Don't Pack Up the Brand. Pump Up the Customer Experience.

December 8, 2005

Most successful companies deliver clear, compelling value and make good on their promises. If you are not confidently among them, do not lose heart. Most organizations can get lost in the weeds when facing tough decisions. As brand stewards, we are uniquely positioned to help inform and color decision-making processes that impact the brand.

Consider the airlines, post 9-11. Conventional wisdom and economic necessity said that to weather the storm, all non-essential services should be pared down, and every effort should be made to deliver on-time service. Conversely, JetBlue and Southwest bucked the trend. They reinforced their value, relying on innovative operations and hunkering down with unrelenting focus on customers and attention to detail to seize the advantage. Even a near-tragedy in LA this year quickly turned into a success story for JetBlue, largely due to the surplus equity created through flawless brand implementation. Talk about branding in turbulent times (nod to Peter Drucker)! For more on JetBlue, see Jim Gregoryís piece "I love JetBlue."

Clearly most companies would prefer to be JetBlue and not just blue. Now you can help leaders see the light. The chart below identifies common warning signs and offers customer-focused branding approaches for realigning what you say and do as a company. Please note that if several of the warning signs at left resonate with your organization, the time has come to get back to basics. Now get out there and pump up the customer experience.

Warning signs of brand deterioration

1. Low customer satisfaction and retention
evidenced by low repeat business, high churn rates.

2. Flat or falling market share.

3. Poor internal communications.

4. Low advertising and marketing spend versus
competitors.

5. Inconsistent brand messages or themes across
geographies.

6. Influx of new or out-of-category competitors
and messages.

7. High customer service costs vs. industry
standards.

8. High ratio of ad hoc to planned communications.

9. Decentralized, or non-performance based
workforce and low employee morale.

10. Risk-averse company culture.

Customer-focused branding approaches

1. Consider market research to identify causal
links and define the priorities for improvement.

2. Evaluate competitors and potential substitutes
against your brand criteria and market dynamics.

3. Evaluate strategy, organizational structure,
bottlenecks, breakdowns and competing interests.
Push for organizational accountability

4. Evaluate marketing channels and effectiveness.

5. Evaluate your brand positioning and execution.
If necessary, refine the core story and messaging.

6. Identify your top 2-3 points of differentiation
and execute well every single day.

7. Look for ways to streamline, simplify, and
improve transactional communications while
cutting costs.

8. Evaluate your communications strategy.
An audit may help you to identify opportunities
to standardize and automate communications.

9. Provide tools to educate and orient employees
while enabling them to focus on satisfying customers.
Reward those who adhere to standards.

10. Reward innovation and risk-taking within
acceptable limits to management, Legal and
Compliance.

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