Attention, marketers: You think you own your brand? Actually, you should hope that your customers own it. My experience last night is a perfect example of who really owns a brand.
With five friends sitting around a neighbor's dining room table, one got the group's attention by telling how Moen lived up to its warranty by sending a replacement for her leaky kitchen faucet--via FedEx. Good thing she'd saved the receipt from the purchase 9 years before! Moen was her brand and she was proud to talk about her wonderful customer experience and urge all of us to buy Moen.
Another friend said she'd used Bank of America's bill payment service to pay her credit card bill. A few days later, when she tried to use the card, the charge wasn't approved and she didn't know why. Rushing home, she logged into her account and discovered that she'd authorized payment to the wrong card. She called B of A and the rep immediately applied the payment to the proper card and waived all fees. B of A was her brand, and she couldn't be happier with the way things turned out.
Clearly, these positive experiences had reinforced each friend's choice of brand--and just as clearly, we listeners were impressed at how well the companies had lived up to their brands' promises. No marketer can buy such enthusiastic and spontaneous word of mouth or think up testimonials as credible and compelling as these real-life experiences.
In brief, marketers: Give your customers the kinds of experiences that will make them want to own the brand.