Developing a brand is hard work.  Putting a brand to work is an even greater challenge.  At the same time, this is where branding gets fun.

In my column last week, I talked about branding through the lens of livestock.  Think back again to the important role of brands for centuries within the ranching industry.  How valuable is the rancher’s brand if he never shapes it into an iron, heats it in a fire, and applies it?  Take the thought a step further: imagine the livestock out of pasture and into the marketplace.  This is where the rancher’s brand really starts working.

Denton Convention & Visitors Bureau BrandA brand is nothing but a doodle until it goes to work.  Putting it to work takes time and money.  The Denton Original Independent brand rolled out in January 2012 and implementation is still underway.  From simple things like business cards to complicated tools like websites, execution is a “one foot in front of the other” process.  And it doesn’t end when the new stationary arrives.  This part of the branding process is the equivalent of shaping the branding iron and stoking the fire.  But branding is not happening until we use the iron and make our mark.

The Denton Original Independent brand is created to convey the “feeling” of Denton.  In our destination marketing strategies, every campaign, all messaging, and every outreach is designed to encompass that feeling.  But, a convention and visitors bureau has a giant challenge greater than just about any other business-behind-a-brand:  we have no control over the delivery of our product.

The rancher loads his livestock onto a trailer and personally delivers to the buyer.  He can even fluff a horse’s mane seconds before the client sees his purchase for the first time.   When marketing Denton, that final step in the process – that moment of truth – is in people’s hands wherever our visitor goes during his Denton stay.  It’s in the hands of the front desk attendant at the hotel; the server at the restaurant; the clerk in a store; the cashier at a convenience store.  It’s even in the hands of casual passersby.  The delivery of our brand is in everyone’s hands but our own.

I believe delivering on the promise is the most important step in the branding process.  And it does not occur in just one moment.  Rather, it is a series of moments that collectively make an experience.  If we fail to deliver, the brand will still be recognized, but for all the wrong reasons.  Managing the guest experience is essential.

Delivering the brand is the reason behind the Denton Convention & Visitors Bureau’s (DCVB) new creation:  Denton Originals Customer Service & Destination Training.  Throughout the summer, a pilot program has been underway with six champion businesses and their entire employee pools:  Homewood Suites Denton, Courtyard by Marriott Denton, Mellow Mushroom, both Denton locations of Beth Marie’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream, and El Guapo’s Restaurant.  The manger and front line teams within each of these businesses have completed the in-person or online version of our Denton-centric classes where we present customer service strategies guaranteed to upgrade the customer service within a business. The destination component reminds participants how cool Denton is and how lucky we are to work here.

Over the summer, the Denton Originals has played a major role in helping our Mellow Mushroom store reach the coveted Top 10 in Customer Service list in the entire Mellow Mushroom chain of more than 160 locations.  They hit the No. 3 spot on the chart.  Now they are aiming for No. 1, getting there and staying there.  Service matters!

A certificate on the wall and back to life as usual is not the goal for Denton Originals.  This innovative program has ongoing engagement through mystery shoppers, front line recognition, customer feedback, contests, a Facebook community, weekly communication with tips and insider info. The result?  Guests begin to expect excellence; businesses gain greater customer loyalty; front line workers earn more personal financial reward; and collective Denton experience is positively memorable: Denton. Original. Independent.

Denton Originals is open to all Denton businesses beginning September 3.  Face-to-face classes are available September 11 and 12 at the DCVB offices.  The online class is available anytime.  Send an email to kim@discoverdenton.com for registration links to class forums.