What’s Your Signature? The Importance of Defining Brand Moments

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When I was asked to do a TEDx talk about a year ago, I keyed in on the message that your brand (be that your individual brand or your corporate brand) is little more than “what people say about you when you are not around.”

In keeping with that message, I am excited to be blogging about one of my favorite leadership brands – Ed Mady and to use Ed as an example of the importance of creating signature moments that frame those “out of earshot” conversations.

I am delighted to have known Ed for years and am honored (beyond words) that he listed me as a member of his trusted personal board of directors in a recent article for Hotels Magazine.

This week Ed Mady is being recognized as Hotelier of the World by Hotels Magazine at an awards ceremony at The Lotte New York Palace. Ed’s leadership for an extended run at the Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco and more recently at the Beverly Hills Hotel (a legendary property in the Dorchester Collection) has positioned him for this well-deserved honor. While I can go on and on about Ed’s visionary leadership, ability to inspire teams to greatness, top-drawer guest experience delivery and his ability to manage in a crisis, I want to talk about Ed Mady’s signed baseballs.

Ok, where is this going? I start by talking about your brand being what people say about you when we are not around; I mention a leader recognized as Hotelier of the World and pivot to signed baseballs.  Of all things for which Ed is known, “signature baseballs” is a substantial element of his brand.

As one might expect, Ed has hosted many A-list celebrities and legendary athletes over his storied career across America’s finest hotels. As a matter of course, Ed asks many of the people he encounters to sign a baseball for him. He always has an ample supply of baseballs on hand to seize opportunities for those signings. Here are just a few examples of Ed’s recent tweets.

Signatures on baseballs are a signature of Ed’s leadership and personal brand – do you have anything similar?

Branded Customer Experience

To bring this around to a discussion of branded customer experiences, I’ve been fortunate to work with many senior leaders at large companies like International Dairy Queen and smaller brands like Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh – as they’ve looked for ways to capture “signature moments” during the customer journey. At Dairy Queen, for example, one such moment was the handoff of a hugely popular product that has been around since 1985 – the Blizzard®.

With the movement of the wrist, a server at Dairy Queen can create a theatrical, and memorable moment that reinforces the richly, thick quality of a blizzard by simply flipping it upside down and back right side up. That gesture became a signature moment for blizzard delivery, and in 2016 it evolved into an “Upside Down or Free” campaign whereby you would receive your next blizzard for free – if your server failed to flip it at the handoff. That’s the power of customer experience design resulting in a “signature moment” that enhanced the Dairy Queen Fan Experience.

As I worked with Garbanzo’s first CEO Alon Mor and his team in the early days of their brand development, the focus was not on the product handoff but the arrival experience. Normally customers expect to step in line at a quick service restaurant (QSR) like Garbanzo and begin looking up at the menu board.

The first human interaction at a restaurant like Garbanzo normally involves ordering and a question like, “What can I get you today?” But immediately upon entering Garbanzo, the customer experience was designed to be disruptive with the unexpected question, “Would you like a falafel?” The typical customer responses to that question ranged from “What’s a falafel?”, “Is it free?”, or “Sure.” In any case, the arrival experience was memorable and a signature for the brand. One that supported brand attributes and contributed to Garbanzo’s store growth and regional expansion.

It’s All about the Moments

In their recent book The Power of Moments Chip and Dan Heath note:

What’s indisputable is that when we assess our experiences, we don’t average our minute-by-minute sensations. Rather, we tend to remember flagship moments: the peaks, the pits, and the transitions.

This is a critical lesson for anyone in service businesses from restaurants to medical clinics to call centers to spas – where success hinges on the customer experience.

Fortunately, Chip and Dan anchor their conclusions to sound memory research that resonates with the experiences I have had working with brands who have been able to differentiate at key experience moments with customers.

Back at You

So what are your “branded signature moments?” What memories do you give your customers to tweet about? or “How do you stand out from other service providers or leaders?”

Make it memorable, positively disrupt or do the unexpected – craft your signature!

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