• Thursday, July 18, 2024
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The brand experience conundrum (II)

Brand metrics

Last week we saw that touchpoints shape a brand experience. The degree to which a brand experience can be managed is a function of how much control can be exercised over that experience.

Control is the challenge. Some things can be absolutely controlled, others things can only be influenced, and there are others we can only hope for the best. Understanding what you can’t control, however, is as important as understanding what you can. The cold reality – in managing the brand experience: weather isn’t the only thing you can’t control.

5 examples of “out of control” situations brands must consider

1. Unpredictable behaviour

You can’t predict how someone will behave.

Brick-and-mortar retailing is a highly controlled brand experience. At an MTN Experience centre, MTN can control the interior design features (store layout, materials and finishes, lighting, fixtures, displays and colours), their product mix, display, and promotion, checkout process and customer amenities.

The one thing MTN cannot totally dictate is employee behaviour. Regardless of the screening, training and experience, employees are still human and there is always a degree of uncertainty as to their response to certain situations, mood or other factors that affect their behaviour.

To finish, although the brick-and-mortar retailing generally falls into a high-level control experience within the store, what happens outside the store environment is, of course, another matter.

Read also:  Managing customers’ reviews

2. Nature will take its course

You can’t control the weather.

Service industries are highly vulnerable to influences outside the control of the brand. These outside forces can play a key role in determining whether the experience is brand reinforcing or undermining.

FedEx, for example, is a brand that is heavily influenced by factors outside its control. Weather, road conditions and traffic can all influence the ability to fulfill customer expectations, regardless of investment in logistics, equipment and personnel. The direct point of contact is at the beginning and end of a process, in between which any number of things can happen that will affect the impression, reliability, trust and loyalty toward the brand. In the end: Customers will only remember if their package gets to their destination on time… they will remember it longer if it doesn’t.

3. Unintended consequences

Your partners may not always be what you want them to be.

Partnering with other brands can lead to unexpected consequences relative to managing the brand experience. In co-branding or ingredient branding situations, the partner brands do not necessarily have any control over the other, but they can certainly influence the perceptions of their partner brand by virtue of that association. There are risk/reward considerations.

4. Casting a giant shadow

You have to live with your industry brand.

Industry brand perceptions can also influence the impressions of any and all brands within that industry. Regardless of how exquisite or luxurious an individual cruise ship experience might be, cruise-related incidents have dramatically influenced the perceptions associated with the industry and ultimately the individual brands in that industry. The BP oil spill did nothing to help the petroleum retailers’ image. Volkswagen’s attempt to rig pollution testing certainly added to credibility questions around the auto industry already tainted by countless recalls.

5. Turbulent journey

The longer the journey that greater the chances are that a lot more will go wrong at any point in that journey.

While onboard, an airline can control how comfortable its flight is, the food it serves, the kind of entertainment available, the level of service and many other features that contribute to the experience. The airline can affect many of the touchpoints onboard the aircraft through design, operations and training. However, it can’t control the weather turbulences, crying babies, or annoying passengers—even in first class.

The real challenge comes before takeoff and after landing. Consider the passenger journey upon arriving at the airport beginning at curbside and extending through to boarding. Of the hundreds, if not thousands of touchpoints in that journey, the airline has control of only a few.

There are over a hundred touchpoints at the international check-in counter alone if you consider everything from the interior environment, the counter, the check-in protocol, airline personnel behaviour, documents, baggage claim tickets, boarding passes, folders, etc. All of those touchpoints will have an influence on the perception of the brand journey, for better or for worse.

Even with those touchpoints where there is a relatively high degree of control, the experience is still subject to any number of things that can go wrong. No matter how hard the airline tries, the passenger recollection of waiting for an hour to retrieve luggage, being hassled at customs or unable to find a good place to pick a cab will contribute to shaping the experience.

Last line

Businesses must recognise that customers or those who engage with their brand may be unforgiving and almost insensitive but it is not as it appears. It only demands that brands bend over double to make every touchpoint a memorable experience.