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The Foundation for Trust in your Brand

NICKY STEEL looks at brand integrity and that value of living up to the promises you make in your marketing strategy

Integrity is a word which is bandied around rather liberally. I find this surprising given what it takes to live up to its definition: "the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles". Very often this word appears in the 'corporate values' of big businesses; and very often it is a lack of integrity that is their undoing. But there is no doubt that the demand for integrity is greater now than ever before; following the past few years of economic crisis caused by financial institutions not living by high moral standards.

Put simply, integrity is delivering on your promises, doing what you say you will and what is expected of you based on what you promised. What then is the role of the brand and marketers in delivering on this?

Don't make promises you can't keep

When positioning your brand and developing your brand promise, or developing a new pay-off line, campaign or message, always check that what you are saying you can actually deliver on. It may all sound and look great in the boardroom, but can you deliver on it in the real world... consistently?

The two key words are delivery and consistency.

There is no place anymore for lovely sounding speeches, blurbs and words. In the 'new world', you are measured on what you actually do. If you don't, you're unlikely to be cut much slack and, equipped with the handy tool of social media, your victims are likely to let their network know to watch out for you.  Can your brand walk its talk?

And consistency is the big nut to crack. You can't deliver just once or twice. As long as you are promising something you have to deliver. And when it comes to brands, it becomes even trickier because, as most of us know, a brand is really defined in the heads and hearts of the market, based on what you may have said and done in the past.

So, if by way of an actual example, Vide e Café has, in my mind, positioned themselves as 'coffee experts with heart, soul & a little more' and the cashier isn't able to discern my coffee order of 1 normal cappuccino, 1 decaf cappuccino and 1 skinny cappuccino", gives me the wrong change, doesn't get the chaps to do their 'cheer' when I pop my tip in the box and then I don't get my little Lindt chocolates with the coffees, then, even if Vida have decided to can some of their song and dance and free chocolates, I'm going to be a little disappointed. I did. I felt that they hadn't delivered on what I understood them to promise. I have told at least seven of my friends and now I'm telling all of you.

The challenge of saying what you do consistently becomes greater, the more people, departments, channels and services that are involved. All of these combine to affect peoples' perceptions of your brand's integrity.

Two useful marketing tools or processes to help achieve this are the customer journey map and internal brand engagement.

Most of us are familiar with the latter. In essence, it's about getting the people who are responsible for delivering the brand to a) understand what it is all about, b) understand their role in delivering it and c) to engage with the brand themselves so that they want to and are committed to bringing it to life and being ambassadors of the brand. To do this properly and sustainably is no simple task and usually requires the help of experts who understand people, culture and change management.

Understanding the customer journey is critical to being able to define who is involved in delivering the brand and exactly what they need to do to deliver on customers' expectations.

By mapping the customer journey of the touch points they have with your brand (e.g. point of purchase, the call centre, online information and support, after sales service, advertising, direct communication) you have a view of all the people and processes that are involved in delivering on your promise and the customer's expectations when they connect with these touch points.

You then need to define how you will deliver your promise at each of this touch points. Customer journeys and touch points can be plotted based on your team's collective experience and knowledge of the customer (but requires whole-heartedly putting yourselves in their shoes and viewing it from their perspective, not yours) or, by going out and asking customers and often accompanying them on their journey.

It might be worth doing an integrity check on your brand sooner rather than later and if there are any touch points, whether those be people, products or processes, that are not fulfilling your promises, they need to be dealt with - rather by you than the social networking crowds.


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