What people are saying about you when you're not in the room.

Whether you hear the names or see one of the logos shown here, many different things come to mind. Those thoughts and emotions collectively, create the "brand experience".  

Countless experts study and analyze the rise (and sometimes the fall), of "Mega-Brands". Professors throughout the world teach college students on this topic, authors have written countless books and

marketers are fascinated with both the climb and descent of brand images. Take Starbucks. Their brand message goes much deeper than the coffee.

How did they get people to line up and gladly pay double or triple the going rate for a cup of coffee? Some called it the "Starbucks phenomenon". Researchers discovered that Starbucks employees, from part-timers to upper management, truly loved their jobs, were deeply devoted to the company and actually enjoyed their work. It’s often said they "drank the Starbucks cool aid". Part of the corporate culture was to make sure the associates were highly educated about the product (coffee, coffee, coffee) and understood the importance of providing a very high level of customer service. The associates really wanted you to have an "experience" whether you were just running in for a latte or spending two hours lounging in an overstuffed chair on your laptop. Physically, each Starbucks was remarkably similar. The design, logo, color palette and merchandising was consistent throughout the country.

After 16 years of growth, in an attempt to stay competitive, Starbucks made some critical business decisions inconsistent with their original principals that seem to have damaged their brand and proved to be counterproductive to their business model. The company founder eventually returned to Starbucks in an attempt to whip it back into shape.  They've made some changes in the last couple of years so we'll see how it goes. They are still in the top 100 national brands and we can continue to learn from them as they transition. Certainly for the marketing geeks (myself included) and business analysts, it will be interesting to watch…

As spring approaches, take a look at the key Brand components within your organization:

The Invisible

  • Would anyone miss your products or services if your brand was gone?
  • Do you provide a positive "experience" that people want to talk about after they interact with you? 
  • Do you have a few employees- or entire departments in need of additional training or an attitude adjustment?
  • Do you stand out from your competition?  

The Visible

  • Do you have an updated corporate brochure with your mission statement and brand promise; detailing what sets you apart from others?
  • Are your website, marketing collateral & Facebook page consistent and do they shine the best possible light on your company?
  • Have you transitioned your 2012 marketing schedule away from traditional media and focused more on online campaigns and digital & social media?
  • Is someone managing your social media sites actively? That person should also be following others on the web to keep an ear out for what’s being said about your company, and your competition.

The key takeaway from the mega-brands may be to never stop enhancing and promoting your brand.
Improve products regularly; focus on employeerelations and morale, perfect all that you can, and promote authenticity and dedication that filters throughout your organization.  

Spring is in the air early this year- what better time for spring cleaning & new beginnings?  So do a mental inventory of your brand. If you have some things that could use improvement, there's no time like the present!