The First Rule of Branding

Customers want to love you.

Don’t ruin it for them.

Open-minded and optimistic, I walked through the door of a newly discovered café. I was scoping it out as a potential destination for future client meetings.

The first things I noticed were all good: gorgeous lighting, spacious and stylish seating, friendly service, a generous menu.

I was eager to love this local business: it was an original concept for the area (crepes + café) and their effort to please was obvious in their décor and menu decisions.

But then, the deal-breakers.

The deal-breakers weren’t due to the absence of impressive elements or luxuries. Instead, it was the presence of disappointing elements that, once noticed, dragged the whole experience downhill for me.

Irritating radio.
Fast food smells.
Cheap, plastic plates that moved around while you tried to use them.

The First Rule of Branding: Don't make it difficult for customers to love you. Lisa HaggisNow, you might be thinking I’m just a picky nightmare of a customer. And it’s true that I probably notice things that many don’t.

But whether this business’ patrons consciously notice these elements or not, I guarantee you that they are affecting the experience. Negatively.

These are the rough edges that will stop your customer short of recommending your business.

Before you can create a remarkable brand that will turn your customers on, make sure you’re not forgetting this one fundamental rule:

First, don’t turn them off.

Let’s call it the Brander’s Oath.

The demand to be different is so severe that we sometimes overlook the basics. It’s an honest mistake, but potentially a fatal one.

You can’t exceed expectations if you don’t first meet them.

Your brand tells them what to expect.

In some cases, radio is welcome in a retail situation. And fast food smells are just fine when they’re in the right kind of restaurant.

See, it’s not the particulars that matter – it’s how they contradicted the cozy and chic brand experience that the design, menu, and other brand elements were trying to offer me.

Don’t Make this Mistake

If you’re putting effort into shaping a brand that your customers will love, also open your eyes to any inconsistencies, disappointments, or turn-offs that might be making it impossible for them to do so.

1: Consider what you are telling customers to expect from you through your brand elements (name, visual identity, website, etc.).

2: Do an objective walkthrough of your customer experience; does any single piece fall short of the promise?

Pay special attention to the senses, as they have an express passage to our emotions.

3: Talk to customers as they’re using your service, and not just the obligatory “How is everything?”

Ask them if they’re willing to give you an honest account of their experience and really challenge them to speak up:

“Why did you choose this product/service?”
“What were your expectations coming into this experience?”
“What was your first impression?”
“Is there anything that would make you hesitate about recommending us to a friend?”
“What’s the one thing that could potentially prevent you from coming back or buying again?”

Obviously, not all feedback will give you actionable insight, but you will gain plenty of valuable information from this process.

When was the last time you were disappointed by a purchase? What did they do to turn you off? Did they make it easy for you to share your feelings?

Share what you learned from the experience in the comments below!