A while back, I purchased a new Onkyo a/v receiver. Before making my purchase, I visited several product review websites and online retail sites, looked through various home theater magazines, and even stopped by some good old brick and mortar retailers to thoroughly check out the landscape. I made a short list of product candidates, then set about finding the best pricing. I believed the Onkyo product I eventually bought met my particular needs best, plus I’d owned an Onkyo stereo receiver for the previous 25 years and never had trouble so I had no problem deciding to buy another of their products.

A couple of months later, my new receiver began faultering. I checked the Onkyo website for local authorized repair centers and also confirmed my unit was still under warranty. The warranty service was completed and the receiver worked fine for a few weeks until it faultered once again. Frustrated, I once again sent the unit in for warranty service and, once again, the receiver was repaired. It worked fine until a week or two later when the same problem occurred yet again. I contacted Onkyo directly and was informed that, under the terms of the warranty, if a unit continued to faulter after three warranty repairs, Onkyo would replace the product. So, off my reciever went for the third repair. Within a week, the problem presented itself again and I once again contacted Onkyo to arrange for a replacement. They sent me a pre-paid carton which was to be used to return the defective unit, which I dutifully did. A few days later, a brand new (and upgraded!) receiver was delivered to my doorstep.

Since then it’s worked beautifully and I expect it to continue to do so in spite of the fluke I experienced with the defective unit.

During this process, I counted nearly 30 individual interactions I had with the Onkyo brand: brand touch points.  Everything from online reviews and recommendations, to articles and advertising, to the retailer I experienced as I made my purchase, to my previous experience with product quality, to the product feature set and user experience, to the Onkyo website, to the authorized service center, to the warranty, to the customer service rep who processed my warranty claim, to the return shipping  box I received — and more.

Each and every one of those touch points helped me to form or reaffirm an image about the brand that would lead me to become even more loyal than I already might have been, or drive me away (perhaps forever) to one of the many competitive brands I likely could be just as happy with.

As my experience with Onkyo suggests, brand touch points can usually be grouped into four interrelated but distinctive customer activity sets:

  1. Pre-purchase touch points
  2. During-purchase touch points
  3. Post-purchase touch points
  4. Influencing touch points

Successful management of these brand touch points requires that you:

  1. Identify all of them you can think of for your brand, considering the four basic sets
  2. Prioritize them relative to their importance in supporting the creation of brand loyalty
  3. Develop an operational standard for how the touch point should be delivered
  4. Manage and assess the delivery of them across the brand organization to ensure the standard is met

Brand touch points are a vital component of your brand identity — your plan for what you want your target audiences to take away from interactions with your brand. How well you perform in managing the delivery of your touch points will determine what kind of brand image is actually formed by those audiences.

Why all the trouble?

Because, in spite of what you say or do, how your customers and prospects interact with your brand leads to the formation of their image about your brand. This determines whether or not they’ll do business with you the first time, or ever again.

I’d say that’s worth the trouble. If you need help with this, let us know here at 34 North. It’s no trouble at all.