My Dad The Brand Guru

My father, along with being a good businessman, had a natural talent for understanding brands. His skills were being demonstrated long before branding was a popular business practice, back when Avis was # 2 and two guys named Jack Trout and Al Ries were outlining what they then coined, “Positioning”. Dad wasn’t a brand superhero, but he had a gift for predicting whether an organization would succeed or fail based on his customer experience. In other words, he could give Superman the once-over and see that underneath the flashy costume stood Clark Kent.

Dad would give his critique on a product or service by simply mumbling in his gruff manner, “Won’t sell,” or, if he liked his experience, he would give a slight nod of approval. Being an inquisitive child and wishing to keep everyone happy, I constantly struggled to understand what each company had done right or wrong and what they could do to remain in business. (I knew from experience and my dad’s 100% success rate, when he mumbled “Won’t sell,” that each company in question was headed for the chopping block.)

His simple evaluation taught me that people have certain expectations which need to be met in order to reward a company with their repeat business. For an organization to ensure success, it’s important to understand what those expectations are and make certain they’re either met or exceeded.

With the sacrifices and cuts many businesses are making, it’s probably a very good time to see if your company is still fulfilling its customer’s expectations.

So, in the spirit of my dad, the Brand Guru, here’s a two-step exercise to help you see how others perceive your organization and also allow you to compare those perceptions with how you wish to be perceived. The following process of garnering information on your company can be done in a number of different ways, I’m going to recommend we use “Secret Shoppers” for our first step to start you thinking on the right track.

Step One: Secret Shoppers
Ask three or four friends to act as Secret Shoppers for your organization. Explain nothing about what your organization does or what they’re to expect. Ask them to gather information using the list below as a guide. (Add or subtract from this list as you see necessary). Remind them that it’s of utmost importance that their feedback be honest, and not to worry about hurt feelings.

First you’ll need to arm your Secret Shoppers with your current communication material, corporate brochures, postcards, URLs, and as much as you can gather on your competitors. Important: don’t verbally provide any information that may sway their opinion. Ask your Shoppers to review the information you’ve collected, be sensitive to the experiences they encounter and  ask them to please write everything down.

To Do List for your Secret Shoppers
The Assessment
• Review all collateral and web addresses provided

By reviewing the information supplied:
– Do you feel you have a complete understanding of the company; it’s products and/or services?
–Is the information clear?
–Do you feel the value of the organization being reviewed superior to the competition?
–Do you feel the visual and verbal messaging is consistent and adds to the organization’s credibility?
–Was the experience navigating through the website good?

The Visit
•Visit the company and go through the act of making a purchase
After physically experiencing the company:
–Did you feel comfortable entering the establishment?
–Did you feel you were treated well by the staff?
–Did you notice any visual or verbal messages? Were they consistent with what you have experienced thus far?
–Is the on-site messaging consistent with the website and collateral?

The Download
•Discuss findings
–Was it a good experience?
–Would you recommend others?
–List ways to improve

Step Two – Determine how you wish to be perceived
While your Secret Shoppers are doing their job, you’re to create, what I refer to as a “Brand List” — basically about 10 adjectives that best describe how you’d like customers to perceive your organization. This list of words, when incorporated into your communications, actions of your employees and customer experience, will begin to solidify your customer perceptions and guide them in the direction you wish. This simple tool is more likely to become ingrained in your company’s culture than the traditional mission/vision/values statements. Important: stay true to your Brand List, for example if you have the words “simple” or “easy-to-use”, you need to guarantee that no customer experience will be difficult or complex. Also, try to be creative with your Brand Lists. The more unique your list, the more your company will stand apart from its competition.

Click here for an example of one of my Brand Lists.

When you receive the feedback from your Secret Shoppers, compare it with your Brand List. Inconsistencies and negative feedback should be considered red flags. Any red flags should be prioritized, addressed and corrected. If your friends had a negative experience or difficulty understanding what your organization does, chances are your customers are experiencing the same.

Hold on to the information you’ve gathered. I’ll give more examples in upcoming posts of how use it to create or tighten your current, visual, verbal and experiential identity.

I hope that you have great success with this process, gain a lot useful information regarding how your customers perceive your brand and get a lot more nods of approval from customers like my dad.

I would love to hear how you do. As always, please share any comments or questions. I look forward to talking to you again in a few days.



~ by Rich on December 28, 2008.

5 Responses to “My Dad The Brand Guru”

  1. Great stuff – thanks for getting your blog going. As a small business owner myself, I know I will benefit from your guidance and practical tips.

    As for the gloom and doom…I say – ignore and stay focused on what you/I/we want. Energy goes where attention flows. Stay positive, stay focused and good will happen! –Barb

  2. Barb, thank you. I agree, If we channel our energy into improving what lies ahead, there’s no way we can miss.
    Take care and hope to talk with you again soon.

  3. This is great information and well organized!

  4. I do think understanding what our target audiences really think about us is imperative. Too often, we “think” we know what they think of us; when in actuality, we really don’t. We often make marketing and sales decisions based on misperceptions. I was in a non-profit board meeting yesterday and a public relations professional on the board commented, “How can we know what people think about us, if we don’t ask.” So I think your mystery shopping / brand list is on target!!

  5. great information Rich, will be useful for me as a small business owner..

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