By Any Other Name

Last week I had the privilege of seeing Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh speak as part of his Delivering Happiness book tour (got the book — hope to toss a review up here soon). During the course of his time on stage, Hsieh was walking through various points of the Zappos ethos when he came to a point that really struck me at the core of my value system. In reference to the importance of their customer service interactions (where they deliver happiness — get it?), Hsieh stated that rather than paid advertising, “the phone can be a pretty effective branding tool” as it facilities the real long term asset — the customer relationship.

I say this struck me because I couldn’t agree more. Too often ‘advertising agencies’ simply prescribe ‘more advertising’ as the solution to any business challenge. Sometimes redesigning packaging or other frontline touchables is the best solution. Sometimes writing a customer service manual is the best prescription (Zappos produces an annual “culture book” to help communicate internal culture). Regardless, branding is a multi-disciplinary, cross-functional practice that pulls in all customer touchpoints — from the ad they see, to the sales rep they buy from, to the package they receive in the mail. It’s all branding — by any other name. And as Tony and his “happiness gang” from Zappos proclaim, when you concern yourself first and foremost with your customers’ happiness you’ll reap long-term dividends in terms of customer loyalty and brand affinity.

In the end committing to an ethos or (gulp! core values) is at the very heart of what it means to be brand driven.

What do you think? What are non-traditional brand touchpoints that are integral to your customer’s experience?

Some Extras:

Here are Tony’s slides from the event at the Englert Theater in Iowa City:

Delivering Happiness – Englert Theatre 9-1-10

You can also see some live tweets from the event using the hash tag #ICsocial.

You can learn more about Zappos corporate culture development work through their offshoot, Zappos Insights. They’ll even send you a copy of their Zappos culture book!