In 2013 and 2014, Forrester asked consumers how they felt about 100 top brands. What they discovered was that consumers expect more of brands now than they did in the past. Top on their list of positive brand attributes? Trust.
Not too surprising. Seems like every day there’s a news story about a security breech or misuse of personal data. But there’s more to trust than that. There’s trust in the quality of your products, that you’ll deliver on your promises, that you’ll take responsibility for mistakes (whether you’re actually responsible or not.)
But as Forrester points out in the new “Brand Experience Redefines Brand Management” report, controlling your brand’s reputation is often completely out of your hands. You have to do your part, of course, but reputation is tightly tied to word-of-mouth and that’s a tricky beast to handle. We’ve seen how a small slip can turn into a viral nightmare over night. What’s funny is that the opposite rarely happens. Every so often a positive story like the recent Ice Bucket Challenge goes viral but it’s rare. And when a positive story does take hold, someone always finds a way to spin it in a negative direction.
Forrester says marketers have to forget about “managing a brand” and think more about building a brand experience.
Look at social media. Many marketers use Twitter and Facebook as nothing more than a virtual bulletin board. We’re having a sale. Look at our new products. Come see us this event. It’s one way. Social media should be a conversation. Invite customers to tell you about their favorite products. Ask them what they want to see on sale. Comment, reply, retweet, repin – social media works best when it’s reciprocal. Customer loyalty and trust goes up when people feel valued.
Trust is important but it’s only part of the package. Consumers also responded well to brands there were “unmistakable”. Think about a Big Mac and a Coke. No words needed, you know that’s McDonalds. Castle with pixie dust – that’s Disney. “Just do it” – Nike. What works for the big boys works for smaller brands, too. What one thing sets you apart from your competition? Use that and build on it.
The strongest brands always have a clear direction that guides every employee who affects the brand experience — not just marketing but also research and development, engineering, customer service, and sales. We call it the North Star. Oreo stands for celebrating the kid inside. IBM stands for delivering smarter solutions for a complex world. Adobe stands for changing the world through digital experiences. With a simple statement, all roads used to build the brand will lead customers to the same place. Use these four principles to find your North Star — make it honest, strategic, inspiring, and concise.
What’s your North Star? Figure that out and the rest will fall into place.