By Gerry Lantz

Marketers, if they are good, compose a tightly positioned Brand Story around their products and services—and tell it at every interaction with potential customers. Smart brands tell their story across the spectrum of digital and traditional media. That’s the 50% you own as a marketer.

The customer experiences your brand as a product or service and the story you tell about it. In the digital age, of course, customers have near total control over which messages they pay attention to. So whatever impressions, perceptions, or experiences customers have of your brand is the “other 100%”. How can that be?

Your brand is not totally defined by what you say it is. It’s what your customers say it is, perceive it to be, and how they experience it in action. The customer owns 100% your brand based on my simple definition of what a Brand is:

A brand is a promise of an experience and the experience of that promise delivered.

And the percentage of who owns the brand is, to me, over-weighted on the second part of the definition—how the customers experiences the delivery of your brand’s promise. Therefore, to create, build, grow or refresh your brand, you better have a formal process to check in with customers via qualitative or quantitative research. Or simply talk with customers and ask open-ended questions about your brand. Top-of-mind impressions are critically important in a digital-search-SEO world. As Jeff Bezos reportedly said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” Here are some ways to listen in.

You can start that customer-centric listening internally. Talk to those internal players who are customer-facing. Anyone who delivers your brand’s experience to customers is a rich source of stories and feedback: sales, customer service, helpline responders, installers, returns department—even include back office staff through to production line and warehouse workers. They touch the brand and customers directly or by extension every day. (A benefit of asking for, listening to, and acknowledging staff thinking is that employees feel heard and valued. Therefore, they are less likely to be nay-sayers and more likely to feel ownership of the Brand and its values.)

Brands and their stories are built and thrive from two directions: inside-out and outside-in. Work both ways and maybe your success will total 150%!