Brand management is essential. The expectation you set (brand promise) needs to be authentic and align with the customer’s actual experience.
Let’s take a quick look at a recent outing I went on with my son – he is in middle school and has been really stressed out lately. Telling a baby teenager to unplug and relax, maybe even meditate is a tough ask. So we decided to go extreme and try out a sensory deprivation floatation pod. We were both pretty excited to float for an hour in the dark with no distractions.
We get there and step into this super chilled out lounge – we’re talking relaxing music playing gently in the background and a soothing aroma as soon as you walk in the door.
Everything about the place oozed calmness and tranquility. From the decor to the smell, to the super-chilled guy at the desk.
Mr. Super-Chilled explains how everything works and we’re psyched to get started.
“We also have a loyalty program, you just sign up here and we give you 2 float sessions a month to come in and just chill, anytime you want. If you don’t use them that month, they just roll onto the next month.
No pressure. Relax anytime you want. Share one with a friend. Let them roll over to the next month. If you decide to stop your membership, and you still have unused float sessions, you get to keep those. No worries. No expiration date.”
Now that’s a brand managed right – they have a totally authentic brand that is true to who they are.
A chilled out, laid back service from a company selling relaxation services. That vibe carries through the management of the business, all the way down to the fine print.
Now imagine if they had a strict “use it or lose it” expiration policy for the monthly sessions with a lot of red tape. That’d send your BS sensor and stress levels soaring again – why? Because you come here to relax, you don’t need more rules to live by.
By following their brand ethos from beginning to end, this company’s brand management is authentic. They think about everything they do. Everything has a reason, down to the tiny details.
Now, let’s look at an example of inauthentic brand management – the shitshow that is AT&T.
Their friendly commercials may make you feel that they care, have business units that are highly integrated, and they are there to serve all of your communication needs – but holy hell the actual service delivered is something else entirely!
If you’ve ever tried to buy from them, or even worse, cancel one of their services, you know what I’m talking about. For those of you lucky enough to have avoided them so far, I’ll give you a quick rundown of my last run-in with them:
- I wanted to buy in-car wifi for my mommy van so I can jack into the interwebs and be productive while waiting outside my kids’ dance classes, art classes, tutoring, etc.
- In theory, I should be able to order this for my new Odyssey from AT&T’s slick “car wifi” specific web page
- Select your year, make, model and enter your VIN#
- I entering my make, model and VIN… an alert popped up for me to call an 800 # to submit a trouble ticket… errr, weird, but ok, done.
- Six days and 4 troubleshooting phone calls later, they finally figured out that my 2018 expensive mommy van was one fancy tier shy of their service working (shouldn’t this have been a simple look-up table? Make/model/year=yes/no)
- I ask if there is another way to get wifi in my mommy van (and to throw money at them)
- “What about the plugin doodad I saw at the bottom of your landing page?”
- “Oh yes, that will work”… “
- “Ok, I want that” ….
- Pause …. “You have to go to an AT&T store for that”.
- #$%^&*!!! Seriously!
- I call a store so I don’t waste my time going there.
- Fun fact: If a store doesn’t answer in 3 rings it rolls over to the main generic AT&T number. And I am lost in phone directory hell. They sell so many services that they all can’t be stuffed into the directory options. Clearly no option to select for ordering a plugin doodad for vehicle wifi.
- No one I spoke to knew how the service worked.
- Finally got through to the store. They said, “uh, we don’t carry that, look online.”
- I found the page within their site to order the doodad…. A constant mobile hotspot is in my future! I place the order, pay, feeling annoyed but accomplished. Whoo-hoo!
- Two days later, I get an email “something went wrong with your order, call (generic main phone number). Without a resolution, your order will be canceled in 48 hours.” This was the message, I’m not paraphrasing.
- Seriously!! What IS the problem? Do they not want my money??
- I call the damn number, no logical option to choose, so I hit 0 and scream into the phone “CUSTOMER SERVICE”, “SPEAK TO A HUMAN”, “HELP!”
- Every single roadblock that could be put in front of me was firmly in place.
- I tried so hard to give them my money. They had a solution that would solve my problem. But they wouldn’t let me buy it.
- The problem? AT&T is so big, they overlook the little details. The slick marketing team puts out ads that set an expectation that their infrastructure can’t satisfy. They’ve branched out into so many different services; their core services are suffering. None of their databases are connected. They don’t really care when clients fall through the cracks because they are so huge.
This is an extreme example, sure. But I’ve seen small companies that never take the time to call their own voice mail system. Or look at the crazy red tape and paperwork required to submit a project to them. Or recognize that the badass salesperson who spends an extra 3 hours each night struggling to enter job orders because she is not tech-savvy, could soar higher if only she had an assistant.
Remember, branding is both external and internal company culture.
If your staff feels like they’re not taken care of, they start to not care about the company and are easily poached by competitors.
Customers are often tied to the sales rep, if they go, often customers go with them.
So, if you want to avoid becoming an inauthentic brand people hate dealing with, think about your clients’ interactions with your brand, no matter how small the touchpoint is. Pay attention to the details.
Think about your brand from the inside out and the outside in.
Actively work on managing your brand. You’re never too big or too small to do this.
If you find that your company is out of alignment, the process of rebranding can identify and help tighten your business, your internal culture and your clients.
We’ve been helping companies like you do exactly that for over 30 years.
Here at Branding & Beyond, we’ll help you find what already exists, clean it up and bring clarity to your messaging.
Our goal is to align your business by creating a strong foundation and strategy that supports your website and marketing. When you work with us, you’ll know exactly what’s on-brand and what’s off-brand and what’s best for your company’s positioning going forward.
Sound good? Let’s chat!
Tracy O’Shaughnessy Founder / Lead Brand Strategist of Branding & Beyond
Tracy and her team help B2B firms in the construction industry and professional services look and sound credible online and off.
She has been in the industry since the early '90s and is tired of great companies being treated as commodities and competing on price because they don't look and sound as credible as they really are.
You can find Tracy on Linkedin and here on this blog.