Touchpoints Are the Affirmation of Brand and Corporate Culture

Building a brand is about the many interconnected touches that define how consumers interpret that brand.

Welcome to the brave new world of "affirmation marketing." Anytime or anywhere you touch a brand - or, more to the point, a brand touches you - the opportunity for affirmation about a point of view on quality, origin, functionality, and even style is on the table. And let's not forget about the possibility to make an immediate or future transaction.

Brand affirmation is the precursor to brand adoption or acceptance, and is now embedded throughout the commercial ecosystem in innumerable touches. From customer service to retail to digital media, to experiential/word-of-mouth media (let alone traditional media outlets) -- to paraphrase a line from an unforgettable and culturally-defining song -- "It's a touchpoint world after all!" The point today is clear: Building a company or a brand is never about simply one touch, it's about the many interconnected touches that define how consumers and other stakeholders interpret and feel about a commercial enterprise.

It was only a few years ago that brands were the product of 30-second, one-way communications and a big event television was the brand performance-enhancing juice de jour. It was the ultimate mass "reach out and touch someone" delivery system ever created. And, contrary to the opinions of some, I know television still rocks: over 40 millions sets were tuned to the Oscars, making it the largest audience and highest-rated Oscars show ever. If you saw Sandra Bullock get a statute for The Blind Side, you also saw the first-ever iPad commercial.

Apple, maybe the most transcendent brand/company in history, still chooses the convention of event-driven television to introduce newsespecially big news. It's a touchpoint that doesn't just deliver massive reach - that's not the point of the touch - the real point is it can deliver a compelling narrative of the product's promise from a human experience or storyline perspective. It creates a context for many less emotional, but no less engaging, touches. The iPad at showcases many key product attributes from its technology backbone to its common and fluid iPod/iPhone navigational UX. The hand-off to Apple retail stores is equally seamless and compelling in the way the brand envelops the customer in the affirmation of just how cool it would be to own one. And, yes (of course!) social media platforms, especially Facebook, have everyone sharing in the excitement on a one-to-one and one-to-many basis.

Each touch along the iPad "affirmation trail" (or better yet, the "Affirmation Superhighway") was built on years of Apple product innovation, goodwill, and Steve Jobs' unrelenting, charismatic sense of the age we are in and how to service it. All of these touches were clearly strategic, and clearly layered accumulatively. In other words, none of them were accidental or coincidental.

Since the early 1980s marketers believed (and often rightfully so) that integrated marketing communication (IMC) was the way to reach and engage their customers most effectively and efficiently. The issue with IMC, like the issue with television, is that at its heart it's "push" driven, and when left alone to do the heavy lifting leaves a lot on the table.

Companies like Apple or Amazon, who invented, then reinvented, a better technology-affirming transactional experience, or Zappos, whose customer affirmation process keeps customers coming back time after time, lead the marketing charge. For these savvy companies and others like them, issues like "traditional media or social media" will be left out of the discussion and brands will think strategically about the power of their of touchpoints as the defining point(s) of difference in their customer experience and bottom line success. Now this is the kind of table any marketer wants a seat at.

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About the Author: Cliff Medney is chief creative strategist at Flightpath