What is your favorite brand? And why? You do not need to be obsessed about names to realize that we are all brand conscious, some more than others, but we all like our brands.
And what it is about a brand that attracts us to it? Why a particular brand as opposed to another? Marketing gurus work hard and spend millions every year to present brands to the public to gain their loyalty and ‘hook’ them onto becoming brand advocates. But we all know that loyalty comes from quality and consistency and not just a clever advertising campaign.
One of my favorite brands is Apple. I am an absolute sucker when it comes to buying their products. And there are many reasons for this. One is, of course, quality, which is indisputably the best in the market (although many IT people out there will argue otherwise, but wouldn’t you if you felt threatened!). Then there is customer service, which is simply the best and which Apple as a brand is associated with. I often tell a story when I train people on what customer service is about that I think not only hits the right buttons but also focuses on clever up selling.
When the i-Phone 3 came onto the market of course I had to have one. But I waited for a while and bought my phone on a contract, to which I was tied to for 24 months. Then the i-Phone 4 came out! But I was not about to change it; I couldn’t, but there was something to look forward to in 16 months’ time! I also like doing home movies for which Apple has a great program called i-Movie that helps you do some fun and great editing on your computer. They then produce i-Movie as an app for the i-Phone and without reading the small print I went and bought it, only $4.99. And as soon as I tried to download it onto my phone it tells me that this app is only compatible with the i-Phone 4. The disappointment!
So I rang Apple and spoke to a very nice woman in their customer service department call Nicky. I explained to her what had happened and asked if I could have my money back as I was not going to be able to use the app. She said “Of course Mr. Snyder, and thinking about it, we should make it more prominent on the site that this is only for the i-Phone 4, I will escalate this to make sure this happens.” Rule number one in great customer service is listen to your customer! By now she had me, I felt important. “Thank you,” I said, “No, thank you. And we will refund your credit card immediately.”
“Great. Tell me, what should I do with the app? Will you erase it? Do I delete it? What happens next?” I am an honest man so I knew this product was no longer mine as I had got my money back. And here come the best part of Apple’s clever and understated customer service. “Keep it, no need to delete. Besides, you never know when you will buy the i-Phone 4 and then can use it, compliments of Apple.” At that moment it had not sank in what she had just done, this came to light weeks later. For the moment I just thought it was nice gesture and we said goodbye.
Now, remember I told you I am a sucker for Apple products. After that day, every time I went into my i-Tunes and looked at the apps, there it was, i-Movie app, looking at me, staring at me, saying, “use me!” but how could I? I did not have the i-Phone 4! I am a sensible man so I was not going to spend money just like that to buy a new phone! The frustration!
A few weeks later my wife comes and says, “My phone contract is up and I wanted to change my phone.” Now she does not care as much for technology as I do and my i-Phone was only a few months old… so I said, “How would you like to have my i-Phone 3?” She loves me very much so off we went to the shop, changed her contract for an i-Phone 4, which she very kindly exchanged with me and I downloaded the i-Movie app, which is by the way amazing! The Joy!
Now the important part of this story in customer service is yet to come. I always register all my Apple products in my account. Remember Nicky? What she had done back then was to actually up sell an i-Phone, not given away and app and a week later my phone rang, it was Nicky who said, “Hi Mr. Snyder, it’s Nicky from Apple, I just wanted to check out how you are enjoying the i-Movie app and your new i-Phone 4?” Since then, I will not buy any other products but Apple.
Let me now take you back as to why we buy brands; I am an Apple customer because their technology is superior to others, their customer service is second to none, but the biggest reason for being ‘Apple’ and an advocate of the brand is what they represent and stand for. For me Apple means creativity, style, fashion, and status. All of the creative people out there have an apple product; I want to be ‘in’ with the Apple crowed. Brands represent who we are and Apple represents who I am.
I entitled this article ‘Branding is the key to success’ because I believe we all represent a brand, our own personal brand. Just like Apple, we should take care of our brand in all 3 aspects; the uniqueness of our product (Apple’s Technology), the way we interact with people (Apple’s customer service) and our image - what others see in us and if they would like to be associate with us (Apple’s unique style).
The question you need to ask yourself here is “What is your brand?” “What do you sell?” “Have you defined who you are and what you stand for?” All of these questions help us define who we are and how we go about in life. If you have not yet developed your brand, or have never thought about it, this is the time to look at your self (your product) and think hard who you are? What is your image, how do people see you? Who are your followers? Who would recommend you and why? What do you stand for and believe in? And why would anyone want to be associated with you? Once you have asked all these questions, think what does your brand need to be unique, what is it that attracts people to you and would make them loyal, advocates of your brand? People don’t buy products they buy brands. When you are going for a promotion, you are offering the same product as the person next to you, what will make you stand out and get the job is your personal brand, what makes you unique and desirable, what you have to offer, besides your product, that the other person doesn’t have?
If you have never thought about this and would like to start building your brand, I can recommend a book called ‘Walking Tall’ by Lesley Everett. I have been fortunate enough to have met Lesley and attended two of her seminars in which she talks about creating your own brand. Very powerful indeed!