As a marketer I’ve often heard colleagues or senior management question if the marketing material we are producing within the organization is ‘within brand guidelines’, or if ‘our logo and key visual is positioned correctly, as we need to communicate our brand effectively’. Whilst these are fair questions, and the visual is important, the logo is only one part the brand jigsaw. The intangible elements of a brand, that aren’t immediately obvious, are just as important to perception, experience and overall success of the entire brand.
Take for instance Hermes, the purveyor of the famous Birkin bags where the retail value for one bag can range anywhere from $7,000 to $150,000 depending on specifications. Each bag is hand-sewn, buffed, painted, and polished, taking several days to finish, with the average bag taking 48 hours to create. French leather workers must have at least three years of training before graduating to Birkin duty. The quality that exists within these hidden details and the meticulous craftsmanship is what generates the desire for such a brand and reflects the true experience of owning a Hermes product. Wrap any customers purchase in a signature Hermes orange box with the horse drawn carriage logo stamped on the cover and it makes for a desirable shopping experience.
When Tom Ford left Gucci and started his own label in 2004 he knew that ‘name recognition is only as good as what you produce, just as a logo is as only as valuable as what it’s on. ’ So when Ford began looking for a partner he inked a deal with Ermenegildo Zegna, the Italian luxury fashion house known for specializing in high quality menswear since 1910. Zegna, who make everything from suits to shirts, ties and sportswear, handle the manufacturing and shipping of the Tom Ford collections. By partnering with Zegna, Ford had charge over the fabrics used in each collection, control of the distribution, and full management of his own showrooms and staff. What Ford always understood from his time rejuvenating Gucci, was that what makes a truly unique brand is a multi-sensory shopping experience. Everything from the bottle design in his fragrance line to the layout of his first store on Madison Avenue in New York, which mirrored his own living room, are all designed to add to the customer experience and emulate the Tom Ford lifestyle.
A remarkable brand, that is better than the competition, is a mixture of key tangible or intangible experiences every time the customer engages with it. So aside from the image and raw materials used to create a product, thought and attention needs to be given to every brand touchpoint, from the customer service team through to the sales representatives.
When Nespresso, the pioneer and market leader in high-quality portioned coffee, shifted its strategy focus from the office-coffee sector to the premium household market it seized the opportunity to create a direct marketing channel to stay close to the consumer, the Nespresso Club. This marketing solution, an integral part of the brands customer relationship management, handles calls and customer enquires along with providing the following services –
- Around the clock ordering – consumers can place orders 24/7 through the Nespresso Club call centre, fax, mail, online and mobile
- Rapid delivery of capsules – product delivered within two days
- Personalized advice – trained customer service executives are on hand for technical assistance
- Recycling service for used capsules
The Nespresso Club acts as a complete database for all of its members. Membership is obligatory – to buy capsules, both business and private customers need to become members of the club by providing contact details and machine characteristics. Exact customer information is collected at the point of sale, which allows Nespresso to create a personalized relationship from the start. This gives Nepresso the opportunity to communicate with specific customer segments based on purchasing patterns and share information on an individual basis.
Major brands used to be able to rely on their image and reputation to carry them forward. However, in what has become an increasing connected economy, where people’s lives have become saturated with advertising in both online and offline media, companies need to be ready to engage at every touchpoint where consumers interact with their brand. Just like the products or services they represent, brands are continually trying to find that one unique position in the minds of the consumer that sums up what it means to buy in to a particular brand name. Taglines like ‘Powered by Blackberry’ may be memorable, but in the end they don’t make consumers rush out and buy the product unless they are aligning the innovation and the user experience to deliver on the promise. To be successful in the future, organisations need to realize their marketing department is not simply a crayons, canvas and poster paint department but instead a strategic business function that needs to be involved in all areas of the business that impact the customer experience and perception of the brand.