Don’t Forget About the Small Moments

When we think of branding, what usually come to mind are elements and tactics that are often broad in scale. We’re talking about product design, packaging, retail space and signage design, standardized look-and-feels and color palettes, multi-channel campaigns, etc.—things that typically carry a lot of weight in creating initial impressions. There’s no doubt that all of these are major factors in building a critical foundation for a brand.

At the same time, there are abundant smaller opportunities that lie in between these components or beyond first impressions that can further strengthen brand engagement and good will. These are customer contact points that are often regarded as operational steps rather than brand-building opportunities. However, when viewed through a branding lens, they can occupy valuable real estate in a customer’s perceptual landscape. And most of the time, they require little or no additional marketing costs.

Here are several examples of frequently overlooked brand-building touchpoints.

1. In-package messages

Why limit these to just care instructions and warranty information? When a customer is opening a package, you have their full attention while they’re already thinking about your purchase in a favorable light. It’s a great opportunity to reinforce your branding with a thank you note, suggestions for new product uses, a tie-in with a cause or organization that mirrors your brand’s values, etc.

2. Invoices/billing

No one likes getting a bill. But it’s yet another moment where you have a customer’s attention and, accordingly, an opportunity to impact their view of your brand. Turn frowns upside down and boost positive views with a special offer for longtime customers, an in-store coupon, an incentive or reward for early payment, an invitation to share suggestions for further improving the customer experience, and more.

3. WiFi passwords

One of the first actions a customer frequently takes when entering a retail environment is to connect their mobile phone to the nearest available wifi network. You can allow them to connect automatically, which is always appreciated. But you can also leverage this touch point with a password that reinforces key brand messages or merits. It can change with special promotions and seasonal merchandise, or you can align it with key hashtags on your social media channels.

4. On-hold messages

As with bills, on-hold recordings are universally regarded as an aggravation. Still, there’s no reason not to make the most of this touch point to lower annoyance levels and convey helpful or interesting information about your business. In addition to some of the messaging mentioned above, your on-hold messaging can include a series of “did you knows” about how and why the company was founded, factoids on its founders and early days, how the company acquired its name, or maybe even interesting stories about individual employees who exemplify what your brand is all about.

5. QR codes

If you’ve visited a restaurant during the COVID-19 pandemic, you may have needed to scan a QR code at your table in order to view a menu. As we’ve become conditioned to this process, why not take advantage of it in other environments where scanning a QR code results in a reward? It could be as simple as a sticker or refrigerator magnet with your logo that’s received at checkout, an entry for a drawing, a lollipop for kids, or a QR code-only discount or offer. The point is to encourage your customers to engage with your environment at every opportunity—and to show your appreciation for their effort.

6. Personalization

We all get a small thrill whenever we see something personalized with our name (outside of a bill or a legal summons) or which reflects something about us. A few years ago, Coca Cola turned this into a major element of its branding when it began adding popular first names to the labeling on its bottles. It was such a sales success that ultimately over 800 first names were added to bottles, and even popular last names were later included in the labeling as well. In the UK, Coca Cola further extended this effort by including favorite vacation destinations of Brits, such as Hawaii and Miami, on the labels.

Small but meaningful efforts show your customers that you’re paying attention to them and are genuinely striving to make as many of their engagements with you as enjoyable as possible. Even if your brand has a lofty or highly specialized purpose, these small steps can comfortably fit within the boundaries of any brand in any industry.