What is a brand?
At its most basic level, a brand is a unique identity. It's a shorthand way the public thinks about what you do, produce, serve and sell.
“Our brand is what people say about us when we are not in the room.”
Jeff Bezos, Founder and Chairman, Amazon.com
So, the brand is your reputation, built one story at a time through the experiences people have with your company, its products and services. Those stories will reflect what makes you unique or different. Every brand aims to answer the question “Why choose us?” Because this is who we are, what we stand for and what we put priority on.
However, in so many instances, people’s experience of the brand does not align to the expectations that have been created. This is especially so in the case of customer service, where people are interacting with people.
What is on-brand?
We promise, but do we deliver? In the first instance, on-brand versus off-brand is simply a way of evaluating the customer experience. When the experience matches the promises made and expectations created through the brand, you are on-brand. When it doesn’t, you are off-brand.
But, on-brand is much broader than that. Within an organisation it is a powerful way to evaluate everything you do; your actions, your decisions, your behaviours. Simply asking the question “Is that on-brand?” naturally orientates the conversation about everyday events towards the strategy of the business.
Using the brand as a frame of reference has a unique advantage. A brand is underpinned by a logical construct. It’s an expression of the business strategy. But it is also imbued with emotion, because ultimately it is about an experience. In this way on-brand brings together both the tangible and intangible dimensions of organisational performance.
Branded Customer Service
Many of these ideas can also be found in the international best-seller Branded Customer Service book (Berrett-Koehler, 2004) and toolkit co-authored by Paul Stewart and Janelle Barlow. Branded Customer Service (BCS) reveals how to infuse an entire organisation with a recognisable style of service that reflects brand values and promises. Now available in 11 languages, the book remains a practical guide to delivering an experience that reinforces a brand every time customers interact with a business.
BCS is also a framework with tools and resources that enable an organisation to integrate and align marketing, customer service, operations, and human resources to business strategy.