There have been many articles written on the subject of “brands” and what actually creates and defines a company’s brand. More than your name, your logo or your slogan—as important as they are—your actual brand is the sum total of interactions and experiences your customers have with your organization and, more specifically, the people who represent you every day. Or, as Gienna Shaw, the author of What’s Your Brand? for HealthLeaders Magazine, puts it, “Your brand walks on two legs.”
Clearly, your true brand is about how others see you; not how you view yourself.
Your Brand is What You Deliver
In his article, Pavlov’s Dog, or How to Develop and Deliver a Consistent Brand Experience, author Michael DiFrisco compares Pavlov’s famous conditioning experiment to delivering a consistent brand experience. Mr. DiFrisco believes that same conditioning principle is at work in branding.
“When we hear a name, see a logo, whiff a particular scent, or encounter a sensation, we are conditioned—based on our previous experiences with those things—to respond in a specific way” he says. “When I see the distinctively shapely Coca-Cola bottle, for example, all my experiences with Coke—refreshment, summers of my youth, Captain Morgan rum, and more—flood into my brain and my conditioned reflex informs my decision-making.”
Two Important Branding Lessons From Pavlov
- Pavlov consistently rang a bell. So it is with delivering your brand. Consistency is about creating a self reinforcing loop in which you define your brand incrementally through every customer touch point.
- When Pavlov rang the bell, he didn’t withhold the food (the reward). To anchor that conditioned response, he followed the ringing with the food. Every time. It’s been said that a brand is a promise wrapped in an experience; it’s actually a consistent promise wrapped in a consistent experience.
DiFrisco states, “Branding, then, is nothing more, and nothing less, than developing and delivering an expectation. So if you want to build a strong brand, establish a positive expectation and then consistently fulfill it.”
Or, as the authors of the Navvis Corporation white paper, The Business of Brands, assert, “Your brand is optimized when your brand promise and your brand performance are consistently aligned.” That is, what you promise is what you deliver, every single time!
Ringing the Bell Is an Inside Job
DiFrisco contends that the key to developing and delivering a consistent brand experience is to make sure your staff is on board, along with other stakeholders, such as board members, key determine vendors, and those who are in contact with customers by doing the following:
- Be clear about what you want to communicate. Your brand idea should be really simple, so capture the spirit of what your brand stands for in as few words as possible. Think Disney (Fun Family Entertainment). Your staff needs to know your “brand recipe” by heart so they can act on it instinctively.
- People also need to understand where they fit into the whole and why it matters. One company I consulted with was known for the cleanliness of its facilities. Once this attribute of the brand was highlighted as an element worth differentiating on, the maintenance crew and groundskeepers finally understood why the “menial” jobs they performed were so important.
- Give your team an innate sense of the brand. Simply teaching staff new buzzwords doesn’t cut it. They won’t need a cookbook for your brand recipe if they already know the ingredients—a new culture, a new set of behaviors.
- Your objective is to reach an internal “We get it!” Your staff should know what your brand stands for and how they, as team members, can deliver your brand experience consistently across all customer touch points, i.e. “We know how to be the brand.”
DiFrisco concludes, “Branding is about conditioning your staff to deliver your brand promise consistently, and then creating a conditioned response in your customers and prospects.”
Considerations for Senior Living Providers
Along with your customers, your brand is your greatest asset. Or, if not handled properly, it can be your greatest liability. So be sure to give your brand the care and attention it deserves.
If you don’t believe you have the required internal expertise, consider a professional resource that has both operations management experience and marketing communications skills in order to effectively align your brand performance and your brand promise. When they work in total harmony, your brand will be at its competitive best and garner the trust and confidence of your customers—not to mention positive word of mouth, the most powerful advertising of all!