Here’s a humbling fact for all us marketing professionals: Personal involvement with your brand is far more powerful than simply watching a TV commercial, even an attention-getting, racy or annoying one. It’s time we all recognize that the mere presence of the brand isn’t enough anymore. It’s our interaction with it that makes a lasting impression, so it had better be good.
We have established that a brand is a combination of the promise and the experience. Think of a brand in those simplified terms and you’ll see brand-building isn’t the job of just the marketing department, it’s the job of everyone in a company. While you may have known that, acting on that knowledge has always been difficult — until now.
Actions, the fourth stage of Heart & Mind Branding, is all about creating genuine and meaningful brand experiences that set you apart in a good way. And it is about specifically guiding everyone in the company, no matter their role, so that their actions build the brand.
Actions Go Well Beyond Customer Service
If you are thinking this is about customer service, understand that customer service is just a part of the story. The actions of the rest of the company matter, too, perhaps more — particularly because people don’t weigh one experience against another in their dealings with a company. They don’t expect an experience with a customer service rep to be better than an experience with the investor relations department or with a sales associate. People expect them all to be good, and one slip-up in any area can negatively impact a person’s perception of the entire brand.
Over time, however, if you have done the work of creating great brand perceptions through your actions, people will cut you some slack should you mess up. Apple, for instance, is cut so much slack by its enthusiasts that it is almost ridiculous. I know this from experience. When things go wrong with our systems, I feel bad blaming Apple: “After all, they make such great products that work so well.” But when we were operating on a Windows platform and something would go wrong, it was easy to jump on the “Microsoft strikes again” bandwagon.
Why does Apple get the kid-glove treatment while Microsoft gets thrown under the bus? Both companies work hard to deliver quality products and both are fallible. But for decades, Apple has, through its actions, been connecting with our heart while Microsoft has been connecting with our minds. Apple’s actions — innovative product design, amazing stores with excited and energized employees, the cool factor — are all actions of the heart. Microsoft’s actions, by contrast, are about the bits and bytes. The company has yet to really connect with our emotions — which, of course, is how we make buying decisions.
Today, Heart Will Beat Smart Every Time
So how does a company deliberately infuse heart into its actions? The answer is moments, those little instances that matter, that shape us and that are unforgettable. My favorite quote is from the Italian poet Cesare Pavese: “We do not remember days, we remember moments.”
He was right. Just as light is made up of particles, a brand experience is made up of moments. When you infuse moments into your actions, your brand grows brighter as it connects with the heart. The best news for business is that moments are actionable, assignable and measurable. They can and do happen anywhere, and everyone is capable of performing them. For instance, according to Cold Stone Creamery’s brand platform, the company was in the “making people happy” business. It was my client for many years, and I would often travel to visit the franchises — and invariably, when people saw my Cold Stone Creamery briefcase, they would say, “Hey, Cold Stone! I love Cold Stone!” So I’d say, “Thanks!” or “Cold Stone loves you, too!” and give the fan a free creation certificate. Imagine the unexpected surprise and inevitable conversations this small act would kindle.
Such moments to make a person feel special generally don’t cost much, they just take understanding and creativity to first discover the company’s genuine brand and how it is meaningful to the people the company serves, and then how to make it different from the competitors. This is the key to great brand moments that are unforgettable and get people talking. And it’s all that talk that creates buzz and buzz is what builds what we call breakthrough brands.
Imagine the power of having specific actions that you know will build your brand. Imagine your employees knowing their specific role, the impact they have on people, the higher purpose and how what they do connects with the mission. When people feel this connection — when they, themselves, live moments in the workplace — anything and everything is possible, including greatness.
Kathy Heasley is founder and principal of Heasley & Partners, Inc., a branding company that helps organizations grow and prosper. She’s the creator of Heart & Mind® Branding, a Rich Dad Advisor, author of multiple books and CDs, and international marketing and communications coach.