This blog covers a subject that has vexed me and that I’ve wanted to address for a long time. Certainly people that know me will have been subjected to some of the following in various incarnations over the last 5 years and are probably rolling their eyes right about now.

A companies’ branding needs to be more than just a façade, it needs to be seamlessly stitched into the fabric of every part of the business; how you behave and act as well as look, in order to be believable, build trust, advocacy and happiness in your customers. 

For example, in September 2017, SWR, formally South West Trains, unveiled their new branding. As a designer, and a customer, I was pleasantly surprised, ‘Forpeople’ had done a cracking job and the newly refreshed brand looked slick, professional, clean and approachable, with a nod to happier train times in the new name, and hope for a happier future. With that and new ownership, anticipation for a better rail service was high. Unfortunately these two components aren’t enough on their own to change a service. If, as a customer, your experience doesn’t reflect the care and craftsmanship that has gone into the visual communication (and hopefully strategy) then all this hard work is wasted. If you did a survey of SWR customers about their experiences on their trains since the change, I can well imagine that it would be overwhelmingly negative.

Surprisingly some companies not only are all talk, forgetting to walk the walk, but actively set up their customers to fail. A number of mobile phone companies, TV subscription contracts, insurance and other policy renewals to sadly name but a few have been doing this for what seems like years. Instead of rewarding customers for their loyal service they choose to automatically raise the cost for these services once the contract expires, far beyond the going rate, hoping to catch out people with busy lives or those who are vulnerable. Leaving the best deals for new customers only and a bitter taste in existing customers mouths. Others, like SWR, simply hide or make it difficult to claim valid refunds or return faulty goods.

So why do some companies choose to alienate and disappoint, instead of looking to embrace and support? Enticing new people to your brand through exciting offers, product innovation and sparkles is all well and good but if once they are bought into your offering, behind the curtain doesn’t live up to the hype this enthusiasm will quickly wane. a consistent voice, integrity, belief and honesty doesn’t have to cost the earth and can create positive associations and change in both the people who work for them and the customers who want and need what they sell. A virtuous circle that really is win-win.

I recently attended a talk by Huw and Becky, founders of Paynter Jackets, who for me are the epitome of how to get this right. They have thought carefully about their offering and what is important to them and their customers. They have been clever about their business model and have created something different that people want, both in product and experience. They have then executed on these decisions to the letter, giving equal importance to customer relationships, genuinely caring for who and where their jackets go to, as well as to the crafting of the jackets themselves. Ensuring that the Paynter brand experience, as well as the product, is top draw. As a result, retention, advocacy, and brand love is sky high.

I’m not saying that doing all this isn’t incredibly hard work and a labour of love, but that love and hard work is not lost and can be seen in the smallest details; stitches, labels, buttons, emails and instagram posts. In fact on every surface that Huw and Becky touch.

All brand experiences should be like that. Not hoodwinking people into staying ‘loyal’ because it’s too hard not to, but building genuine brand loyalty through knowing and understanding your customer and ensuring the experience they are lucky enough to enjoy is one to be proud of. Not setting people up to fail, but setting people up for the best experience you can give them.