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Employees are the Brand’s Whipped Cream
By: Cindy Wendland
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Marketing and branding strategies are developed in various ways. Customer feedback and social media may play a role. Strategies may be top-down driven or bottom-up created. Implementation is where the strategy can shine or flail.

Commercials, videos, social media engagement, in-store displays, couponing, and more convey a brand’s image and message. Multiple impressions drive home the theme and, if done according to plan, the target market develops a positive opinion of the brand and buys it. At the point of purchase, employees can make or break the branding proposition.

All companies have some form of employee training. Continually Apple store employees are used as the benchmark for qualified, knowledgeable employees. When employees feel valued and respected, they will tend to display that posture to the customer, and this reinforces the brand. Have you noticed that companies that don’t perform as well have employees servicing you that are not friendly or cop an attitude? In contrast, have you been given a coupon for a free beverage at Starbucks if they felt you waited too long?

Starbucks ranks high in their customer service and employee excellence ratings. Recently a Starbucks employee went significantly out of her way to help a customer. Now that calorie counts are listed on the menu, it is possible to make a selection based on calories. After realizing that the beverage of choice was the highest calorie content drink and explaining this to the barista, she quickly talked up the app. The Starbucks app allows you to “play” with the ingredients of your beverage to adjust the calorie count. Her knowledge, friendliness, and helpfullness scored a 10 and reinforced the excellence of the Starbucks brand.

Turns out the whipped cream was the kicker in adding calories to the drink, but also the favorite part, so she showed how a different drink could be ordered but still include the whipped cream for a reduced calorie count. The drink was still delicious and her helpfulness remembered. A company can do everything right in their branding efforts, yet employees will always be the whipped cream that have the potential to delight us.

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About the Author
Cindy Wendland has a background in marketing and finance. She is the creative director for an online men's health magazine, BrainBrawnBody.com, and she gets to write their leisure/travel blog. She is also a web designer helping her clients with online community engagement, websitesbywendland.com. Prior to her web years, she worked in pharmacy consulting.
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