Where does your brand start and stop? Does it have any boundaries? Are there any corners of your business where your brand can afford to put its feet up, take a break and let some other part of the business take up the slack?
Your brand is the guiding light for all that you do within your business or organisation. No ifs, no buts. By brand I don’t mean logo, I mean all that rich, deep, inspiring, juicy, often intangible stuff that customers can’t always articulate but definitely feel. At its best your brand will create love and preference, drive value in your pricing, build loyalty, inform your recruitment and help staff retention – powerful stuff.
On a recent return trip from the Caribbean, I was checked in to leave on the overnight flight – but if the word “over-subscribed” sends a shiver down your spine then you know where I am heading here, and while the lure of a few more days on a sun dappled beach was strong, the desire to get back to Blighty was stronger.
At times like this, your choice of brand drives an almost crazed set of emotions – you crosscheck your choices, mentally rifle through your expectations and place the promises made by that brand under all manner of scrutiny. Stranded, you want solutions, a sympathetic ear – a virtual cuddle to say “it’s going to be ok”. These expectations are not just made up, they are hardwired into our brains and hearts – we have drunk the brand’s Kool-Aid and boy did it taste good. So, when the brand experience chain breaks, what do we do?
In a global market, the idea of having total ownership of your distribution, customer service and other systems is a bygone concept. But when outsourcing is de rigueur, keeping control over your brand experience is harder than ever.
When the millions of dollars, yen and rupees invested to build and showcase your brand world – building your infrastructure and shaping your hiring policy – can be unravelled in one swift out-sourcing nightmare, it poses the question “does your brand have boundaries?”
In the world of airlines, the brand is king. No longer are we slaves to route monopolies. The service has to live up to the brand promise. As such, “I don’t work for xyz airline” is no excuse. If you stand with the logo above your head, if you wear the uniform, you are the brand. It’s a risky standard to allow the ultimate link between brand and customer to be an outsourced team, washing their hands of all the well-earned brand equity that drives the customer decision.
Craig Wills is the executive strategy director of strategic branding consultancy The Gild, www.the-gild.com