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How Great Brands Are Like Cozy Blankets
By: Diane Levine
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I just had a terrific brand experience with the online retailer Fab.com. And the best part is, I didn't even realize it. Here's what happened.

Several months ago, a Facebook ad popped up for a company that promised "daily design inspirations and sales at up to 70% off retail." A sucker for those online sale sites (just ask RueLaLa, Sole Society, Haute Look, and Send The Trend), I signed up. Sure enough, after a few weeks of browsing (during which I did see many truly interesting, unexpected, and just plain cool products), I found exactly what I was looking for: a set of dinner plates with a funky design that I hadn't seen anywhere else. I ordered them right away. Then, I waited. And waited. And waited some more. Here's where things almost got ugly.

After trying unsuccessfully to contact Fab.com through their website, I went to their Facebook page and left a long, snippy comment that started with, "Any chance I can get a REAL update on the order I placed almost five weeks ago?" and ended with "I appreciate that Fab.com offers great discounts on cool products, but the process could really use some fine tuning." I figured I would receive one of those automated, do-not-reply emails telling me someone would contact me within 24 hours to resolve my issue. Instead, within five minutes, Fab.com commented on my Facebook post:

Hi Diane, I'm so sorry that you had to wait. It's strange that your email bounced back! We will follow up with you now.

And within the hour, I received this email from the "Fab.Com Crackerjack Team":

Hello Diane,
Thank you for your Facebook message. I hope you're having a fantastic week!

I'm so sorry about the delay in your order, as well as the lack of communication on a shipping timeline. We aim to be as transparent as possible with shipping times, and I apologize we fell short of our standards on this. I just checked on the status of your order, and see it's at our warehouse now, being prepared for shipment. My understanding is your order will get to you by Thanksgiving, as we realize many customers purchase their sets for the upcoming Holiday.

Regarding our current ship times, we're actively working to streamline the time it takes for orders to ship, including our recent addition, a new warehouse. As your time with us continues to grow, our shipping times will reduce - I promise! Thanks so much for being a part of Fab's early days. As soon as your order ships, you'll receive an email with tracking information for your order. Please let me know if you have any trouble on receipt.

All the best,

Jonathan Kuhn

At that point, my entire engagement with Fab.com had been going on for about three months. And despite all my professional experience, despite all the time I spend creating, producing, and analyzing the various elements that go into building a brand, here are a few things that I DIDN'T think along the way:

"I'm sure glad that their brand deliverables lived of up to their brand promise of daily design inspiration."
"Daily sale updates, weekly digest emails, AND Facebook? I love that they've given me so many brand touchpoints!"
"Wow, judging by that quick, non-automated response, excellent service must be one of their core brand values."
"Calling their customers service team 'crackerjacks' aligns perfectly with the brand language!"

But because all of those elements WERE in place, because they fit together so perfectly and worked together so seamlessly even in the face of operational challenges, the only thought I — as a consumer — really had about the Fab.com brand was the one they wanted me to have:

"I would do business with these people again."

That's how it works with real consumers in the real world. Brands aren't dissected and examined. They're absorbed. Customers don't experience your brand as a series of discrete touchpoints. They create a tapestry of all the various experiences and impressions that you put out there. Every single thread, from the typeface on the logo to the signature on the customer service emails, counts. Our job as branding professionals is to ensure that every single thread reinforces every other. That way, a little snag doesn't unravel the entire operation.  And when we do our jobs properly, consumers don't even realize how wrapped up in our brand they truly are. See how professional me just took 800 words to describe this experience? The consumer me can put it far more succinctly: 

"Cool stuff yay! Big problem boo! Problem solved yay! Let's shop some more!"

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About the Author
Diane Levine develops campaigns and writes killer copy for advertising agency, Think Creative. She also blogs, tweets, and writes about meat. Find her here
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