For years now I’ve been running around using the term brand depth hoping it would catch on and I’d be given credit! When I use the term in meetings, I always get one old schooler that leans forward and asks me; “You mean brand equity, don’t you?” Nope. The concept is really easy with the goal being to have as deep a relationship with your customers as you can. (I mapped out the four levels when I first started this blog, eons ago; 1) findable, 2) recommendable, 3) transparent and 4) collaborative. In my mind the difference between brand equity and brand depth lies in the fact that the customer controls the type of relationship they wish to have with the brand. It’s your job to take it as deep as it will go. The key element to each of these potential types of relationship is interaction. The quality of the interaction, dictates the depth the relationship can go.

Enter the iPad. With Apple’s incredible understanding of the user interface; quality recently got it’s biggest ally. As of late last year I started to see examples of brands like Wineshopper.com selling twice as much product on their iPad optimized website. This not only speaks to the quality of the site but how the iPad is used. The iPad is an engagement tool.

Before I continue, let’s get one thing clear. The iPad is not a mobile device and it’s also not a laptop. Although most of the time, during its peak hours of usage (6am-8am, 8pm-10pm), I bet it is in people’s laps. It’s something else. It’s an entertainment device with technology at its heart. The iPad is a personal device, similar to your mobile phone. (Until the iPad, your laptop was kind of your buddy and now your laptop is just for work.) So, how can businesses utilize the iPad to build brand depth? (I won’t get business model specific so some of these will relate to your model and some won’t.)

Customer service – After reading Delivering Happiness, I started to hear about online businesses leading new marketing efforts with customer service. This makes sense because customer service is one of the rare moments that a business actually get’s to talk directly to their customer. The iPad and the increasing usage of Facetime, offers the opportunity for transparency during the interaction with video chat; putting the focus on efficacy instead of efficiency. This puts a face to your business and yes, customer service organizations would need to be rethought but the opportunity for a compelling experience is there.

I’ve used Skype for many years and I have to tell you that video interaction on an iPad is more personal then a video call on a laptop. It may be because you’re actually holding the device. Not sure.

Sales – If your selling a product, the large touch screen on the iPad introduces an intuitive way for customers to interact with your product. Something they can’t yet do with their laptop. Let’s use a Trek Madone as our product. A potential customer can zoom on on the crankset and then rotate their way around the object, using their fingers to find exactly what they’re looking for. (This a great way of virtualizing your product.) This example along with building your own bike (which Trek.com does) allows for some sense of ownership even before they’ve bought the product. They know the product.

Product Management – Let’ say that you’re Trek and you’d like to know if one of the changes you’re making to the Madone is going to be received well. Or you have two variations of the potential changes. You could collaborate with your customer base to collect feedback on which would be the best option. Yes. This type of “voting” already exists and yet it allows potential customers to personalize the product on more physical level. Who knows? Maybe you make both variations of the bike!

Billing – Stop me if you’ve heard this one before . . . “What the hell is that charge?” I think it would be pretty cool to click into a charge and see its constituent parts and then drill down even further. (Think Yahoo! 99!) Maybe you could then drag a questionable item into the customer support queue. A very small thing but more intuitive.

Project Management – Excellent project managers know that the focus of their profession is communication. This is the iPad’s strength and the potential to add user generated notes along the way could add tremendous value towards ensuring all stakeholders are on the same page. If you really did want to monkey with managing the timeline using a Gant chart, think of the potential of rearranging dependencies with the touch screen. Could actually be somewhat enjoyable.  Something you don’t hear many PMs mention about their job.

All of these interactions could increase brand depth with your customers and employees, allowing for a long-term relationship to flourish. (Employees make great conduits!) I’m not sure, because I haven’t read it yet, but I hope this is what Guy Kawasaki is talking about in his new book Enchantment. I’ll let you know.

Brand depth and the iPad