It never ceases to make me cringe. I will be in a room with some marketing expert who starts chirping about a new branding initiative. And when I inquire about the new branding effort the conversation immediately shifts to how the company's new name, logo and color palette really capture the essence of the organization and its rich history. Completely absent from the conversation, though, are the customers and how they perceive the company. 

A company's brand is the experience that its customers, and business partners to a lesser extent, have when interacting with the organization. One of the most powerful and recognizable brands in the foodservice industry today is Starbucks. And, no, this does not apply exclusively to coffee drinkers. When you see the green-hued image of the siren your mind automatically develops its own impression of that foodservice outlet, be it a company-owned store or another operation that "proudly serves Starbucks coffee".

That's because Starbucks does a good job of carrying over a consistent experience from one location to the next. It starts with the aroma that greets customers and extends to the noises made by staff as they grind espresso drinks to order and to the way they encourage employees at the store level to get to know their regular customers, greet them by name and memorize their typical beverage of choice. For me, it's a venti dark roast without room for cream, in case you were wondering.

Another company that does a good job of this is Chipotle. The ordering process, food quality and the general industrial ambiance are a constant from one location to the next. As a result, members of the millennial generation flock to Chipotle with such regularity that the chain has become the envy of countless restaurant operators. Young people don't flock to Chipotle and linger there because of the comfortable seating or the spiffy logo they have. Rather, they embrace the simple yet customizable menu, the chain's socially responsible message about sourcing its food and the warm and welcoming vibe that comes from the staff and the company's messaging.

Indeed, by paying attention to such details, chains like Starbucks and Chipotle form an emotional connection with their customers by providing them with an experience that would be incredibly difficult to replicate on their own.

Successful brands start from the inside and work their way out through the employees to the customers. They are the product of passion and attention to detail. More to the point: it's about putting the customer first and understanding how they interact with every aspect of your business, regardless of location. From your website to your tabletop to the way customers pay, no detail is too small to consider or should be overlooked in shaping your brand.

By putting the customer first and keeping a close eye on the details you, too, can develop the experience-based brand equity that will position your company for continued growth.