Creating Devotion For Your Brand

I was reading an article about Brand Leadership on Sustainable Brands (thanks for the link via @mgobe), and it offered three thoughts for brands to achieve Brand Leadership in the 21st century.

1.  Delight Your Customers – AND Your Stakeholders

I completely agree with this point. While most companies are still struggling to obsess over creating a great customer experience (especially if it might mean a short-term loss) – even less focus on making sure they have great relationships with their suppliers.  The more you work with your suppliers, the more they’ll work with you.

Have great working relationships with everyone involved with your company.

2.  Engage in Brand Activation Activism

“Brands can’t and shouldn’t take the place of civil society. But we’re in a world where brands are what get noticed.”

I disagree with this point. What exactly are brands, if anything, but ideas? A brand is comprised of the emotions and thoughts that are developed mostly by society … not just about products – but people, places, and ideologies. The problem arises though when brands are dishonest or a company is amoral (see all the controversy with greenwashing, pinkwashing, and Susan G Komen / Planned Parenthood PR fiasco).

Activism needs to be part of a company’s value system – not a marketing ploy.

3.  Think Drive – Not Demand

“We proposed that businesses start by asking how to Define, Deliver, Demonstrate and create Demand for better sustainability outcomes, (but)…“demand” is too narrow. Rob Cameron…  proposed we add a fifth D to the 4Ds: Drive

While I think Drive is important since strong leadership can develop and ‘drive’ an inspiring vision – I think there is another D that would trump this, and that is Devotion. 

All of the recommendations in the 4D framework have been top down. This is a great for driving and controlling strategy, but it can easily miss the boat on creating a brand or experience that customers are looking for.

What is missing from most companies is the understanding of their customers.

  • What is your customer’s point of view?
  • What are their pain points?
  • What experience(s) are they missing from a product or a company?

We can see example of this all around us. Just look at the devout communities built around bikram yoga, zumba, or crossfit.  These communities are thriving not because they are superior to other forms of exercise, but because they offer something more … a sense of belonging, community, and an aspiration greater than themselves. An ideal.

Drive can help to create this, but true Devotion is built from the grass roots – not just top-down, but bottom-up.

What are some unique devout communities you can think of?


A Key To Customer Happiness – Do The Unexpected

Mail vs. Email

How often do we find that ‘business as usual’ tactics desensitize the customer and takes away from their over-all experience? A novel idea that seemed great at first blush, soon wears out its welcome and becomes a negative experience. With the amount of competition increasing, practices like this need to be changed. Consumers are expecting more – not only in their products, but in their experiences.

Increasing Customer Experience

Below are some examples from my own observations, and how they win – or fail.

  • Reminder Cards: Creating personalized reminder cards for  important events. Mailing these out are great, because as illustrated above – no one gets good mail anymore, just bills and flyers. On the flip-side, while email is still impersonal and lazy, it can still be used effectively. Out of the possibly hundreds of companies that have my personal information only FIVE sent me a birthday email with a special offer. You can bet I remembered which five they were, and while I haven’t used their services in a while, that added touch has me swayed to try their services/products again.
  • Customer Service Professionals: Almost everyone has heard the story of Zappo’s, or at least the rave reviews on Tony Hsieh’s book ‘Delivering Happiness‘. Yet in spite of success stories like this, companies are still outsourcing customer service to save money, or routinely hire people who are disengaged. If customer satisfaction is really that important to companies, then why do they keep showing us that they dont care by providing horrendous automated services, mind numbing phone tree’s, and employees who read off a sheet or generally dont care? You’ll be amazed at how simple acts can create brand advocates. Don’t believe me? Check out this Harvard Business Review blogpost on exactly that.
  • Lip Service: Last but not least is lip service. Nothing is worse than a company that uses boring business speak, saying what they think customers want to hear – and then even worse … not living up to it. The local movie theatre near me was bought out by a bigger chain a few years back. I’m giving it away with this, but the new slogan is ‘Movie Going How It Used To Be – Only Better’. This brings up visions of an ushers wearing a bellhop type outfit with that little hat, showing you to a seat, walking around with flashlight to keep the peace, and just an overall high quality customer experience. Here is the problem – nothing has changed since this theatre was bought. In return, I have zero loyalty to the theatre. With rising ticket prices my theatre going has continued to drop because there is no added-bonus to make me want to go back. If you promise a great experience, you better deliver upon it.
These are just a few examples, but there are countless others out there. What business practices do you run into that detract from your experience – and how can they be made better?

Think Before Changing Your Logo

I am not an expert on logo’s, but I’ll give myself a nice pat on the back on understanding the remarkable and what people are drawn to. It seems a lot of companies have been changing or tweaking their company logo’s as of late, so here are my thoughts on the most recent change I read about:

Recently Seattle’s Best Coffee, which was acquired by Starbucks in 2003, has changed their logo. The reason for the redesign – they hope to be a symbol of universally “good coffee someday”. A logo doesn’t give you good coffee. High quality beans, a great brewing process, barista’s who know their trade, customer experience give you good coffee. The logo is an after-thought, an association.

Part of the idea behind this probably stems from company growth. Currently Seattle’s Best is very limited, situated in roughly 3,000 locations. Starbucks is looking to grow the brand dramatically to 30,000 by the end of next year.

Is this a good move from the company? Most likely not. The company already has a set image that has been established. A rebrand of a company logo is hard to accomplish – and most importantly, what is the reason why? It would have been better to spin off a group of products with the newer logo (if the decision was based around being generic, sustainable, low cost) instead of trying to rebrand a whole company.
Some great logo failures


Possible Success
Dodge might have done it right, using the Ram symbol for the Trucks, and a different symbol for their regular cars. If they aren’t doing anything else besides changing a logo, it’s a failure.

People don’t like change. They don’t like things being taken away, even they are replaced by something that is superior. Here is a great short blogpost by 37signals on the Art of Taking Things Away

Bottom line – understand your goal and work on the things that really matter. If the logo is part of the rebranding process, then fine, but it’s not your logo that makes your brand. Also, be wary of trends … most of the logo’s I’ve been seeing lately are really poppy – rounded, flatter colors, not a ton of detail, and from a non-graphic artist perspective – lack character. Does this mean you’ll have to change your logo again in 20 years to go with a new trend? Just some food for thought.

Changing Perceptions

Everyday we make judgements. Sometimes they’re based off of experience and repetition (I dont like this shirt because it’s not my style), but other times its based on what others think (this place had bad reviews, so I wont eat there).

Most people trust their social networks, so they typically wont investigate the truth behind a bad review. Why do we listen about things we never experienced first hand?  There is a reason why branding experts will tell you that it takes 10 seconds to make a first impression – it’s because we like simple and quick decisions. If people make strong decisions like this so quickly – how can we alter their perceptions?

If you want to change how someone personally views you, then you need to know how YOU want them to view you. Do you want to be known as an expert, or as someone who is ethical? A person who everyone immediately smiles out and calls out to you when they see you, or someone who is grounded and trusted for making the right decision? By the way, those positions aren’t opposite of each other, but they are how most of us would like to be perceived.

If you aren’t sure how you’re perceived, or if you’re on the right track, then the best way is to ask. Use a mix of those close to you, and those who you’ve just met. It’s hard to give an honest answer face to face, so make it anonymous. Create a survey, there a variety of websites that will let you do that for free, like surveymonkey. The more you learn about yourself, the better you can manage how you’re viewed.

Find out whats important to you, and then be proactive about making it happen.