For those who missed Scott Deming’s fantastic keynote presentation “Creating The Ultimate Customer Experience” at the ICCFA Convention, my condolences. He’s a first-rate presenter, and more importantly, he is one of the leading evangelists for the power of emotional branding. What is that? It’s the moment that a brand moves from just a name or a logo or a slogan to becoming a part of the customer’s personal psyche.
Take Harley Davidson, for example. If you look at the company on the surface, you might say they’re in the business of building motorcycles. But then, so too are Yamaha, BMW, Honda, and Kawasaki. In fact, a Harley might not even the very best-made bike on the road. That’s entirely beside the point. Harley Davidson doesn’t sell motorcycles; they sell the fantasy that a middle-age accountant can put on his leather jacket, jump on his Harley, roar down the road and make others afraid of him. Now THAT’S a fantasy, and it’s exactly what Harley Davidson sells. Guys (and gals) don’t just buy a Harley, they buy into a lifestyle. Moreover, they’re not just Harley owners collectively, they’re members of a tribe, a cult, if you will.
That, in a nutshell is the essence of emotional branding.
Or take Apple Computer. I know designers and musicians who would smirk at any other “artist” who chose to design, compose or perform with a PC instead of a Mac. Yet, it’s all just processors, memory chips and buttons, right? So why is a Mac in a league of its own? Because Steve Jobs recognized that it’s not at all about bits, bytes and hard drives, but about empowering creative people without letting the hardware get in the way. “Think Different” isn’t just a slogan, it’s a mantra for those who believe in self-expression. By default, then, it makes all the PC-users of the world less cool, just part of the herd. And iPhone users believe they’re more hip than Samsung and HTC owners! Apple isn’t just a brand, it’s a lifestyle statement.
And how about Starbucks? Why would anyone spend $4 for a cup of coffee when blind taste tests show a greater preference for the $1 coffee served at McDonalds!!! Because Starbucks fans are not buying coffee as much as they’re buying into the cool laptop-using, coffee-house-going, trendy brew-speaking self-image that Starbucks so carefully promotes. I admit, I’m one of them! And Starbucks carefully nurses that brand image in-store with free iTunes downloads, whole-earth graphics, unusual pastries, free wifi, and a lexicon of menu lingo that is the difference between a “real” coffee aficionado and a pretender. Like Harley and Apple, it’s more than a brand, it’s another cult.
What each of these three famous brands has in common isn’t the massive marketing budget (well, it’s that too). They each recognize the power of emotional branding…branding not only the name but the experience. In Harley’s case, the brand is so powerful, you don’t have to search too hard to find the Harley logo tattooed on some guy’s arm. What would it take to have your business name so permanently attached to a customer?
Think about this: In each case, the price of the product is often more expensive than their competitors’. Yet you couldn’t drag the customer away from their cherished brand kicking and screaming. That’s loyalty at the highest possible level.
The bottom line is that, as you think about your own funeral care brand, it’s all about creating a total customer experience that is quite apart from your competition. It’s about knowing what your customers currently expect of an acceptable funeral care experience, and then exceeding it at every turn.
There’s a book on the market that’s super-short and every word rings as true as when it was first printed in 1993: Raving Fans – A Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service, by Ken Blanchard. He writes about why it’s no longer enough to have satisfied customers. A thriving business today must create “raving fans” or its customers will bail the moment someone cheaper or sexier comes along. You’ll certainly find inspiration here, as I have.
And then make sure, as you think about the emotionality of your brand, that you communicate it as powerfully and consistently as possible. Be the Harley Davidson, the Apple Computer or the Starbucks of funeral care and you’ll no longer have to compete on price. You might even find your logo showing up where you least expect it.
Dan Katz is president, creative director of LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Dan on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com. You can also connect with Dan on LinkedIn.