"I am the brand"The transfer of the brand concept from physical goods like toothpaste and automobiles, to services like dentistry and auto repair, requires careful thought not only about what the brand promise is, but also about what it looks like when embodied in the actions of employees. I'm constantly watching for concrete examples good and not so good of how companies selling services pursue their branding mission.
I recently came upon a positive example the Absa Group, a large financial services firm based in South Africa.
Back in 1998, after several episodes of acquisition and consolidation, the organization that went into business in 1991 as Amalgamated Banks of South Africa began operating under the single name, Absa. As reported at brandchannel.com,
Initial research indicated that over 90% of customers who belonged to the banks that were to fall under the Absa banner would remain with the group. Capitalizing on this good fortune, the brand managers at Absa focused on providing personalized client service, and stressed to their employees that this service was to extend to every level of the bank.All employees attended training where they learned specific steps to take in various situations to ensure that the Absa brand promise was delivered in a meaningful and consistent fashion to customers. The aim of the program was foster ability and willingness in each employee to live up to the proposition, "I am the brand."
In this vein, Angela Bruwer, General Marketing Manager of Absa, points out that "A bank has no tangible product it sells except for client service. Our goal was to provide great service and promote the Absa brand through our people how they spoke to clients, how they interacted with each other, even how they dressed."
The Absa efforts are paying off, judging from the fact that Absa was voted the #1 banking brand in South Africa in the 2006 Markinor survey. (In the early '90s when the organization was just getting going, it had virtually no top-of-mind recognition, according to brandchannel.com.)