The magic of great branding

Who can explain why an Apple customer is willing to stand in line for hours for a new iPhone or why coffee drinkers will drive miles out of their way to find a Starbucks?

The Federal Credit Union magazineIt’s the magic of great branding.

In an article I wrote for the November-December issue of The Federal Credit Union magazine, I take a look at what the big, iconic brands can teach credit unions.

If you have a few minutes, I highly recommend that you give it a read because the observations I gleaned from talking to branding experts apply to any organization trying to differentiate itself in the marketplace.

Here are six quick takeaways from one of the experts I interviewed, Daryl Travis, CEO of Brandtrust Inc. Brandtrust is a Chicago-based research and consulting firm that has helped America’s top companies better understand their customers and brand themselves. Travis also has a new book out called “How Does It Make You Feel? Why Emotion Wins the Battle of the Brands.”

1. Brands are about feelings and not facts. With the advent of social psychology and behavioral economics, we understand so much more about why people make decisions, and we see more and more that they are driven by feelings. If you look at the customer experience from end to end, there may be hundreds of touch points, but our brains can only remember the ones that are the most emotionally intense. Those are the touch points that matter; they create the narrative or the mental model for processing how a brand makes us feel. That’s what the iconic brands understand.

2. Branding is the most powerful, yet most misunderstood, business strategy. There is nothing to explain the success of companies that sell commoditized products like coffee (Starbucks) or shoes (Zappos) beyond the power of their brand.

3. The brand is not part of the business; it is the business. How well an organization makes good on its brand promise—that’s what it’s all about.

4. The little things you do are more important than the big things you say. In personal service, it’s always about human interaction. How well is your staff attuned to what’s really going on with your customer? Are they thinking about what’s happening in their organization or what’s happening in their customer’s life? That’s what really makes a difference.

5. Every brand tells a story. How will yours be told? The essence of all human communication is story. That’s how humans learn. If you want people to pay attention to you, don’t give them a list of bullet points or features and benefits. Tell them a story. Tell them a story about what your organization stands for, why it means something to them and how it will help them in their own life.

6. There are brand ideals. Brands need to stand for something important. You have to ask yourself, “How would an organization that makes these kinds of promises behave?” Then it starts to become very clear what you need to do for product development, customer service and creating an experience where that brand promise comes true every day so that people feel it. Once people start to feel it, they will become engaged with the brand, and they will become loyal to the brand.

PRSA-NCC blog and board

I had an opportunity to post on the PRSA-NCC blog this week on “The future of America’s newspapers.” Similar to my post last week on The Wayward Journey, this one has more information from the Pew Research Center on the state of America’s news media.

I also want to thank everyone who voted for me in the recent PRSA-NCC elections. I have had the privilege of serving on the NCC board these past two years; now, I will have the privilege of serving as a vice president. I look forward to being a part of next year’s leadership team!

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