What would you think if you walked into a Starbucks SBUX +0.39% and the barista got your triple tall, half caf, iced, non-fat latte wrong? You’d probably say to yourself, “First-world problem,” not fret too much and go about your day. What if you went to a different location the next day, and your order was mishandled once again? Part of the brand promise of Starbucks is that you’ll receive a customized beverage that perfectly suits your palate and your diet, no matter how complex the details or your order are. How many times would you be willing to experience inconsistency before you switched to a different caffeine dealer?
These days, competition for customers is fierce within most industries, even in fields like healthcare and utilities, which once seemed off-limits to marketing. Branding is the key to differentiating yourself from the competition, but if you don’t build your brand promise around reality or consistently live up to it, your branding efforts are pointless. Brands are built through the consistent delivery of the brand promise through all stakeholder touch points. It is the consistent, desired experience that builds trust and trust is the foundation for loyalty and promotion.
Yet many leaders are strangely resistant to upholding the brand promise in which they invested so much time and treasure. Or, they lose sight of the brand values as they focus on the day-to-day activities of their team. It happens more often than you think, and it happens because of the false belief that branding is simply about creating a slogan and a logo that millions of people will recognize and remember.
Successful brands are based on authenticity, drawn from real achievements, real strengths, and real emotions that are alive and well at all levels in the organization. Too often, leaders hope that branding can cover up or distract from a flawed system – that they can convince the world of something that’s not true if they throw enough money at it. Consumers are smarter than that.
Branding will not succeed if an organization is:
• Resistant to hearing what customers, employees and other stakeholders are really saying about them
• Resistant to unearthing the innate talents and personalities of employees, giving them the freedom to become engaged and devoted brand ambassadors
• Resistant to investing in high-quality components, including high-quality training for frontline employees, so that the customer’s experience is always consistent with the brand message
• Resistant to being consistent
Consistency is the key to successful branding. And consistency goes beyond the product itself. The brand promise must be clear with every interaction each stakeholder experiences. That means every part of the organization has a role to play in branding from research and development to finance to talent development.
But being consistent doesn’t mean that you can’t change. In fact, consistency gives you a firm foundation for evolving into offering even more options for even more people. Once you have built a reputation through the consistent delivery of your brand promise, you have permission to evolve and expand.
Richard Branson, a brand name himself, evolved from running a record label to running an airline, with many other ventures along the way (including travel to outer space on Virgin Galactic, “the world’s first commercial spaceline”). He has built a multi-billion dollar conglomerate around his values of risk-taking and adventure. People expect the unexpected from him, but he remains consistent in delivering a customer-centric, aesthetically pleasing, mega-cool experience no matter the venture.
How authentic is your brand? Is it aligned with reality? Are you delivering your brand promise consistently?
Share with me in the comments your thoughts on the brands that are most consistent in delivering on their brand promise.