Strategic branding

Branding in Action

Sam Frentzel-Beyme Follow Managing Partner & Strategy Director

The Short of It

  • Be attentive to your experiences as an opportunity to learn how brands shape perception.
  • The difference between negative and positive perceptions often comes down to a single individual.
  • Some processes are just better at growing relationships and sales. The key is to figure out what the right process is.

I was recently in a well-known global clothing retailer the other week with family. I’d been in the shop countless of times before. The display windows were always appealing which kind of drew you in. And there was always one man in the store who was just impeccably dressed. He carried off his suit with a style that might be more reserved for a Sartorialist photo shoot.

But even though this entire brand experience was all right there in front of me, I never bought anything. To be honest, while I liked browsing the shop, I never really saw myself as a customer. Part of it was the impression that the clothing wouldn’t fit me the way I liked and thus there were other brands that were closer to the top of my list.

That is until I met the Assistant Selling Manager. We’ll call him Mr. F.

The first thing he did was notice me eyeing a suit that really caught my interest. Instead of just asking me if I had any questions or needed help, he simply introduced himself and said that it was a great cut and that I should really try it on.

On the way to the suit section in the back (which I’d never been to), he introduced himself to my family and got all of our names and continued to use them throughout the conversation in a very friendly and non-annoying way.

When we got to the suit rack, he quickly sized me and pulled a perfect fit jacket. Being a bit on the slim side, I typically can’t by off-the-rack suits in this country because they don’t fit the way I like, but this one fit perfect. I was kind of amazed. I ended up telling Mr. F that I had been in the store countless times over the past years and never knew this aspect of their clothing. I even told him about the very well dressed guy in the front of the store we always used to see. His basic response: He’s no longer with us.

Which kind of got me then thinking about how inactive the brand had been up until this point. In all the times that we’d been in the store before, we’d never once talked to the well-dressed guy or had him engage us in anything more than the typical call and response – “Can I help you? No, we’re just browsing.” It all looked good, but there wasn’t anyone helping make the connection between the brand and me.

What can we learn from this? Here are 5 things Mr. F teaches us about putting your brand in action.

1. Pay attention. 

Potential customers are constantly talking to you even if they never say a word. What are they wearing? What are they looking at? Do they look at everything the same or do they go directly to a certain piece or place? All these subtle cues are worth paying attention to. I could probably write a whole series of articles on just this point alone.

2. Customers always start off as potential customers. 

If you go to a lot of stores, you’ll find that there is often very little engagement by retail staff with people who aren’t sure about what they want or need. Ignoring these potential customers means risking that someone else will sell them something similar to what you have, but didn’t bother talking about or showing.

3. Everyone in a potential customer’s party is a potential customer. 

It’s not just that this is plain good manners, but if you can build trust with the party as a whole you’re more likely to close at least one sale (in my case, I didn’t buy the suit, but someone else in my party walked out of that store a buying customer).

4. Know what you’re talking about. 

This seems like such a basic point that escapes so many industries. If the brand looks great, but the person presenting it is clueless about basic aspects of the brand or industry (or worse is rude or abrasive), the brand is effectively neutralized. Mr. F could talk fabric, cut, and effectively compare his offering to others – all without coming across as defensive or patronizing.

5. Close with a new opening. 

When I lived in Tokyo, if you bought something at a decent department store the person handling the sale didn’t just hand you your bag over the counter. They walked around the counter and with two hands presented you with your purchase. It’s a very pleasant experience. Mr. F evidently understands this and did the same thing and while he was at it made sure we had his business card and should come see him directly if there were any problems. Many people think that closing the sale, especially with a new customer, is the final stop. Active brands will know that this is just the beginning. Unlocking the true value of a customers means building a long-term relationship.

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