Benchmarking

I have two simple questions for you. How good is your brand? Is it the best or what?

Well, I guess this leads to those classic immeasurables… When is your brand good enough? When do you decide that your brand has reached the highest possible level? When can you afford to be truly satisfied with your brand?

You might be the best in your industry — you might even be in the lucky position of having the strongest brand in the world according to some analyses. But the burning question remains: Is “good” good enough?

Benchmarking provides a way to figure out how good your brand can possibly be. Let me take you through a scenario.

First, as discussed in my article “Full 360-Degree Branding,” the concept of 180-degree, or superficial, branding — placing a logo in the right corner of a brochure or on a TV commercial or web site — is fatal to a brand. “Quick” branding doesn’t exist. I likened it to painting the roof of your house in order to repair the holes. On the surface, the roof would appear to be intact, but just beneath lie the holes.

Branding is about integrating a brand’s whole philosophy into its every utterance and appearance. The tone of voice, the graphic design, the signage, the downloading time, the music, the staff — everything. If you agree with this — if you agree, for example, that a trip to Disney World thrusts the consumer into a stronger branding arena than that offered by a Disney ad (because the Disney spirit and philosophy is infused into every aspect of the trip) — then you will agree with the philosophy of benchmarking: finding a point of reference from which quality or excellence is measured.

Let’s take a brand like Disney World and analyze how benchmarking could be used to ascertain the quality of the consumer experience. The total Disney World experience is made up of lots of small experiences that compose the full brand picture. As far as the consumer is concerned, we could break the total experience into these four introductory interface experiences: the decision to visit Disney World in the first place; traveling to the park; entering the park; and the greeting the consumer receives from Disney.

First comes the decision about where to go on the weekend. For this, a brand needs to have stamped its awareness into the consumer’s mind. In terms of awareness, Pepsi and McDonald’s are leaders. Awareness comes with an impression of an overriding reputation. What will your brand’s dominant reputation be for? Quality, like Barnes & Noble or Hewlett-Packard? Convenience? Family-friendliness?

Second, traveling to the park. Easy access will be the aim. Hertz airport kiosks spring to mind as offering easy access: They’re conveniently located and easy to find. McDonald’s also provides a well-beaten and easy-to-follow path to its doors.

Third, entering the park. Some of the world’s leading airports, like Hong Kong’s, Copenhagen’s, and Malaysia’s, would probably offer examples of a pleasant, crowd-pleasing, well-controlled entry.

Fourth, the greeting. Friendly and casual greetings, inspired by Wal-Mart-type or Club-Med-type personalities might be the comparative measure. Purchasing the ticket may be inspired by Hertz procedure and mien.

Do you get the point? Being a top brand isn’t about being the best in one category. It’s about being the best in all the details. Together, these create the full brand reputation. Try it yourself. Include all the elements, all the experiences, all the routines that create the full impression of your brand, whether your product is a motor vehicle, a grocery item, or a toy, and then benchmark your brand with the best in the business within each of your brand’s consumer-contact categories.

I’m sure it’ll raise questions on how good your brand really is. And if, after the exercise, you can still claim that your brand’s the best in the world, I’d find more veracity in your conviction.

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