Brand-building starts on the front lines

Consumers form an impression of brands quickly in today’s environment of instant communication via social media, said Scott Stratten of UnMarketing in a presentation at the recent Emerson Group Industry Day conference.

As a result, companies are increasingly vulnerable to negative consumer reviews online, which makes frontline employees — including last-mile partners — a critical component of brand building. “Any part of the chain is part of your brand,” Stratten said.

Empowering frontline employees to take action to keep customers happy is one way to build and enhance a brand’s image. “Great service is disarming, because we no longer expect it,” he said.

While few companies can be as empowering as Ritz-Carlton, which allows frontline employees to spend up to $2,000 to do whatever it takes to make customers happy, brands still can take steps to make it easier for their workers to provide better service.

“Everybody is the brand, and in product companies, this is exponentially more important to reinforce,” he said. “Every phone call, every email, every tweet, every store interaction or activation — these are brand pivot points.”

Embracing millennials
Although baby boomers and Gen Xers tend to look down on millennials, Stratten suggested that companies need to embrace these workers. “If you are a millennial, your entire life has been based on disruption, and that should be an asset to a company,” he said.

The ability of younger workers to navigate disruption, combined with their digital dexterity, make them ideal partners for older workers who have industry experience, he said.

“The combination of that automatic ability to disrupt and what older people have, which is wisdom — if you combine those with dual respect, then we are unstoppable,” Stratten said.