I used to own a Lexus. A white GS400 that I bought used – or “pre-owned” as they call it. I loved that car. It was fast, quiet, and the premium Nakamichi audio system was incredible, which for a former musician is essential. A Lexus is supposed to come with all the trimmings of owning a premium brand: top notch, responsive sales reps, white glove service and repair, free loaner cars, the works. Funny thing was, for all the accolades Lexus dealers get, I was regularly disappointed by mine. The sales reps were often unavailable (in fact, this unavailability made it easy for me not to buy another Lexus), the service reps were sullen, and the cashier was downright grumpy. In short, the disappointing service made it easy for me to switch brands, even though I loved my car, because every 3,000 miles when I had to bring it in for an oil change, I loved it just a bit less.
So when the time came to get a new set of wheels, I ended up with an Acura TL. It’s a very nice car, well built, handles well, but it’s not a Lexus. That said, I liked it when I test drove it, and my sales rep was the perfect mix of helpful and friendly, consultant and confidant. I felt like we had a connection. When time came for my first oil change, I wasn’t looking forward to it, trusting it would be a notch or two below the Lexus service. I took in my car at 7:30 that morning, and as I walked up to the service entrance a mechanic opened the door for me, smiled, and wished me good morning. Huh! That was a surprise. Then the gentleman at the service desk invited me over, greeted me warmly, and apologized for keeping me waiting (even though I had only been standing there for 30 seconds). Every new person I dealt with was more pleasant than the last. When I left, another mechanic who was just walking in held the door for me, looked me in the eyes, and wished me a good day. And each time I bring my car in for service, I love that car just a little more. (In case you’re wondering, this wonderful service experience can be had at Piazza Acura in Ardmore, PA.)
Obviously, both Lexus and Acura spend more money on marketing than any small company could ever dream of. The point is that your company’s brand is much greater than just your marketing. Marketing doesn’t create your brand. Your brand is created by the total experience your customers have with your company. Sure, it often starts with a marketing impression: an ad, a web site, a postcard in the mail. Those pieces start to create an impression of your brand with your customer.
Your brand is really built by the experience your customers have with your product. Is it easy to use, or frustrating? By how your phone is answered. Is it a person or a machine? A person acting like a machine? A friendly, warm human being? By how your staff interacts with customers face to face. Are they genuinely interested in helping your customers?
In short, your brand depends on so much more than just great marketing. Every thing you do – little and big – builds your brand. Your product experience, your store layout, your people and their interactions with your customers, that’s what builds your brand. Your marketing is just a small part of that.
Have you taken a fresh look at the total customer experience your company delivers? If your customer’s experience falls short of the promises your marketing materials make, you’re tearing down your brand, not building it. No business can afford that.
Tony van Veen is the President of Disc Makers. He is a recovering drummer, former owner of an independent record label, and is currently so busy making and selling discs and downloads for artists and filmmakers that his music jones has to remain firmly suppressed for the time being.