There’s no difference between your brand and customer experience

Merriam-Webster defines brand in a number of different ways. There’s the straightforward, farm application: a tool used to produce a brand. They also feature the more industrial use case: a mark made by burning with a hot iron to attest manufacture or to designate ownership. Finally, Merriam-Webster offers the more modern application of the term: a class of goods identified by name as the product of a single firm or manufacturer. No where in Merriam-Webster’s definition is there mention of customer experience, and that means it’s time for an update.

In a 2011 Forbes op-ed, brand expert Jerry Malaughlin said brands exist only in the abstract:

Put simply, your “brand” is what your prospect thinks of when he or she hears your brand name.  It’s everything the public thinks it knows about your name brand offering—both factual (e.g. It comes in a robin’s-egg-blue box), and emotional (e.g. It’s romantic).  Your brand name exists objectively; people can see it.  It’s fixed.  But your brand exists only in someone’s mind.

This is true to an extent, but there’s much more to be said about the customer experiences that drive brand eminence in the modern marketplace. The ease of navigating Chipotle’s line to order was a key component of the fast-casual restaurant’s initial rise to prominence. Amazon’s commitment to quality customer convenience has transformed the retail industry, and AirBnB’s end-to-end management of the bed and breakfast experience has forced legacy hospitality brands to orient their experience to better align with expectations set by the startup.

These brands exist in prominence because of their unique customer experiences and how we interact with them in the real world. To put it simply, your customer experience is your brand in today’s marketplace. That’s why it’s important to know what gap you’re filling for your customers. Chipotle sought to provide a quality dining experience to fast food consumers. Amazon wanted to improve the retail experience, and AirBnB hoped to evolve the hospitality industry. What is your intent? If you’re unsure, then you may have an opportunity to strengthen your brand by aligning with a meaningful customer experience.

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