Are you brand aware? I’m not asking if you are aware of the brands you love or even the brand that you work for. More so, are you aware that you, along with everyone else at your company, is an extension of your brand? Regardless of your position within a company, you are a direct representative of your company’s brand and therefore a steward of that identity. I was asked recently to write an article for a Fortune 100 company and longtime client of ours around branding and how to leverage storytelling to connect their service to value for their end users. Serendipitously, I just had an experience with a company, a bad experience, that gave me some fodder for the article and led to some interesting conversations with other clients.
I love the brands I do business with. From Amazon to Apple, I happily hand over my hard earned dollars for the products they push. But in the high-tech one-click-purchase world we live in, I have forgotten how little I have to deal with people throughout the purchasing process. It was almost a surprise when I had to hop on a call with one of these businesses to address an issue that came up with my account. Now, let me preface this with the fact that I love this brand because they always tote their client experience as fundamental to their brand identity. It makes sense, I like doing business with companies that try to ensure my happiness. Which is why the following story so unnerved me and inspired this article.
I was on a call with the customer service hotline of one of my favorite businesses. No big deal. There was an error on my account that required what I thought would be a brief call to correct. I was wrong. An hour later, I got off the call flabbergasted by the experience. My seemingly simple problem caught the complexity express as I bounced from department to department. I spoke with five different people who all needed to be read into the issue at hand, by me, and seemed equally confused and irritated in having to help me. The whole experience left a terrible taste in my mouth and in the end, I was done, no longer a customer. When I got off the phone I didn’t say, “Man, I’m disappointed in Jennifer or Brian for not taking care of this better.” No, I said, “I’m never doing business with this company again.”
As consumers in the digital economy, we buy a large chunk of our goods on the internet. Because of this, we are slowly losing some interpersonal skills and nuanced communication skills that are fundamental to a successful business. Whether it’s the cadence used to speak to a distraught client with respect and empathy or simply maintaining eye contact with another human being, focusing too much on the digital and not enough on the application of the brand identity on an interpersonal level is detrimental to your business and brand.
In the whirlwind of modern leadership, leaders sometimes forget that every employee is an extension of the company, the brand, and their story. The outcomes of every employees’ interactions with a client or prospect don’t only affect them individually but have a lasting impact on the brand as a whole. My experience wasn’t unique. It happens every day to more people than I can count but what was so startling was the disconnect between the brand identity and employee. Whatever your brand aligns itself with, i.e. the client experience, that alignment needs to be consistent. The CEO cannot believe in these things and hope to leverage them as a value proposition if the person answering the phones, mopping the floor, or making sales doesn’t embody those values in their daily duties. When you create a brand, the big picture is in focus. You’ll define what you stand for and what you want the clients to feel, but one question that doesn’t come up often is, how do we make sure everyone at every level of this company conducts themselves in a manner that reflects these values? How can we hold everyone accountable to this vision? That question deserves to be front and center when focusing on your brand or brand story.
Everyone at your company should brand aware and understand how their role directly contributes to fulfilling the value proposition of the brand.
So I ask again, how brand aware are you?