The theme of Interbrand’s Global Brand Index, out this month, is ‘Activating Brave’ – how great brands set themselves apart from the competition. Great brands are those which take short-term action to respond to the market, while simultaneously pursuing a long-term vision.
They are also, says Interbrand, those brands which are making the shift from communicating a customer experience to shaping it. They anticipate what consumers want, and change the business accordingly. They put their customers at the heart of their strategy, “bringing the voice of the customer into every aspect of their business.”
The report talks about the importance of relevance and responsiveness; those brands topping the Index are those who score most highly in these two areas.
There comes a time in the lifecycle of every brand when the people behind it have to make some big decisions about what the brand stands for, asking themselves: how are we relevant? How are we different from the rest? What are we providing that doesn’t already exist, that fills a need? What can we promise the customer? What can we do, and what are our limitations?
The brand’s promise is what builds trust with customers: if you’re going to be in service to the customer, let them know that. If you’re going to provide the best product to the customer, let them know that. But most importantly, don’t just talk about the customer experience, deliver it. Keep your brand promise. And only promise what you can deliver on.
I recently moved not just house, but country (I’m lucky enough to be one of the ‘digital nomads’ that take their work with them, and working with a global company allows me to do this). The experience created a perfect moment for me to realise the importance of a brand delivering on its promise. My family and I weren’t familiar with the city we were moving to, and so used a sharing economy home rental service (similar to, but not, AirBnB) to rent a home until we found our feet in our new country.
The website was glossy, the brand is active on social media, and it’s a reputable company. It even made a promise of checking every home to ensure its high standard. It sounded perfect. My husband and I packed up our lives, and drove across Europe with our toddler and as many of our belongings as we could fit in our car. We approached our new, temporary home with excitement.
It was a huge disappointment: filthy, and unliveable. Still, we had the guarantee from the provider. After three days of back and forth communication, they couldn’t help us. The company utterly failed to deliver on its brand promise.
I looked closer at its social media. I found threads littered with complaints similar to mine, many unanswered. The brand may have offered a service that’s relevant in this new world, but it certainly wasn’t being responsive. It wasn’t listening to customers to improve its offering, or putting them at the heart of its service.
Listening and responding to customers is a baseline of good marketing. Acting on what you hear is what makes you relevant and responsive.
As Interbrand says: “Being truly customer-centric today means going deeper than just offering a product or service that the customer wants.” It means: “truly recognizing how customers think, feel and behave, and then delivering the most optimized experience possible across each and every customer touchpoint.”