Two co-workers go to the same nice restaurant on the same evening. They order the same meal from the same waiter. All had exactly the same experience, except for their perceptions.
When asked about the service, Mary said, "I felt like a queen. The service was exceptional. They whisked my salad plate away when I didn't even notice, and refilled my water glass frequently. She even refolded my napkin when I got up to use the restroom!"
Now, listen to Sally: "The service was oppressive. I barely finished my salad when the waiter rushed the plate away. He had the audacity to refill my water glass while I was holding it. And frankly, I don't want anyone else touching my napkin after I start my meal."
Who's right? Obviously, they both are.
We don't own our brands: our brands are owned by the people who matter most to us.
Their perception is our reality.
If they think you provided excellent service, you did. If they think it's over-the-top, well, then you're not really providing excellent service to that person.
Your brand truly lives in the six inches between the ears of the people who matter most to you.
What they think and say about you is, in fact, your actual brand.
An organization's brand perception is built through the totality of each person's experience. Every touchpoint (to cite brand speak) or interaction builds toward an inevitable conclusion: "When I think of XYZ, here's what I think."
It's that simple. It's also that hard to manage, much less own.
People vote in America with their feet and their wallets. It's action – not talk – that truly defines us.
For example, we may consider ourselves charitable. But when you total your annual donations, does the reality mesh with your perception? Or, we may think to ourselves that we don't eat out very often, that is until you look back and realize you had lunch or dinner at a restaurant "only" 19 times last month.
Do you really believe a voice recording that says, "...thanks for continuing to wait for the next available person. Your business is very important to us..." especially when you've already been on hold for 10 minutes?
When we think about a person, company or organization, we incorporate all of our personal experiences to form our opinion.
They really own our brand. All anyone can do is listen, serve and exceed expectations. Every. Single. Time.