Branding is not something you add to a list of things to do! Branding is also NOT the same thing as a theme! When you are a large national chain, the “brand–logo, store layout, color schemes” are ONLY THEMES! The local presence of each store carries its own “brand” based upon the customer engagement and store environment. Branding is a by-product of customer engagement, esthetics and all aspects of the environment in your place of business (sight, sounds & smells). From the moment a customer sets foot into your establishment the branding experience begins, whether it is a market place or a service oriented environment; in theater and film, it goes something like this “Lights, camera, action!” Don’t forget, the customer enters the scene and YOU ARE ON!!!! Just take a look at Twitter and store specific
- Poor Service Environment Example
I recently attended a class for software training which began on a Monday and was supposed to last a week. However, due to a lack of testing prior student arrival, the class was rife with issues. There were storms over the weekend and our COX network connection was constantly up and down. The virtual images for the computing environment on classroom computers was also flaky and finally after the first lab, the computing environment failed. We were sent to lunch, with the promise that the instructor would look at the image while we were at lunch. We returned only to find that indeed–only the instructor (not the entire organizational staff) attempted to fix the situation without success. So, hoping we could limp along using only the text book and the instructor’s show & tell method, we sat through 7 modules of mental equivalent of all bran muffins (not wild about those if you can’t tell). Eventually, our lead requested that the class be rescheduled for the following week so the classroom environment could be corrected.
Even after returning the following week, the instructor had several “glitches” with the demos and labs. The overall experience could have been shortened by providing a well equipped lab, access to the book (instructions) and a technical SharePoint subject matter expert on site to assist if students had issues. The break area was not always stocked with items and the instructor read from book. The most consistent positive thing about the experience was that the men’s restroom was always clean and the paper towels never ran out! I know this critique is kind of harsh…but really folks. Its the small things that add up to a perceived overall opinion (branding image) within the customers mind about whether or not yours is a place they want to give repeat business.
- Poor Product (Retail) Environment Example
I’ve been wanting to write about this for some time, and couldn’t figure out a way to vent my frustration. I would voice my “comment” directly on the hardware store’s website but I don’t want to dish on the entire store chain. I have a legitimate gripe which I should not have to voice but apparently not everyone is bothered by my issue. When you walk into a hardware store… what thoughts and smells come to mind? Maybe the scent of fresh lumber, the sound of a whirring saw blade or a paint shaking machine, maybe even bright lights from the lighting area? No…. not this place I visit.
I love this hardware store’s products, cleanliness, and most of the customer service reps…. except one! This individual shaves off her eyebrows and paints them back on displaying a constant surprised expression…and sometime before arriving to work she visits a vat somewhere to marinate in the most heady perfume for an hour or so. If she’s at work, I can smell her when I walk in the door–even though she’s on the other side of the store! My kids give me a hard time about my constant commenting when she is in the store. My throat seizes up, my nostrils’ natural sensing capabilities are on perfume override. I certainly NEVER linger or browse when she’s in the store and I pray she’s not my cashier when I check out.
Every individual on your staff is a brand representative! Does every brand representative at your company carry the same brand identity (possessing and demonstrating your organizational vision, values and work ethic?) As a computer software training organization, do you want your best qualities/offerings to be the cleanliness of your bathrooms? As a hardware store, do you want to be remembered as the place you go to get a perfume headache? Branding involves a variety of sensory experiences leaving your customer (or potential customer) with a positive or negative impression of you and your organization.
I’m inspired to write a branding white paper (of academic quality) to support these observations. If you’re interested in receiving a copy, leave a comment on this post and I’ll follow up with you when it is completed.