By Sam Hughes, brand experience director at Futurebrand
Every year, FutureBrand publishes the FutureBrand Index, which measures how the top 100 global companies by market capitalisation rank based on the strength of their brand as assessed by a set of key attributes. One of the most interesting things in this year’s Index is that the organisations that have performed well are the ones that have been able to deliver a tangible impact and avoid the ‘purpose void’ caused by a failure to deliver on their promises. The gap between not doing what you say and failing to live up to the expectations you have set impacts nearly every part of the organisation, not least the day-to-day experiences of customers, employees and the wider community.
It’s a gap that needs to be closed, but knowing where to start can be challenging at best, daunting or even impossible at worst. With a deep understanding of the business, it’s easier to recommend the best place to start. Still, a couple of common patterns are often evident and useful, no matter your brand’s scale or industry sector.
Think big, start small.
Starting anywhere is often better than doing nothing at all. But, when finding ways to make the most impact, starting at the wrong place can mean that you end up nowhere or, even worse, you spend a lot of time and money only to find you’ve solved the wrong problem.
One of the easiest places to start looking for small moments with a big impact is in and around hand-off moments. These might be transition points between related services or natural endings of a phase or stage that usually involve switching between platforms or channels. In these situations, it’s easy for there to be a noticeable disconnect in everything from visual assets and tone of voice to ease-of-use and more. This inconsistency is where an experience can become unstuck.
Addressing these transition points can mean something other than creating smooth and seamless shifts. Instead, they should be signposted so it’s clear that something has happened. From here, we can start to determine which parts of the experience should be flexible and which parts need to be fixed. Fixed moments should include a tone of voice consistent with the brand, for example. This might be ensuring accessibility and inclusivity, letting people know what to do next and having access to a human, wherever possible.
Amazon has understood the importance of ensuring that these moments not only function seamlessly across the digital experience but also translate to other parts of the journey. Everything from the reliability of delivery to ensuring they are continuously adapting and innovating to be indispensable across multiple parts of peoples lives in ways that feel ‘on brand’.
“One of this year’s notable risers, Amazon, climbed 15 places to get back into the Top 20 – the first time since 2017. A rise that was driven in large part by a strong indispensability score.”
Spend the time to understand what matters most.
It’s critical to take a step outside the business and talk to your customers and interact with them in their communities. This could be as informal as time spent sitting next to your customer as they go about their day or a more formalised customer panel that gives a window into the world of a cross-section of people using your product or service. Looking at some of the top performers in this year’s FutureBrand Index, there are clear examples of businesses not just challenging the ‘purpose void’ but thriving as they deliver authenticity in their vision and actions.
One of the most notable examples is NVIDIA – a leading supplier in AI software and chips – which tops the rankings of both ‘places to work’ for and ‘want to buy products from’. NVIDIA has excelled in the last ten years by banking on the impact of AI as the future of computing. However, the way they have done this is by recognising and actively listening to the needs of their customers. By engaging with developers and online communities through dedicated programs that encourage users to participate in workshops, events and hackathons to share knowledge, NVIDIA has been able to improve and innovate in ways that are relevant to the evolving needs of their customers.
Bringing it all together
Creating a consistent experience that spans multiple channels, touchpoints, audiences and needs spread over multiple business segments isn’t simple. With Apple topping this year’s rankings(for the third time), it’s a great example of a brand that is famous for being able to deliver a cohesive experience that is not only seamless (across every part of the experience), but also scores highly on measures of pleasure. Apple’s level of attention to detail comes from a straightforward story and ethos that is pulled through every part of the business – from the experience of data security through to operational considerations such as resource management. Having a strategy that will stretch is critical to make sure it all comes together, and clear personality and overarching experience principles can help keep everything on track.
Avoiding the ‘purpose void’ is about more than creating a fantastic experience. Instead, creating a consistent, purposeful experience that is relevant and meaningful to customers and employees is a starting point that can impact perceptions and elevate the moments that matter most.
Top image: Sam Hughes