How great customer experiences create a standout brand

Brand is culture and culture is brand. Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, says "your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room." In a lot of ways branding is simply telling a story. A business must be disruptive in the brand design they look to create - customers must feel that the brand experience is like no other.

As a business, in order to do that you must start with the end in mind, specifically how do you want your customers to feel when they interact with a particular product or service that you offer?

Two companies that come immediately to mind are Apple and Zappos. All great companies that understand branding also recognise that branding should lead to loyalty. Without a great customer experience and loyal customers - there is no way your business will have longevity. Your business must understand what its purpose is and who the ideal customer is. Your business cannot cater to every single person - you must target high value customers - the ones that will provide customer lifetime value in the long run. Dr. Peter Fader, Professor of Marketing at Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania says in his book, Customer Centricity, there is a big difference between customer friendly and customer centricity. Do you know the difference?

Let’s look at Apple. If Apple communicated like everyone else they would say "We sell great computers", but they don't, they have disrupted the marketplace in terms of what they do. Steve Jobs made the phone so simple by just creating one button, just one button that pretty much navigates the functions of the entire phone. Even though there is just one button for many people their iPhone is their business, it is their connectivity to the world, their clients, their family, their prospects.

Your brand sets you apart, but many people still think with an old-age mentality, wrongly believing that a brand is logo, website and colour chart. That’s just what’s on the surface. Customers may engage with your brand because of marketing, but if you really want them to stay hooked, you must have some brand experiences that exceed their expectations, disrupt their usual way of doing business and leave a mark. Apple has mastered and repeated this brand experience over and over again creating loyal customers who wouldn’t switch to any other product or service even if they were paid.

Read: The impact of disruptive start-ups on traditional branding

You might be thinking that Apple is a unique breed, and yes they are - but let’s look also at Zappos. From the logo design and marketing, Zappos may appear to just be an online retailer. They gave used the same principles as Apple and Amazon, changing the landscape of what it means to be an online retail brand. Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, has shared in public seminars, speeches, media interviews ad even in his very own book, Delivering Happiness, that Zappos is not just an online retailer, it aims to be the very best at customer service and offer the very best customer experience. Hsieh explains that one of the main reasons their brand focuses on customer experience is because around 75 per cent of the orders on any given day are received are from repeat customers.

Zappos has a unique strategy that may seem disruptive based on traditional business branding practices, but Hsieh strongly believes the investments that the company diverts from paid marketing to investing in the customer experience is a truer form of marketing. For example, a great strategy they employ that may seem very simple is to actually have their 1-800 number listed on every page of their website - because they want to encourage their customers to call.

They want to speak with their customers. For many companies, their customers’ online experience is the opposite - digging through a couple web pages before you actually identify contact information in the form of an email address or contact us form, rather than an actual telephone number.

So if you really want to be disruptive in your industry and stand apart - don't lose your brand touch points, and always remember  to focus on your customers’ experience. When you meet with your teams, create products, design services - always start with the customer in mind and what you want them to experience. The simple lesson behind the success of companies like  Apple and Zappos is you can’t be disruptive, distinctive and compelling in the marketplace unless you create something disruptive, distinctive, and compelling in the workplace.

How does your brand shape your culture and deliver on your customer experience? How does your culture bring your brand to life?

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details.

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