They say expectation is the thief of joy. Hey, “they” also told me this buffet was “all you can eat.” So why was I escorted to the exit? I know it’s uncommon to eat 20 pounds of cocktail shrimp chased by 8 gallons of tartar sauce, but I thought we had a deal.
In other words, if your brand makes a promise, never go back on it. The customer won’t soon forgive you.
Brand integrity is, essentially, the strength of your brand’s identity. It’s how you define and present your brand aligned with how consumers perceive it. Every touchpoint consumers have with you — every interaction, every empty glass bowl — contributes to or detracts from your brand integrity.
It encompasses your:
- Customer service
- Customer experience
If you want to solidify your brand integrity, your consumers’ experiences must reflect the identity you present to them.
Why does brand integrity matter? How do you improve it? Can you measure it?
In this guide, we address each question, so you know what brand integrity means for your organization.
Why does brand integrity matter?
Brand integrity is about trust. Having brand integrity means your customers trust your products or services to deliver on your promises, solve their problems, and help them reach their goals. They trust your policies and your staff to deliver a first-class experience and do the right thing when something goes wrong.
So what happens when you build that trust?
It establishes your reputation with consumers
Brand integrity unifies your reputation with consumers. If you care about the longevity of your brand, you don’t want there to be several different perceptions of it. The identity you want to present may have to compete against the negative experiences some of your customers have had.
Healthy brands work to overcome negative perceptions and fully commit to their identity. (By the way: how you respond when consumers talk about negative experiences adds to or detracts from your brand integrity; no response is a response.)
It increases customer loyalty
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Customers want to keep buying from brands that produce quality goods and treat them right. If they have a good experience with you and they trust you, they’ll choose you over the competition. Even as they move into new product categories, your customers will trust your brand name to replicate the experience they had with your other products.
Brand integrity makes your brand feel like the safe choice.
But consistency is crucial. A single bad experience — one that’s inconsistent with your brand — can cause permanent damage. After conducting an international study on the impact of customer experience, PwC claims:
“Bad experiences drive consumers away–fast. Globally, consumers would stop doing business with a company due to unfriendly service (60%), unknowledgeable employees (46%), and lack of company trust (50%). One in three (32%) say they would walk away from a brand they love after a single bad experience.”
Customer loyalty is fickle but undeniably valuable. The key to getting and keeping it is maintaining your brand integrity across every consumer touchpoint.
It increases the perceived value of your products
Brand integrity can feel intangible. But it directly translates to the value consumers believe you provide. When you can consistently deliver a high-quality experience, the benefits of purchasing from you can even outweigh the benefits of buying from a lower-cost competitor.
How do you improve your brand integrity?
Brand integrity hinges on your ability to provide a consistent experience. If you want to improve it, you need to take steps to resolve inconsistencies and make plans to avoid future conflicts between the expectations you create and the experience consumers have.
Create clear brand standards
If you don’t have standards, it’s pretty much impossible to be consistent. From store to store, website to website, and employee to employee, your brand will inevitably look, sound, and feel different because the people who represent your brand will have to interpret and translate it to their context on their own.
Brand guidelines play a huge part in standardizing the way your brand comes across. You need to formally dictate everything from images to brand voice to pricing. It should be clear how your brand’s values impact the media and content you create, and the value you assign to your products.
Company policies will help your employees interact with consumers in consistent ways, choose similar solutions to problems, and ultimately treat your customers the way you want them to be treated.
Creating standards will also help you hold people accountable and correct mistakes when inconsistencies occur. You can’t enforce your price, for example, if you don’t have a pricing policy.
Hire the right people
When you hire someone, you should be confident that they’ll be able to deliver an experience that reflects the identity of your brand. Finding “the right people” isn’t necessarily about the qualities they possess or the way they think, but rather their willingness to support, advocate for, and contribute toward your brand values and goals.
No matter what position they fill, your employees are on the front lines of the battle to maintain your brand integrity. Do they understand how their role can impact your brand’s reputation? Do they see how your values and goals affect their position? Do they care about what’s at stake for your brand?
Choose retail partners carefully
You don’t want just anyone to carry and sell your products. Every retailer that wants to work with you creates a new opportunity to increase sales and reach new customers, but some resellers do more harm than good.
In many cases, your customers will conflate their experience with a retailer who carries your product with their experience with you. If you have a generous return policy and a retailer has a strict no-returns policy, that creates an inconsistent experience for your customers who need to make returns, which is especially problematic when, say, a customer still wants your product, but they ordered the wrong color, size, or variant.
You also want to be confident your retail partners are going to follow your pricing policy. When a single retailer violates your pricing policy, others automatically follow them in order to compete, and it triggers “race to the bottom” pricing, where the initial violators continually undercut your price until they’re selling at cost. Everyone loses, including the consumers, who will struggle to discern between your product and fraudulent copycats that are often sold for much less.
Once consumers have seen a lower price, it diminishes the integrity of your actual lowest price, and therefore, the integrity of your brand. Consumers who have seen your products available for less than your claimed best price will feel lied to. They’ll perceive your product to be worth less than it actually is. Don’t tolerate pricing violations. Be selective about the retailers with which you do business.
(Want to deter pricing violations? Make sure those violations come with consequences that matter.)
Sell products that align with your brand’s identity
Companies evolve. Product catalogs expand. But as your product offering increases and you find new ways to serve your customers, be sure that every product associated with your brand aligns with your goals, values, and purpose.
If you launch a new product under the umbrella of one of your established brands, but it doesn’t fit with consumer perception of that brand, your customers will feel betrayed. They’ll worry that your interests will be divided between their best interests and this new product.
The more disconnected your products seem to be, the more watered down your brand becomes. Consumers then become less confident in what your brand represents.
Deliver on your promises
Empty promises are the surest way to ruin your brand’s integrity. Your marketing must align with your customer’s actual experiences. If your marketing, promotional materials, sales staff, or support team breaks a customer’s trust once, it’s probably lost for good.
This is about being who you say you are and delivering products that do what you say they’ll do. If you can’t align your promises with your customers’ experiences, your other efforts to improve brand integrity will have to overcome this fundamental failure.
Thankfully, the inverse is true, too. If you can deliver on your promises, it makes other aspects of brand integrity much easier because your customers can trust you to follow through.
Create the same experience online and in person
Whether you started as a brick-and-mortar store or an online-only brand, every touchpoint should look and feel like it came from the same company. Your customers shouldn’t feel like they’ll be treated differently online than in-person.
Some companies have awkward separations between their online stores and brick-and-mortar stores that their customers feel during the return process when they need a special form to return an online purchase at a physical store.
Your sales staff and customer service should communicate with customers the same way over the phone, in person, via email, through your online chat, and on social media. A customer is a customer, no matter where they are.
Own up to your mistakes
Mistakes happen. When they do, your response needs to reflect your values, honor your commitments, and make things right. Being transparent and vulnerable with your customers gives you more opportunities to communicate and embody your values, and it helps you highlight that the mistake or negative experience isn’t reflective of who you are. This in turn helps more customers to leave the interaction with a different perception of your brand than they would’ve had otherwise.
In the spirit of owning up to mistakes, you might consider authorizing your customer service personnel to give discounts, credit, refunds, or other gifts to smooth things over with frustrated customers. (Just make sure it’s a policy, so it’s consistent.)
Monitor your brand
If you want to improve your brand integrity, monitoring your brand is a must. You can’t create a consistent experience if you aren’t paying attention to where and how consumers interact with your brand.
Each of your product pages on each retail partner’s website is a unique touchpoint between your brand and your customers. They all must be up-to-date and provide accurate information. Also pay attention to reviews and customer questions that appear there.
Your customers discover and talk about you in other places as well. Savvy brand managers monitor branded keywords, industry-related keywords, mentions of your brand on social media and blogs, and even relevant forums where your target audience gathers to discuss your industry.
Protect your price
Your price reflects the value of your products. In general, the lower your price, the less consumers value your products. When a reseller reduces your price below your established minimum, it hurts your brand integrity.
The only way to protect your price is to create a minimum advertised price (MAP) policy and then actually enforce it. If there are no tangible consequences for breaking your pricing policy, offenders will simply continue violating it, and the perceived value of your products will continue to decrease.
Unfortunately, if you have a lot of products and a lot of retail partners, there will probably be more violations than you can possibly manage. PriceSpider developed Prowl to help brands like yours automatically track every violation, so you can easily prioritize which to pursue.
Can you measure brand integrity?
Brand integrity sounds intangible, but there are reliable ways for you to monitor whether you’re providing a consistent experience everywhere your brand appears, including what your customers are saying about your products.
Are you delivering a consistent experience?
For many brands, it would take a legion of employees to constantly check each one of their product pages on every retailer website every day. After looking at hundreds or thousands of identical product pages, it’s easy for humans to miss inconsistencies or report false positives.
That’s why we created Brand Monitor. This software solution automatically crawls all of a brand’s product pages every day to show you how well your retail partners are following your brand guidelines. Create an approved media library and Brand Monitor will flag pages that are missing key images, videos, GIFs, or other content. Conveniently isolate and correct problems by retailer, brand, or product content.
With the right tools, it’s easy to see how consistently your brands are represented everywhere they appear.
What are people saying about you?
The more retailers you work with, the more places your customers have to review, rate, and talk about your products. It’s a lot to keep track of. It can be difficult to get an overall sense of what the word on the street.
Our Ratings & Reviews monitoring consolidates reviews from all of your retail partners so you can glean insights from consumers. Learn what keywords people use to describe your products most often, which features they’re most drawn to (or frustrated by), what improvements they’d like to see, and who your brand is being compared to.
See aggregate reviews by seller, including Amazon, to identify seller discrepancies.
You can even respond directly to reviews from the Ratings & Reviews dashboard, making it easier to address concerns anywhere they pop up.
Additionally, you can explore the same data on your competitors to see how consumers perceive your brand in comparison to the competition.
Create a consistent experience
Brand integrity has a major impact on customer trust, loyalty, and the perceived value of your products. It’s worth investing in and protecting.
At PriceSpider, we develop brand integrity solutions that help brands like yours create a consistent experience for customers. With our tools, you can protect and enforce your price, monitor your brand, and gain eye-opening insights into your online reputation.
Schedule a demo to see how PriceSpider strengthens brand integrity.