Building a brand is like growing a personality. Everything we do says something about who we are and in a brand’s case, about how it is perceived. If consumer perceptions shape a brand’s success, then it is crucial for brands to behave consistently compellingly throughout the user journey.
Brands are brands and people are people. Ostensibly they are not the same. Different objectives, different entities. If we look at consumers’ feelings and reactions towards brands however – their rational and emotional responses to products, services and interactions with the company – you quickly realize that people tend to judge brands much like we judge people.
We are all more likely to connect with a company if its behavior reflects similar values and beliefs as our own. Additionally, as people we adapt our behavior to audiences, settings and circumstances and what we expect from a brand is not all too dissimilar. This means that only if a brand can maintain sincere integrity, and demonstrates values shared by the target consumer across all of its products, services, activities and interactions, it can truly be embraced.
And there lies the two-fold challenge for global brands: Determine a clear and single-minded consumer-centric ‘personality’ and bringing this to life consistently and coherently across all relevant touch points.
One voice, global audience
One would argue this has always been the case and although this is largely true, the importance of tailoring to consumer needs and consistency in behaving in a way true to who you are, have never been more crucial. In today’s Digital age every consumer has a global voice. One slip up, one bad product, one flawed service experience and one unfortunate or off-brand piece of communications can indirectly reach millions, and thereby damage reputations.
So while people will make mistakes and not everything can be perfect, the framework for excellence should be. A framework in which a brand has defined ‘who’ it wants to be, defined what consumers expect it to be and defined how to bring this to life consistently.
Marry needs and value
It all starts by marrying target consumers’ needs with the brand’s own vision of value for society. Take Philips Beauty for example. Philips’ mission for Beauty could be described as easy as developing beautiful technology that delivers visible results.
We know from over 100 years of experience that Philips can be trusted to deliver meaningful technological innovations. Millions of women every day use Philips products for hair care, skincare and hair removal, and what they tell us is that they value speed, effectiveness (visible results) and a pleasant user experience (beautiful technology). This means that both consumer needs and the company’s capabilities for value-add, combine into a fruitful marriage.
Consumer journey mapping
But that is the first step only. The second step for a brand is bringing this to life across everything that it does. Carefully mapping out the consumer journey and for each step along the way defining how to bring to life this mission, this identity, this personality consistently and compellingly. Every single touch point, from product benefits and product design, to packaging, customer service, in-store displays, ATL materials, and digital and mobile channels, everything will need to ‘feel’, in this case, Philips Beauty, and live up to the brand’s promise throughout the full 360˚ user experience.
It’s not an easy challenge perhaps, but therefore all the more exciting. Who you are as a brand is how you are perceived. And how you are perceived is how you behave. And just like we prefer our friends to behave well, so too do we expect from the brands around us. More than ever now.
Thomas Marzano is Global Head of Brand Communication Design at Royal Philips and the lead for it’s Beauty Brand Communications Design. He will be speaking about Optimizing User Experiences in Beauty at the InnoCos USA conference in New York, July 10 2013. www.innocosevents.com/Old