What brands do you love? Stop. Make a list. Write them down or type them out, then continue reading.

Did you do it? I’m serious. Here’s a free and immediate online notepad you can use if you need one.

Done?

My guess is that you had no difficulties identifying some brands you love. You did not object to the exercise. You understood it.

Yet when I speak with marketers about their brands’ customer journeys and discuss the power of experiences that drive customers to love their brands, some stop me. A few laugh. A handful tells me that “love” isn’t the right word. And I was once asked, “Are you serious?”

Love in the Buy/Own/advocate Journey

To those who get hung up on the word “love,” I submit that they can change the label to “a strong and enduring sense of brand affinity,” if they care to, but that does not change the concept. They love brands as consumers. So, why is it difficult for some marketer to see love as a potential state of their relationship with their own customers?

One argument I sometimes hear is that the brands those marketers love as consumers “have it easy”–they are in different verticals where love is easier to achieve–but is this true? Starbucks sells a black hot beverage that its customers can purchase at dozens of competitors within blocks of each of its locations. USAA is in financial services, an industry that struggles to earn trust. Quick-service restaurants (like Chick-fil-A and Panera Bread) and retailers (such as PetSmart and Bed Bath and Beyond) with strong consumer ratings are in the same industries (not to mention the same malls) as competitors with much lower ratings.

So, why is that we can respond so readily when asked about brands we love in our personal lives but struggle to understand the concept in relation to the brands we manage on our jobs? I would appreciate your thoughts in the comments, but I think this conflict is caused by a myriad of factors:

  • We’re held accountable for metrics that do not include measures of client satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy.
  • We don’t have the power to compel the changes necessary to build love in our brand.
  • We cannot influence the level of investment that may be required to significantly change the customer experience.
  • We don’t know what will motivate the customer to enter into an intimate relationship with our brand.
  • Our organizational structure may lead us to believe that improving satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy is someone else’s job.
  • And we are unwilling to take the risks necessary to dedicate time and money to efforts that will lead to long-term business benefit rather than short-term (or to shift from directly measurable endeavors to those where the association between action and outcome is less precise).

What would you add to that list? As you consider your own brand and how it might build a customer journey that leads to more love, what prevents you or your peers from seeing how to accomplish this? And what do you know of how those brands on your “love” list have earned that distinction with you?

The first step to creating a better customer experience isn’t segments, personas, data, journeys or strategy. It is identifying and working to overcome the barriers that prevent us from seeing how our brands can earn the same relationship with customers as have the brands that earn our love.

 

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