Google is now the world’s most valuable brand, with an estimated value of $109.470 billion, according to Brand Finance’s annual rankings. Google took the top spot from Apple, which came in second this year at $107.141 billion after finishing first the five previous years. Amazon took third at $106.396 billion.
Top brands such as these have built their business in part by maintaining a reputation based on quality: Google for the quality of its search engine results and smartphones, Apple for the quality of its computers and mobile devices, Amazon for the quality of its customer service and shipping. Building a reputation for quality takes work, but it can pay off, as the earnings of these brands illustrate. Here are four steps you can take to build and maintain a reputation for being a high-quality brand:
If you’re going to build a reputation for quality, one of the first steps you need to take is building quality into your brand’s unique selling proposition. Your USP is what sets your brand apart from competitors and sums up your reputation for your target market. To do this effectively, your USP needs to be focused. One mistake many companies make is trying to be all things to all people by proposing to offer both the lowest prices and the highest quality, says Kissmetrics contributor Joseph Putnam. When you try to compete on price, your quality tends to suffer. So does your profit margin, since you don’t generate as much revenue per sale to offset expenses.
If you want to be known for quality, instead of emphasizing low prices, place your focus on value instead. For instance, Porsche places its marketing emphasis on premium quality and related selling points such as speed and performance, not low price.
If your product quality is good but your customer service is lousy, your poor service is what customers will remember and tell their friends about, not your product quality. Most marketing professionals regard customer experience as more essential to competing effectively than price or product.
In today’s digital environment, good customer service starts with a user-friendly website. Make sure your website loads quickly for mobile phone users. Include self-service options on your website for customers who prefer to answer their own questions, and include live chat for customers who need immediate assistance. Review other components of your customer service, such as shipping and return policies, to make sure these also support a positive customer experience. Two keys to Amazon’s success have been its free shipping offer and its no-hassle return policy.
Delivering positive customer experience occasionally is one thing; delivering it consistently is what distinguishes a truly superior brand. In order to consistently deliver a quality experience, you need quality control. This requires setting standards and tracking your performance to make sure you’re living up to those standards.
One reason Apple’s brand is so successful is its adherence to strict customer service policies. All Apple Store sales representatives receive extensive training based on written guidelines that are consistent from one location to another. These guidelines cover key customer service points such as how to approach a customer, how to politely discover what the customer needs and how to present a solution the customer can take home that day. By requiring all its stores to follow these guidelines, Apple ensures high-quality customer service at all locations.
Once you’ve built your brand’s reputation for quality, it’s important not to overextend yourself by launching a product line that doesn’t fit your brand’s image. A new product line should complement your existing marketing emphasis, not stand in conflict with it.
For example, Harley Davidson has built a solid reputation for its motorcycles, but when it launched a perfume line, it failed miserably. One reason for this failure was that Harley Davidson’s motorcycles had a masculine image, but perfume appealed to a feminine market, so consumers found the combination of the two confusing. Other famous flops include Eva Longoria’s SHe Steakhouse for Women, Colgate Kitchen Entrees and Smith & Wesson Apparel. Stick to what your brand excels at if you want to build a reputation for quality.