Consumers are driven by needs and wants. But before the actual purchase happens there lies the very volatile territory of expectations. Expectations are fueled by the media, by claims, by other people’s experiences, and by one’s own experiences. On the other hand, companies make products and add layers around them to create brands. The very nature of branding is to differentiate. And this comes with a promise.
A customer is drawn towards brands that promise to meet their expectations. When the customer first experiences the brand, there is an instant evaluation about whether it meets the expectations. The expectations generally revolve in varying degrees around three levels: functional, emotional and self-expressive. If these are fulfilled the brand has lived up to its promise. The power of the brand is determined by the extent of the overlap between the expectations and the delivery of the promise.
In short, the greater the overlap between a customer’s expectations and the delivery of the brand’s promise, the more powerful the brand experience for the customer. It is also to be remembered that every brand should strive to continuously increase the overlap. This is because the competition keeps raising the bar and thus raising customer expectations as well. The moment there is a slip, the competition is only too keen to move in to deliver on its own promises.
When it comes to the overlap, the company cannot only look internally. It has to also listen to customers and monitor their expectations. There is a dynamic element to this entire process that the company has to manage. The overlap also keeps changing but as long as the company can continue to deliver on its promises at every customer touch point, it can expect to meet their expectations and thwart the competition.
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