“What exactly do you mean?”
I am continually surprised by how often I have conversations that start like this. It’s true. Branding is a broad pursuit that can take on many forms. It is so sprawling that, for the most part, when people come into contact with this abstract concept, they quickly confine it to a single category like graphic design, when in reality that is only a part of the much larger picture.
You see, your brand is not just your logo. It is not your company name or tag line. Your brand is made up of the gestalt experience your fans, followers, customers, and community create based on interacting with your organization across a multitude of touch points. As such, every single touch point matters.
And yet, too often we focus on the marketing touch points — ads, collateral, websites, and the like. If you look at storied brands like Apple and Starbucks you quickly see that these organizations are leveraging all of their touch points. To help you build a stronger brand, let’s take a look at twelve of the most underutilized brand touch points.
Avoid the trap of tossing your product into the cheapest box or of not using the packaging itself as a canvas. Remember those Gateway spotted cow boxes? Or how an Amazon box smiles at you when it arrives. As Apple’s design chief Jony Ive says, “Packaging can be theater, it can create a story.”
No one likes getting the bill! Why dress it up? For that very reason. Take an experience that both sides dread and turn it into an event. Add personal notes, quotes, jokes, or simply turn your graphic designer loose on it to make your invoice a remarkable touchpoint.
3. Packing slips
You mean that thing the machine spits out that we toss in the box? They’re called ‘touch points’ for a reason. If your customer touches it then it’s part of your brand experience. When you rework your invoice, create a unique packing slip as well. Why not even design a custom packing slip sleeve to carefully wrap this touch point?
4. Price change letters/renewal notices
This isn’t a fun message either but often there is sound reasoning that goes along with increased fees. This is an important story to tell. Rather than having accounting blast out a form letter, get your creative team involved in a well-crafted piece that ties an increase or renewal to your ethos like ‘Because we care about providing you with the most technically advanced website development services …’
5. User guides
Just as you should turn your designer loose on your invoices and packing slips, you should let your copywriter have some fun with your user guide. This critical and often frustrating touch point is the only thing that stands between your new customer and fulfilling their dream of using your product. Don’t mess it up! If you’re a service business — have you ever considered creating a user guide on how to work with your organization?
6. New business proposals
On the other end of a user guide is the new business proposal. Like the invoice, many consider this a fragile, potential painpoint. With the stakes this high, your document needs to work just as hard as those slick brochures that most people pitch after first contact at a trade show. Rather than a cobbled together Word document, this piece should paint a rich picture of what it’s like to do business with you.
If your brand has vehicles, you may be thinking that this touch point is covered. While it may be, it’s probably not maximized. Consider the myriad trucks of general contractors that you pass daily in traffic with simple contact info lettered on their doors in a boring font and then think of the Oscar Mayer wiener-mobile. Which one do you think best embodies the brand?
8. Search ads
Patrick Hanlon’s Primal Branding notes that one of the seven pieces of a brand’s “primal code” is sacred words — a special vocabulary the defines your brand. At Starbucks you don’t order a small, medium, or large. You order a tall, grande, venti. Words matter. Though often managed by the analytical side of your marketing team, make sure your search ads are aligned with your brand’s lexicon.
9. Holiday cards
With all the hustle and bustle, it’s easy not to send out holiday cards. It’s important to touch customers at this most touching time of year. Show them that they matter to you. Forget off-the-shelf cards and design your own brand of seasonal cheer.
10. Inter-office/company newsletters
Your team can be among your most vocal brand advocates. Too many organizations forget to communicate their brand’s core beliefs internally. This leaves your closest advocates without the right messaging to take to the masses. Use newsletters and inter-office updates to provide reminders of your core values.
Few organizations fully utilize their customer-facing employees as brand touch points. This can manifest itself both in appearance (think of The Geek Squad’s signature duds) and values (think of Zappos delivering ‘WOW’ with service).
12. The back of the fence
There’s a defining story about young Steve Jobs building a fence with his father where he teaches his son to take just as much care in building the back of the fence that no one sees. Jobs used this insight throughout a career of creating remarkable products with great care, often concerning himself with the appearance of circuit boards that no one would ever see. What part of your brand experience is the back of your fence?
Remember, branding isn’t a singular, isolated discipline. It’s a sprawling mosaic that encompasses many different interactions that together make up a customer’s experience with your brand.
At the end of the day, you don’t own your brand. Though you create various touch points, ultimately your brand lives in the hearts and minds of your community. So it’s important that you activate as many remarkable touch points as possible to create a compelling and memorable experience to help you stand out in our increasingly noisy world.
This list is a start but there are always smaller pieces of that brand mosaic waiting to be transformed into a remarkable interaction. What underutilized touch points can you use to enhance your brand experience?Article written by Nick Westergaard