An Utterly Simple Summary of Brands, Branding, and Customer Service

“A great brand raises the bar—it adds a greater sense of purpose to the experience, whether it’s the challenge to do your best in sports and fitness, or the affirmation that the cup of coffee you’re drinking really matters.” – Howard Schultz, Starbuck’s Coffee, president, CEO and chairman

While brands are most often thought of in relation to retail products and services, brands are equally important for business-to-business service companies and all customer service providers. A company’s brand is much more than just its products or services. It’s also more than just the visual elements seen in a logo, tagline, color scheme, and so on.

The various elements of a brand—identity, positioning, promise—form the basis of a company’s relationship with its customers and employees; and play a part in how the business is positioned in the market.

A great brand translates a company’s vision and mission into a sense of goodwill; it gives the customer an emotional reference point for his or her experience with customer. Naturally, to earn this sense of goodwill, a company must effectively incorporate its brand into the customer service experience.

But how do you put this concept to work for your company? As a starting point, it helps to have a better understanding the elements of a brand, and why it’s important to preserve the integrity of this brand in all internal and external points-of-contact, especially in customer service.

To this end, the following list provides brief overview of key concepts in branding.

Brand identity

The outward expression of a company’s brand position. For example, a company’s logo, typeface, and color palette. Brand identity is fundamental to consumer recognition and symbolizes the brand’s differentiation from competitors.

Brand position

Brand positioning is the way you want customers to perceive, think about, and feel about your products and services as well as your values and culture. A brand position is expressed in the following elements:

  • Unique value
  • Key differentiators
  • Specific customer value

A company’s brand position is best expressed by its values, vision, mission and goals. For example, Sanrio, the company best known for making Hello Kitty, has my favorite mission statement as expressed in the company’s tagline: Small gift, big smile.

With an enormous catalog of figurines, toys, and accessories, Sanrio has countless of examples of gifts small in stature that bring big smiles and joy to children all over the world.

It’s best described in their own words as found at

It’s more than just a catchy phrase; it’s the foundation of everything we do, and we’re proud to say we’ve been creating smiles for over 40 years.

At Sanrio, we believe that a gift is more than just a gift. Rather, a gift is a means of expressing our heartfelt feelings for others. This philosophy guides all Sanrio activities, whether we’re designing a stationery set, a retail store, or an animated television series.

From Sanrio boutiques showcasing the ultimate Sanrio collection to smaller assortments in other shopping environments, we invite all our friends and guests to experience the magic of these four simple words.

Brand promise

A brand promise, most simply, is the level of service your customers should expect from every interaction with your company and its employees. The Domino’s Pizza 30-minute delivery pledge, first instituted back in the 1980s one of the more recognizable examples of the past few decades.

As the popularity of pizza delivery soared, delivery time became a critical differentiator and. While the pledge was unceremoniously dropped in 1993, Domino’s saw its business soar with the successful implementation of this promise.

Regardless, the 30-minute delivery became industry standard for a time, and Domino’s had strengthened its brand by getting there first.

Products vs. brands

In some ways, the concept of brands and branding can seem abstract. In his fantastic book BrandSimple, Allen P. Adamson provides an excellent reference chart for thinking about products (or services) in relation to brands.



A product occupies functional territory. It does something.

A brand exists in your head. It stands for something.

A product is based on something tangible. It’s bigger, faster, longer lasting.

A brand is based on associations. It makes you feel something.

A product expands choice. “Where do you want to stop for lunch?”

A brand simplifies choice. “Let’s go to Subway.”

One product can be identical to another. “It comes with earphones.” 

A brand differentiates. “I want the one with white earbuds.”

If you’re interested in learning more about brands, branding, and customer service, a quick Google search will unveil countless free resources, many in the form of blogs from people much smarter than me. For my money (and time), BrandSimple is the best place to start. It’s a quick engaging read with tons of simply stated reference and case studies.

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