Most businesses have specific departments and staff in place to fulfil marketing and branding requirements – but new research has revealed that workers across the organisation could have more of an effect on clients’ perceptions than originally thought.

The study by GfK shows customers form their views of companies based on much more than just ads, with everything from the bill payment process to loyalty schemes playing a significant role, Marketing Week reports.

What affects consumers’ opinions of brands?

In its research, GfK conducted an online survey asking consumers to rate companies in the mobile operator and utilities sectors on the memorability of various touchpoints with specific companies, as well as how these interactions ranked in terms of leaving a positive or negative impression.

These responses were then turned into a Consumer Experience (ConX) score for each touchpoint. For mobile operators, the most highly rated interactions were text messaging, website visits, billing and phone top-ups.

Tesco Mobile achieved a ConX score of 37 for top-ups, 30 for loyalty schemes and 27 for special offers. Virgin Mobile, meanwhile, received scores of 37 for online ads, 28 for special offers and 20 for TV ads.

Among the utility companies studied in the research, EDF Energy was scored 12 for bill values, compared with 4 for E.on and -4 for npower. British Gas was rated an average of 24 for meter readings.

“Traditionally, brand management has been closely aligned with the marketing department, but now we see that staff in all areas of a business have a role to play in shaping how consumers view the brand – whether they are in customer service, retail, billing or technical roles,” said Iain Stanfield, head of brand and customer experience for GfK.

Branding across channels

What this implies for businesses is that ensuring every customer-facing part of the organisations needs to be geared towards providing a positive, memorable experience to achieve branding success.

Mr Stanfield said it is important for brands to remember that “these wider touchpoints are all part of the customers’ experience and communication with them” and so they can therefore “have an impact on traditional marketing”.

“As well as knowing the strengths of your brand relative to competition and understanding experiences at all touchpoints, brands now need to explore the relationship they have with consumers,” explained Colin Strong of GfK in a recent column for the Guardian.

This could mean ensuring all staff are trained to provide the optimum experience for customers, with all processes being reviewed and changed where needed to do the same.

It may be worth testing the effectiveness of little changes to see how they affect consumers’ perception of both the touchpoint in question and the brand as a whole.

Don’t forget offline methods

Something as simple as sending promotional merchandise¬†along with a new customer’s first bill that is perhaps printed with helpline details or highlighting the most relevant loyalty scheme offers in emails or direct mail based on the customer’s preferences.

As well as monitoring key metrics like website visits, online dwell times and departmental sales, carrying out surveys can help businesses to determine which of their tactics has been most successful in improving customers’ perception of their brand.

The brand impressions that really count, Marketing Week

Posted by Robin McCrink