Brand • noun •
What we see you do
Ad agencies are adept at twisting “brand” to mean “what we’re good at.”
Design shops will tell you that your brand is your logo and graphic standards. Would-be clever shops will tell you it’s the lame slogan they cooked up for you. Hot creative shops will tell you it’s the advertising you spend a fortune having them produce so that they can enter it in awards competitions and take home trophies.
All wrong. Woefully wrong. For presumed marketers whose job should include knowing something about branding, it is embarrassingly wrong.
If such are inconsistent, you have a weak brand. If such are consistent but wrongheaded or irrelevant, you have a weak brand. No matter what your ads claim. No matter how creative you think your ads are.
In short, your brand is not what you claim, but what we see you do.
Example time. This morning Verizon Wireless notified me that I had used all but one minute of my allotted calling time. I called Verizon’s customer service line. A pleasant and informed associate upgraded me to unlimited minutes. And lowered by bill by $10 per month.
In that brief encounter, Verizon’s brand was manifest in 5 ways:
1. They could have allowed me to go over my allotment—after all, I can check my status for myself—and charged me more. But they took good care of me by warning me.
2. My hold time was short.
3. The associate who helped me was likable, knowledgeable, real, and empowered to solve the problem.
4. Instead of trading me up to a costlier plan—I would have been willing—she solved the problem while lowering my rate.
5. This was not an atypical experience for me with Verizon. They have always treated me well.
Verizon is known for great customer service. I submit that it isn’t because they advertise it. It’s because they do it.
I left AT&T, mid-contract, years ago because their coverage was deplorable. When the rep warned me about the $200 early departure penalty, I replied that I would have gleefully paid twice that to get away. I have been with Verizon ever since. Now you know why.
Yeah, yeah, I know. Some of you have had a great experience with AT&T and a lousy one with Verizon. But I hope you get my point about what branding is and isn’t.