Expectation gaps; that feeling when you see a perfectly stacked, steaming, mouthwatering burger on TV, only to order up and be greeted by a soggy, deflated bun with sad, sad lettuce, a cold patty and a lopsided slice of yellow plastic sticking halfway out of the side. Just…painful.
That very feeling is the inherent danger of leaving gaps between your branding (what you tell the customer) and your Customer Experiences (what the customer gets). Branding and CX aren’t just complimentary, they’re essential to each other’s survival. If you’re forcing the customer to leap that gap, they might just give it a pass.
Here’s our advice to close that gap before the customer ever gets there.
- Beware the Expectation Gap
- Both CX and Branding Strive for Memorability
- Expert CX’ers with Outstanding Branding
Beware the Expectation Gap
On Season 2 of Voices of CX podcast, BrandingMag’s Sidney Evans warned us of the dangers of creating expectation gaps.
Companies spend entire department budgets creating an image for their brand through ads, social media, visual identity and word-of-mouth. These brand campaigns generate certain expectations in customers. There are two potential issues that can arise from this:
- Company intention is not aligned with customer perception: Also known as the PR nightmare. What you believe you’re getting across with your brand messaging doesn’t matter. What matters is how the customer perceives that messaging. Pepsi’s 2017 Superbowl ad is a great example of brand intention gone wrong.
- When the brand doesn’t deliver on its promises: Recall the disappointment of that burger? The only reason it felt so wrong is because the company branding set your expectations higher than the actual experience could deliver.
Conclusion: It’s better to go small and deliver than to go big and disappoint.
Any industry can become a victim of expectation gaps. They create negative memorability, which is the worst-case-scenario for both CX and branding. So, how do you prevent these gaps in the first place?
By creating positive memorability. Incidentally, that’s a common goal between branding and CX, one that starts with the customer.
Both CX and Branding Strive for Memorability
Memorability happens when a brand creates an emotional connection with their audience, positive or negative, and is a key goal of both CX and branding. I recently wrote about Walmart’s Viral campaign that drew viewers in through a nostalgic memory lane of famous cars.
A quick google for “best commercial” reveals an incredible variety of advertisements and campaigns, from heart-wrenching to hysterical, from dry sarcasm to hope…but they ALL, without exception, invoke emotion.
Nike’s “Dream Crazy” featuring Colin Kaepernick’s Believe in Something, Even if it Means Sacrificing Everything campaign certainly gave people ALL the feels, good and bad.
When the dust settled, the company’s sales and shares had peaked, making it one of the most successful marketing campaigns of 2018.
If you need a memorability boost, consider psychologist Daniel Kahneman’s peak-end rule. It outlines how to stage memorable experiences by adding peaks and high endings throughout the customer journey. The name of the game is ending on a high note. This trick can make customers remember a mostly poor experience as bearable, or a mostly OK experience as fantastic.
Companies like DoubleTree, Zappos, Chewy, and RitzCarlton are a few examples that have become famous for consistently delivering delight. Small tokens or moments that bring joy to customers have been carefully woven into their customer journeys. Not only do they enrich the experience, they strengthen the branding through spontaneous word-of-mouth advertising.
Memorability that’s both positive and repeatable is crucial for CX and Branding to stick, especially because we’re prone to negativity bias. Negative experiences tend to outweigh positive ones in both our memories and decision-making.
Expert CX’ers with Outstanding Branding
At the heart of every amazing branding strategy is the customer, and how they experience the brand. It’s no coincidence then, that companies with strong branding are also famously customer-centric. Amazon, Delta, Nike, Starbucks, Apple, and a host of others are well-known for building processes and products around the customer.
It’s well worth your time to learn from their examples. From their inception, these companies have brought the customer into every aspect of their business, especially in their branding. The image they carefully cultivate is that of a brand built to solve the needs of each individual customer.
CEO of Tailor Brands and branding expert Yali Saar says, “While aligning your brand with your vision is important, putting it in the center of your brand building process will prevent you from looking at the most important thing: your customers. Instead of asking whether or not your brand represents you first, ask yourself whether or not it represents your clients and the reason they need your service.”
Without branding, there might not be any customers to have experiences in the first place. But, without compatibly good CX, your branding becomes a case of false advertising. Don’t fall into that trap.
The connection between branding and CX is crucial to establish, especially if you ask us at Worthix. We believe that brand identification is one of the five main decision drivers that determine whether or not an experience is “worth it” to the customer. Our Chief Client Officer, James Conrad, has explored the ways that branding and CX can come together seamlessly to cement your messaging with customers. Check out what he has to say in CX + Branding: Why Experience Isn’t a One Department Job.
Mary Drumond is Chief Marketing Officer at survey tech startup Worthix, and host of the Voices of Customer Experience Podcast. Originally a passion project, the podcast runs weekly and features some of the most influential CX thought-leaders, practitioners and academia on challenges, development and the evolution of CX.