When we think of “brand”, we think about the Proctor & Gamble version. People planning every aspect of the product, packaging, pricing, distribution, and communication; all the internal areas that a brand manager can control.  But that is not what a brand is all about.  As my good friend Harry Klein and I wrote in our e-guide “BECAUSE I’M THE CUSTOMER!” A Guide to Managing Your Brand & Customer Experience in the Age of the Customer – What exists in customers’ mind IS the brand.

Here is what Brian Millar wrote in his FastCompany article Branding Talk Isn’t Helping Your Company. Here’s What Should Replace It:

“If you promise something clearly, deliver on that promise, and repeat the process, you build strong emotional links to your company with certain consumers. But that’s where the value resides: in my head and your head, and your mother’s head. And the stuff inside my head is my property. 

If brands exist at all, they exist in the minds of consumers. I can switch my brand of search engine at a moment’s notice. Bank accounts and makes of automobile are a bit more hassle to discard, but I can still change my mind about them.”

The ideas in our minds are our opinions of the attributes of the product or service we are thinking about.

What Kinds of Things Reside Inside Our Head?

Since the first time we thought about specific products and services, our heads became jammed full of expectations and experiences. Fortunately, the human mind purges things that are not significant and have not been recently used.  There is nothing else but expectations and experiences and there is a steady flow of expectations across an invisible border in our brain where they disappear and get replaced with experiences.

This graph shows how we start out with expectations and, as we replace them with actual experiences, the expectation level declines and the expectation level increases.  When you have done all you can with products and services, you no longer have expectations in your head; you only have memories of experiences.

 

How Does Brand Relate to Reputation?

The best place to start is with the dictionary. Reputation is defined as “something that somebody is known for” or “general opinions.”  Opinion is defined as “body of generally held views” or “personal view.”  Therefore, when it comes to products and services, the reputation is what we believe -which is another way of saying the brand.

This point was recently driven home to me when I saw a cartoon of two kids selling lemonade from adjacent stands.  One charged 5¢ per glass and the other, and with a long waiting line, charged 50¢ per glass.  When the cheaper seller asked the higher priced seller how come she could charge more, and always have a line waiting to be served, when they both used the same concentrate, she heard “because I have a better reputation than you!”

The reputation of a product or service is based upon what people say and these comments can resonate with you in one of three ways:

  1. They are consistent with your experiences
  2. You are inconsistent with your experiences
  3. You have not had experiences yet and so these comments help form your expectations.

Items #1 and 3 just add data to your internal brand definition while #2 may cause you to downgrade the importance of your experience as an exception to reality and cause your thinking to be modified by other experiences – this is joining the crowd even though your mind tells you otherwise.  Item #2 is why many competitive products or services succeed in a limited marketplace and why it is so important to ensure that everyone leaves an interaction with a highly positive feeling about the experience.

This concept is very important to marketers and has vital ramifications for those of us charged with growing a business.  This is because people tend to stay with companies that deliver great experiences and defect from those who have not yet figured out how to take care of their customers.

I can state without hesitation that a very positive reputation is due to customers having a history of exceptional experiences and will create loyal customers who not only will continue to purchase from you but also will also actively recommend your products and services!