Posted on March 19, 2018 by Dennis Snow
A few days ago I was reading an article about the power of certain company brands, such as Coca Cola, Apple, Disney, and several others. These iconic brands own unique images in the minds of their customers and the public in general. And they each have a unique brand promise that relates to what customers can expect every time they experience the company’s products or services.
As I was reading the article and doing some further research on the topic of brands and brand promises, the word “unique” kept popping up. But the more I think about it, the more I believe that certain generalizations can be made about an organization’s brand promise, based on the very nature of the business or industry they’re in. There are some elements of a brand promise that are implied.
An element of any airline’s brand promise, for example, is that they will get you to your destination safely. I think that promise is implied. Yes, a particular airline will likely have a unique brand image, but getting you safely to your destination is certainly part of any airline’s brand promise. Regardless of a fine dining restaurant’s unique brand image, an important element of their brand promise is that they’ll provide great food along with great service. And part of any hospital’s brand promise is that they’ll provide quality medical care. I’m making some generalizations here, but I’m sure you get the idea. Certain parts of an organization's brand promise are just implied.
Here’s the point: Everything the customer sees, hears, smells, tastes, or touches impacts their experience with your organization, and anything out of alignment with your brand promise creates a disconnect in the mind of the customer. While customers may not consciously notice every detail, subconsciously clues to your organization are being communicated. And it doesn’t take too many broken brand promises to damage an organization’s overall brand – sometimes beyond repair.
As a customer, I’m always looking for examples of how the details of my experience are either aligned or misaligned with an organization’s brand promise. Here are a few photos I’ve taken (or have been sent to me) that highlight some brand promise disconnects, along with commentary:
The idea of seeing a duct taped window as you’re boarding a plane is a pretty significant disconnect from the brand promise of “getting you to your destination safely,” wouldn’t you agree? I’m sure that the plane was perfectly safe, but the message communicated by this image screams anything BUT safety.
Based on this sign, would you truly believe that the office space is “Class A”? It might be, but I would think if you’re marketing Class A office space, your sign would reflect a Class A image, or at least Class B. This sign’s image is much farther down the alphabet.
After a great meal at a fine dining restaurant, you decide you’d like to take the leftovers home. After paying a couple hundred bucks for a meal, wouldn’t you expect a nicer presentation? I doubt this photo reflects the restaurant’s image the way they’d like. There’s a disconnect between the promise of great food/great service and a cheap plastic bag you might get at the grocery store.
While I don’t expect a fine dining experience from a quick-serve restaurant, I do assume that things are clean and sanitary. Cleanliness is part of any restaurant’s brand promise. This photo, taken while I waited in a drive-thru line, doesn’t support that assumption of cleanliness. Yes, I know trashcans are behind the gate, but I don’t need to see them. (The gate was open the entire time I was there.)
Is this REALLY where a doctor’s office should keep their thermometer sleeves? I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a used cup, but should that thought even cross my mind? An implied part of any physician’s brand promise is attention to detail, sterile materials/equipment, and order. Enough said.
While this photo is from an employee work area rather than a customer area (it's a small, wooden suggestion box), it’s on point. If you really want me to believe that you value my suggestions, wouldn’t you find another place for the paper shredder than directly underneath the suggestion box?
Keep in mind that I could have just as easily shown photos that are positive examples of the details reinforcing an organization’s brand promise. But it’s much more fun to show the negative examples.
Here’s a valuable exercise for any organization: With your team, have a discussion about your organization’s brand promise, or your department’s brand promise if that’s more appropriate. Then take a team walk-through of your location, looking for examples of brand promise disconnects. With a brand promise mindset, it’s likely that the disconnects will be obvious to you and your team, as well as what should be done to correct the problem areas. Making this exercise a regular practice can’t help but move you in the direction of consistently delivering on the promise of the brand.
Something to think about: What’s the brand promise your organization makes to your customers? Are any details of the customer experience out of alignment with that promise?