Whenever I’ve sat in brand tracking debriefs or read satisfaction study reports the customer awareness, saliency, warmth, voltage, advocacy etc. scores are always pegged to visible and planned actions by the brand. Yes, the reputation studies include the unforeseen PR and the NPS verbatim tell us what’s broken in the journey we have asked the researchers to look at. But it masks an important ‘invisible’ customer brand experiences.
We spend much time focusing on the brand presentation. Ensuring the values bleed through livery, environments, events and communications. We project the image we wish our brand to convey to our customers and then pursue it through every point of engagement. TV ads, sponsorships, experiential events, websites, brand ambassadors, etc. all employed to deliver the message and create the right impression.
But whilst being a customer strategist and helping brands customers at the heart of the business equation, I’m also a prospect and a customer of thousands of brands. Each vying for my limited time, to fulfil my immediate need and trying to earn a place in my heart by being that brand which takes me forward to achieve my own deep-rooted subconscious emotional drivers in life. In short, my relationship with brands is no different to everyone else.
But what the extra ‘it’s my job’ perspective gives me is, ‘I see dead brand engagements too’. We all see them in fact. The difference is when I see them my immediate reaction is not to stare at the brand deficiency but to observe those gawping at the brand misalignment.
When the brand is awake everything always looks great, but when it sleeps – ouch. And like an NPS detractor, these are the moments which linger longer in the consumer’s memory or become the stories that get shared faster and wider than those about the brand ad which was informative or the retail store layout which was fit for purpose.
Above is a photo from Atalya airport. We grabbed pizza from here on our way back from our summers holiday recently. I don’t know how much Sbarro spend on marketing, but this was my experience of them promoting themselves. The guy we can see in the photo here is a member of the staff and he is asleep on a table in the restaurant. This is fine if the restaurant is closed and it’s the end of the day, but this was 14h00 and the airport was rammed. I grabbed a table with our boys and my wife went to see what was on offer. But when she came to tell me we looked at the sleepy-head, shook our heads and left. You’ll notice from the lack of customers around him it had the same effect on them!
What does this image tell us about the pizzas the Sbarro serves? I should say nothing. But it tells me that perhaps the food we were going to order, pay for and eat is as tired and worn out as their staff. The ads might be telling us the food is fabulous and delicious, the lady at the counter shouting to passing trade that they offer ‘excellent pizza convenience ready now’ are trying to persuade us of a different story. But the ‘zzzzzz’ will beat any other buzz from a memorable brand experience they can think to serve up.
Ensuring staff understand customer experience expectations is critical behavioural training for today’s brands.
To say that staff is not part of the brand experience or that the brand manager has no impact is to quote from a 70’s text book on the new age of marketing. Experience is everything, as we say at Lexden. Customer experience is the new battleground for brands.
But will these observations come out in a typical brand tracking study…absolutely not. Brands need to rethink the how they take a ‘slice of consumer life’ when it comes to brand experience.
I saw this HSBC façade recently in London. It’s showing me what looks like a bank (especially with the doorway shape in centre), but it’s not actually there. As a customer of HSBC that’s a bit annoying especially as I had a question and spotted it on google maps so made a b-line. But more damaging as a brand famed for seeing the world in a local context it seems short-sighted. I’ve seen many other HSBC ads as I’ve travelled around Europe on business, but this image is sticking in my memory more than most for some reason.
It is the same with Sbarro, this is my memory (and yours now possibly). They have sadly lost the business of our family forever. Probably no great loss to them. In fact when I posted this picture on twitter I received this reply (ouch). But a blog about it which will reach hundreds on practioners, bloggers and media distributors isn’t the best return on your marketing investment either!
If you’d like to read a recent blog on the importance of aligning social media efforts to customer experience click here
Posted by Christopher Brooks, Director, Lexden
We work with brands to attract and retain happy customers | We achieve this by helping them to understand what makes their customers tick, building memorable customer experience strategies and creating engaging customer value propositions.
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