5 Ways Companies Build Iconic Brands

Last week, I was reflecting on a talk I heard about the power of moments and how those moments build iconic brands. It reminded me of my own “best” experiences and others I’ve heard of. Why are they so good and memorable? How can a brand become so strong that it maintains a high level of brand advocacy? Let’s look at a few of these companies and their unique areas of focus.

1 – Create Memorable and Emotional Connections

A lifelong memorable experience is a rare thing. It’s even rarer to pass that on to another generation. That’s what the Disneyland brand is all about. Parents bring their children. Those children grow up and bring their children. And positive memories continue uninterrupted.

In How the Magic Happens, former Disney vice president Jody Jean Dreyer describes how the park uses immersive experiences as an extension of their core brand: people, story, and attention to detail. For example, they use smell to create a complete experience because the sense of smell is hardwired into our brains, specifically the area that handles emotions. Even the wafts of popcorn along Main Street U.S.A. are by design.

By tending to every part of an experience, Disneyland creates an intimacy across generations that combines user interaction with a brand, which creates an emotional connection. In other words, “the happiest place in the world” becomes a hardwired experience of moments.

2 – Empower Employees for Great Experiences 

Zappos does a lot of things differently than other companies, including its focus on culture. One Zappos employee describes the culture as “trying to make someone else’s day a little brighter… choosing to be positive, rather than automatically discounting someone… we don’t always know what that person’s reality and experience is.”

Zappos puts a high level of trust in employees to do the right thing, without restrictive scripts or unnecessary rules. The company approach: Extend trust and get WOW in return. This is seen in the company’s use of the telephone, which Zappos considers critical to building personal connections. When a customer calls, empowered agents spend as much time as needed to create a great experience. In fact, Zappos is looking at ways to get more people to call because it’s such a valuable marketing and brand builder.

A single great phone interaction creates a powerful memory that “this company wants to be my friend.”

3 – Deliver a Sense of Belonging and Purpose

In 2017, USAA once again led the banking industry in customer experience quality, which it delivers to military members and their families. The bank designs its services specifically to alleviate stress for its customers and as a result, it builds trusted relationships for life.

This mission to serve is deeply ingrained in its culture. For example, employee training is steeped in military experience. Workers receive bona fide deployment letters and “meals ready to eat,” all designed to help them get inside the customer’s mindset.

This desire to empathize drives USAA technological innovations. These include special services for those serving abroad that make customers feel better-protected and looked after. The Forrester Customer Experience Index report found that among direct bank customers who felt valued, 90% will advocate for the brand. In the case of customer-centric USAA, it’s for life.

4 – Give All Customers Excellent Service

Emirates Airline customer focus is legendary. It has been working with a customer journey map for many years, mapping every customer moment from reservations to in-flight experience to engagement in the contact centers. Consistency is a top priority.

Emirates runs seven global contact centers staffed by more than 2,200 agents, serving customers in 19 languages and 48 countries. They handle an average of 35,000 calls and 6,000 emails per day. The airline collects calls and routes them through the cloud to an agent speaking the caller’s preferred language.

The Emirates brand promises a much better flight than most airlines, with high quality for all passengers. Even economy class enjoys 3,000 channels of entertainment, gourmet meals inspired by the region, and in-air social media updates. This stand-out treatment has built the company’s very loyal customer base.

Consistent business practices are at the core of what enables consistent customer recognition, or prioritization of interactions, anywhere in the world. No matter what class of service Emirates delivers, the business principles are always the same. The reporting is the same. The quality measures are the same.

5 – Build the Ultimate Advocacy Experience

In a previous blog, we talked about the power of advocate customers to promote brand and influence potential customers. Having customers who ink a company name into a tattoo is the ultimate advocate. This unique expression of loyalty was first popularized by Harley-Davidson customers who responded to its “freedom of the road” and “rebel by choice” branding.

The company cultivates this experience in a number of ways that helps it track followers while letting them take ownership, as in the Harley Owners Group (H.O.G.). Harley also promotes events, such as the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, that motorcycle riders look forward to.

To grow the business, Harley has extended the brand to clothing. It also markets to the military which it sees as a natural fit with its brand.

 What We Can Learn from the Best

Building a beloved brand requires a lot of hard work and commitment for the long-term. It also requires alignment of the purpose of the brand, and a culture in which every employee understands that purpose and finds passion in achieving these goals.

Ultimately, these and other brands deliver deliberate, well-defined experiences versus random experiences. They dominate the business they’re in because we enjoy interacting with them.

To learn more about iconic brands and technology, check out the MIT Technology Review report, Getting to Iconic: How world-leading brands balance talent and technology for CX excellence.