Stop Brandsplaining: Why pride of ownership may be killing your brand

Photo by Jerry Kiesewetter on Unsplash

I talk to many companies desiring to grow or evolve their businesses, and I’m often asked, “What do you think of my brand positioning?”

Frequently, I’ll have senior execs listen to my feedback and proceed to tell me what I should think about their brand.

Can we call this phenomenon brandsplaining? The most arrogant (or stubborn) of companies don’t even wait for the feedback to brandsplain how they think they are (or should be) perceived.

This reaction tells me a lot about the willingness of the people at these companies to evolve their businesses and create great customer experiences that drive growth and loyalty.

How does your brand make your customer feel?

People will have an emotional response to your brand that is positive, negative or neutral depending on you make the feel.

Do they feel happy, safe, secure or relieved? Do they feel included or cool? Do they feel sold or scared?

And you don’t have control over that emotional response beyond your initial attempt to provoke one. People don’t care how you want them to feel; they care how you make them feel.

People’s experience with your brand will define what they think. You certainly can’t brandsplain it. We know this, and yet, many companies struggle to build or evolve their user experience to match the brand promise they desire to achieve.

Often, pride of ownership in what the company has built is preventing its executives from evolving at the same pace their clients and customers are evolving. This pride is plaguing many companies I’ve talked to that struggle with the success of their own legacy as their customers’ wants and needs change.

Because yesterday’s customer liked the company’s approach, they had some modicum of success and were proud of what they did. Therefore, pride of ownership for what they built kicks in — and it keeps them from moving forward.

Does the experience you are building today match the users you want to reach tomorrow?

There is tremendous power in legacy when harnessed with an evolving experience.

This isn’t just about your digital experience or your Facebook ads. It’s the end-to-end customer experience across every touch point, physical and digital, that shapes brand perception.

Instead of pride of ownership, we need to start thinking about pride of experiences.

Building a great product or service isn’t enough. Your brand, your products and your services should never be “built.” They should be launched, and they should be constantly evolving to refine the experience your customers have.

How do brands evolve to deliver better experiences?

1. Source outside thinking

Your legacy team has a depth of knowledge that’s critical to run your business, but it also creates obstacles to new ways of thinking. That team knows what didn’t work or couldn’t work, and so obstacles present themselves instead of being removed. Outside thinking enables a fresh perspective. Think about how easy it is for a child to learn to ride a bike or ski, yet an adult learning for the first time has fears that make it significantly slower and harder. Because there is no pride of ownership for the way things were, it’s easier to focus on what’s ahead.

2. Understand user behavior and feelings

Long-term customer value and loyalty is driven by people’s perception of your brand, and that perception is shaped by what you do and how you make them feel. You must be able to identify customers across channels so you can understand their behavior and leverage that data to improve their experience. Analysis needs to be both quantitative and qualitative to track both behavior and how people feel. Qualitative feedback is often collected for clients or customers of the brand, but companies often fail to gather this information from people who chose not to work with them. Understanding why people didn’t work with you is just as important as why they did.

3. Create seamless, personalized experiences

People expect consistent, personalized experiences based on their interactions with you across channels. If they start online and continue with an offline connection, the don’t want to start over, especially with complex transactions. The most frequent barrier to deliver this is the ability to track users from end-to-end across channels. Lack of personalization frustrates users who expect to enter information only once. The data they give you is valuable. If a user provides you with information, they expect you to use it to help them, yet many brands collect that precious data with a focus on helping themselves. People don’t want to be sold; they want to be served. People expect the data they provide you will make their experience easier, better or faster.

4. Don’t restrict user experience to the Product department — and don’t restrict brand to Marketing and Communications.

Your brand is shaped by user experiences across every touch point. Every employee and every department somehow shapes your brand. Companies who silo either of these functions will struggle to deliver exceptional customer experiences from beginning to end, creating a fragmented user experience that frustrates rather than delights. If your shiny new website promises an instant approval, an instant report or trusted advice, and the backend experience fails to deliver, your brand will suffer.

5. Anticipate your customers’ needs tomorrow, not today.

Many companies are trying to innovate for today’s customer instead of tomorrow’s. If you’re waiting for your customers to tell you what they need, you are already behind. If you’re not constantly innovating, you’ll be left behind.

Build a legacy on experiences, not on brand

If you have to brandsplain what your brand is about, you have failed. It’s often said that companies no longer have control over their brand, but that’s inaccurate.

You do have control, but it’s not through your messaging and positioning. You control the experience you deliver. How you make your prospects, customers and clients feel through this experience will shape your brand.

When you align your customer experience with the brand promise, you’re creating a new legacy — a pride of experiences — that will carry you into the future.


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Ginger Wilcox is known for solving tough business problems with an innovative approach to brand marketing, strategic partnerships and growth. Most recently, Ginger was the Chief Marketing & Industry Officer for Sindeo, a fintech mortgage startup. Former Trulia, SMMI & Siebel.

Ginger is currently seeking new opportunities and problems to solve. Connect on LinkedIn, Follow on Facebook or say hi on Twitter.