Since a brand is the result of a series of interactions with our audience, we should beware not to neglect some essential touchpoints: those that follow the moment of purchase.
When we talk about brands, we talk about a live and manifold concept. A brand is never entirely created in a lab, but it’s the result of an interaction with the audience. This interaction happens on a variety of occasions and on different channels, that we define “brand touchpoints”.
Some brand touchpoints such as, for example, an ad campaign or a website, are almost entirely under the brand’s control. This means that the brand can define in a pretty exact fashion what the user experience will be. We say “pretty exact” because clearly there is always a certain degree of subjectivity: maybe the ad campaign will remind me of something unpleasant or the website will not load properly, thus irritating me.
Some touchpoints are out of the brand’s control. For example, the way a product is used at home: we are not there to make sure everything goes as planned.
Looking beyond this distinction, though, there is another way to look at brand touchpoints, and it refers to the phase in the user journey.
Some interactions happen before the purchase, some during the process, some after it. And it’s the latter we usually lose sight of.
The importance – and complexity – of the post-purchase experience
When we think about brand touchpoints, we often focus on the pre-purchase and purchase phases. This is understandable: these are the moments that push the client to convert.
We are referring – for example – to the ad campaign, website, and store.
The reason we usually invest a lot in these touchpoints is also of organizational nature: these are the touchpoints that are controlled by the marketing department, and the brand is usually – unfortunately – only seen as a marketing asset.
What happens, then, once the client has completed the purchase?
Sadly, other departments take charge. They might just do a wonderful job, but they don’t necessarily care about respecting the brand profile.
From a customer’s point of view, this is an experience of strong disconnection between before and after: one gets the idea of having been “seduced and abandoned”. The brilliant and friendly brand that accompanied us up to the point of swiping our credit card disappears once we bring the product home.
As a consequence, we will be discouraged from buying once more, or at least we will be less motivated.
This doesn’t happen for all brands: the most virtuous ones manage to offer a consistent brand experience on all touchpoints. Here’s a list of those you should be exploiting.
Brand Touchpoints: Receipts
Nothing kills a love story faster than a fiscal document. At the moment of purchase, whether it’s online or offline, the customer gets a receipt. This apparently humble document is actually an important brand touchpoint, because it sanctions the moment a customer becomes the owner of the product. We can use it to drive the moment’s euphoria and to cushion the negative feelings that we associate with payment.
Brand Touchpoints: Product Manuals
For some product categories, the moment of first use is not necessarily intuitive and it can be necessary to provide a manual. In some cases this document will be more complex and articulated, in others it will be lighter. Whatever the case, the manual comes at a crucial moment in the user experience, the product discovery, and it can determine whether this will be marked by uncertainty, confusion, or euphoria. Strong brands like IKEA or Apple turned their manuals into key brand touchpoints.
Brand Touchpoints: Customer Care (phone / email / chat)
Customer Care is a world of its own, with precise rules we will not analyze here. Every brand knows how important it is to fine-tune this part of the user experience. Efficient Customer Care, though, is not enough. In order for it to be a real brand touchpoint, it has to respect its tone of voice.
What kind of person is on the other side of the phone? Does she use a formal or informal tone? Is she fast or does she invite me to relax? Does she indulge in some jokes or is she dead serious? Can I hear a slight accent or does she have spotless diction? All these little elements make sure that customer care becomes a branding moment.
The same holds true for online assistance, via email or chat. Putting aside the often underwhelming performances of bots (that we can control, but losing human warmth in the process), it is useful to provide the customer care people not just with scripts and email templates, but with “rules of engagement” that will allow them to speak the brand language.
Brand Touchpoints: Labels
Brand touchpoints of an informative nature are often overlooked. Labels, for example – if we think about clothes – are only supposed to show the size, materials, and washing tips. And yet, the label is one of the most intimate brand touchpoints, and can be used to let the brand speak.
Let’s mention a case everybody knows: the Patagonia brand used the labels from one of its collections to send a message to the Trump administration, by writing the message “Vote the a**holes out” on them.
Labels – whether they are sewn on or paper – have a strong communication potential. The choice of words matters here. Just think about the values evoked by the phrase that appears on all Apple products: “Designed by Apple in California. Assembled in China”.
Brand Touchpoints: Packaging
Not unlike labels, the packaging is often underused. Its primary function is to draw the attention of the customer and to create desire.
Just like the petals of a flower, the packaging is a fundamental weapon in the initial phases of the customer journey and a great brand touchpoint. Its usefulness doesn’t stop here, though. Packaging is also central – for some types of products – to the moment of unboxing. The ritual act of opening and unveiling the product has a strong emotional character: the way packaging has been designed and engineered will decide whether this moment is memorable or frustrating.
For other products – like shampoo, fruit juice or sake – the packaging stays with the customer until the product is finished. How many times have you read the text on the back of a shampoo bottle while you were showering? Or the information on the back of a juice carton?
To think that these texts only serve an informative purpose is reductive: we often read them to pass the time, and this is a chance, for the brand, to come to life and speak in its tone of voice. A very powerful brand touchpoint.
Brand touchpoints: a new look at the customer journey
It’s worth, then, taking a hard look at the customer journey: what opportunities are we missing? Which apparently secondary brand touchpoints could we enrich?
In order to do this, it’s useful to adopt the customer’s point of view and to track back her emotions and feelings. Very small moments (just like the unboxing or the reading of the manual) can have a deeper emotional impact than watching a YouTube video. And this is where we must be able to communicate properly.
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