feedback on your efforts. Tracking comments on your blog and social media content is also informative. This is also an area where feedback from salespeople, customer service staff, and floor personnel are extremely valuable. They have a front line view of customers’ moods and perceptions.
Finally, look to external sources to get a better idea of how people see your brand. Read consumer reviews. Use Google Alerts to receive emails when your company name is mentioned. The more information you have, the sooner you can pivot to keep your branding efforts on track.
Think Beyond The Touch Points
Most brands place too much attention on customer touch points. Capturing and analyzing customer sentiments at this point online will likely create a distorted picture for your company, and ultimately suggest that your clients are happier than they are in reality.
To avoid this common mistake, you should specifically look into the moments, which link the tent-pole touch points together. For instance, that means focusing less on a certain hyped channel that clearly does not match your brand experience.
Let’s get back to the Hilton example. The hotel chain recently experimented with the chatbot technology and added artificial intelligence to their concierge services package. The decision was rather strategic as it encourages more guests to place a booking request through the official website rather than using third-party vendors like Booking.com or Hotels.com.
The results were pretty impressive. The company reported that it could forge more ongoing relationships with the 34 million guests the company serves annually. Of course, this would be “mission impossible” for a human team.
However, Hilton decided against expanding AI-power support further, say to handle day-to-day requests of their guests such as room service or taxi bookings as that certainly does not match the company’s brand identity.
The bottom line is this - make sure that implementing a new technology will actually match the customer's needs at each moment and will not result into a fragmented experience.
Also, it’s important to remember that consumers are no longer following linear paths through the funnel. It’s more accurate to state that they are experiencing web moments across different touch points (both offline and online). Your job is to link those disconnected experience together and identify what’s missing in order to create truly remarkable CX and a memorable brand experience.