Delivering on your brand – when little things become BIG things

Never underestimate the effect the little things can have on your business and your brand.

As a marketer I talk a lot about living up to your brand promise.

I strongly believe that no amount of advertising, promotion or social media content will help you get or keep customers if other parts of your business are letting your brand promise down.

So what do I mean by brand promise?

Brand promise often starts with the words you use to describe your business and its unique selling proposition or point of difference.

This brand promise is often reflected in a tagline or slogan. To give you an example, I know a real estate agent whose tagline (and by default his brand promise) is something like ‘excellence in customer service’.

While it’s not the most unique or powerful tagline, it’s not a disaster…except for the fact that my personal experience dealing with that agent led me to believe he had terrible customer service.

The short version is that we had put a signed contract in to buy a property listed with him and waited to hear back with the vendor’s response – we never heard back.

On contacting him he advised us he actually accepted a contract from another buyer (for a similar amount we were offering) and hadn’t bothered coming back to us for further negotiation. Ethically it’s very questionable, but more to the point, he did not live up to his brand promise.

Brand promise goes further than the tagline. The reality is that everything you and your ‘business’ does and represents contributes to how your brand is perceived and whether people want to buy from you.

To illustrate my point let’s use a fictional widget store and assume you’re in the market to buy a particular widget. So you type into google the widget name and your city and you find a stockist, but its 50km away.

You click on their website and confirm they sell that widget – you need this widget desperately so you ring the number listed to check if it’s in stock before driving to the store.

The number goes to a recording where you are prompted to press 1 for X and 2 for Y or hold to be transferred to a helpful team member. You are kept on hold for 10 minutes, listening to bad piped music before being transferred to an outsourced call centre overseas.

The person you speak to is very friendly, though a little hard to understand. They tell you they can’t access the inventory for the store so will transfer you to the store manager. You’re on hold again for another 10 minutes before you’re accidentally cut off.

You give up on the phone call and figure you’ll drive out to the store anyway. It’s 8am on a Wednesday and you have to bundle up the kids in the car (master 2 and miss 4) but you really need that widget. You try to double check the opening hours online but the hours aren’t listed.

You drive to the store and discover there’s no parking nearby. You and the kids have to walk a few blocks before getting to the store and finding out that they don’t open until 10am on a Wednesday (it’s just gone 9am).

You really need that widget so you and the kids sit down outside the grimy looking front door. It’s the height of summer and everyone is hot.

Finally a pimply 16 year old turns up at 10.05am barely gives you a nod and unlocks the store.

You go inside the store only to be told that the air conditioner is on the blink. You enquire about the widget but the retail assistant shrugs and says he’ll have to check the computer and it will take at least 10 minutes for the system to boot.

You go and look for the widget yourself but the aisles aren’t labelled and you feel like you’re looking for a needle in a haystack. You finally find where they should be on the shelf but notice that there’s none left.

The retail assistant finally gets onto the system and tells you that the widgets are on order and were supposed to be in yesterday but haven’t arrived yet. He’s unable to give you an estimated delivery date.

When pushed he tells you that they are actually at the distribution centre, which happens to be in your home suburb. You ask whether you can pay for the widget now and pick it up from the distribution centre. He says “no that’s against policy and it has to be delivered to the store first”.

You ask whether you can pay an additional charge for it to be delivered instead to your house, and you guessed it, he says “No that’s against store policy”. You ask him to check with the store manager and he says you have to send an email via the Contact Us form on the website.

You walk out of the store in disgust; screaming, hot, tired and hungry kids in tow and no closer to getting your widget.

So how are you feeling about this organisation and brand? I suspect you wouldn’t be a fan.

Now you might think that my story is far fetched…it’s not…I personally have experienced nearly all of this on one day at a multinational store. That being said, it only takes one or two of these missteps to damage your brand.

Whether it’s your website, hotline, parking, cleaning, customer service, point of sale system, air conditioning, punctionality – every single one of them presents an opportunity to enhance or damage your brand – every one of them is a moment of truth for your business.

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Kylie Fennell
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