When introduced to someone
socially and asked what you do for a living do you proudly espouse your company’s
name? Could you explain what the company stands for and what it does?
It is not just the chief
executive or chairman who has to fly the flag for the company. Like it or not,
if we work for a branded company we are all ambassadors.
Richard Branson may be Virgin’s
number one brand ambassador but every Virgin employee has to give the same message.
This helps reinforce the brand experience – you get ‘what it says on the tin’.
When a Virgin air hostess, for example, is particularly helpful on a transatlantic
flight it reinforces your positive view of the Virgin brand.
After all a brand is more
than a name or a symbol; the brand experience or promise is vital. A brand’s identity
and the experience are inextricably linked – in many ways a brand represents a
bond with a customer. And it is this bond that the employee brand ambassador has
Every touch point with the
customer can either add to or deplete the value of a brand. We know this from
own experience as consumers.
We can all quote horror
stories of a poor experience in a hotel or restaurant – one rude receptionist
or surly waiter can ruin a visit. And it is most likely that we will repeat the
story to a friend.
Yet a good brand experience
speaks for itself. Look at what Howard Schultz has done to build the Starbucks
Schultz started out working for what was then a Seattle coffee bean company. He
recognised coffee drinking was a social / lifestyle experience, bought the company,
opened his trademark cafes and in less than 15 years he has built a global phenomenon.
This could not have happened without employees understanding the importance of
living the brand. Go into a Starbucks today and the environment ensures a consistent,
positive experience – and you get a good cup of coffee, too.
Disney has also involved
employees in building a hugely successful brand. Visit a London Disney store or
head into the Orlando theme park –staff are consistently part of the overall experience,
even dressing up as Disney characters. Disney exemplifies how to make consumers
feel good about a brand.
A brand’s value is not just
about the point of purchase – it’s about what happens before and after. A consumer
may take three months researching a new car, or three seconds deciding on a brand
of cereal, but it is all part of the brand experience.
This begins with the initial
awareness, is reinforced through personal networks, develops on-line or in store
when browsing, is confirmed at the point of purchase – and continues through the
product’s usage and disposal. During this cycle the consumer will interact with
different representatives of the brand and each contact helps reaffirm the way
Consumers want to continue
feeling good about their decision long after the actual purchase. Car manufacturers,
for example, spend vast amounts on advertising to reinforce the quality and image
of the vehicle you have just bought. Aftersales support and service are important,
too. That personal phone call two or three days after you bought your new car
is all part of making you feel you made the right choice.
Similarly the phone call
to check your party went well the day after Waitrose has delivered its prepared
Invitation-branded food makes you feel the company cares. The employee making
the call understands that this is part of the brand experience.
And should something go
wrong with a purchase and the consumer need to return an item or complain, all
is not lost for a brand. If the person behind the counter or on the phone responds
appropriately and treats you well, it can be turned into a positive experience
for the customer – and so adds value to the brand. So often we are prepared to
be disappointed with a brand and are ready to stand our ground and fight for our
consumer rights. When we complain and find a branded company that’s supportive,
we can quickly shift from being an angry consumer to being a very loyal customer.
The point is, recommendation
is worth £millions to a brand. When Dyson first launched those strange-coloured
vacuum cleaners in 1993, word-of-mouth set the brand on its track to success.
And even though there were teething problems with the very first model, the way
the company responded made owners and potential consumers feel positive.
Brands that don’t pay heed
to every touch point with the consumer ignore this at their peril. In today’s
wired world an untarnished character is as vital for a brand as it is for an individual.
A chance comment by an employee, bad practice or an action not thought through
could do untold damage. Brands, like celebrities, feed the news pipeline. And
consumer watchdogs and consumer TV programmes rightly champion the consumer’s
cause. Brands have to be squeaky clean.
Coca-Cola may have been
able to retrieve its flawed Dasani water brand with a recall were it not for the
fierce publicity. The media coverage makes marketing experts doubt whether Dasani
could ever be relaunched in the UK – thereby halting the brand’s European ambitions.
When Ratner famously described
his jewellery as ‘crap’ he destroyed his brand promise. Few young lovers would
want to buy their betrothed a ‘crap’ engagement ring. His statement happened to
be very public and was splashed across the tabloids; but a simple off-guard comment
by one employee could also do untold damage. Employees, particularly those who
are customer-facing, are a powerful communications channel.
As the issue of corporate
responsibility gains pace, it becomes increasingly important for every company
to ensure that all employees understand and align themselves with the brand promise
and company values. A company can make all the promises it likes but unless employees
actually measure up to the brand and make it live these are just hollow words.
In 3M we work hard to get that message across to all employees and ensure that
it is reflected in all brand communication – in fact in our whole approach to
The 3M brand is more than
the familiar red 3M logo. The logo certainly represents the brand but the brand
is also about beliefs, relationships, culture and promises. The 3M brand stands
for many things, including innovation – for our customers it is a promise and
commitment to deliver solutions that will make them successful.
Despite eCommerce, buying
and selling is still very much about people. There is a human element involved
in many purchase decisions. Rather like a dancer who is out of step, an employee
who is out of line, off beat or off message distracts from the whole show – not
matter how good the lead performer.
About the author
Pip Frankish is General
Manager, Corporate Marketing & Communication at 3M UK plc, where she leads
a team of in-house consultants, providing specialist communications and strategic
marketing expertise to 3M business units. 3M is a $18 billion diversified technology
company providing innovative solutions to customers in health care, safety and
security, electronics, telecommunications, transportation, industrial, consumer
and office supplies, and other markets.
For further information
on 3M see www.3M.com/uk or contact email@example.com
or call 08705 360036