For those of you who know me, I’m all about branding. My masters thesis was about non-profit branding — many years before non-profits embraced traditional branding methods. As a small business consultant, I address branding with my clients before we take on any marketing efforts. So it’s not unlike me to constantly look at organizations via their brand.
Recently I had the opportunity to deal with both a large national organization and a small family owned business as a consumer. In both situations, I was reminded that there is one asset that could trump any branding efforts.
That asset is your employees.
Keep in mind, your brand is a promise to the consumer of what to expect. Your brand includes the following
- a color palate that communicates emotions to your audience
- a logo that represents your business
- a tagline (slogan) that distinguishes you from the competition
- your company culture
- buildings, office space and signage that communicate who you are
- customer service
If your brand is a promise, it’s your employees who fulfill that promise.
Here are my stories to illustrate how employees trumped traditional branding efforts.
- For spring break my family went to a nearby hotel with an indoor water park. This company charges peak rates vs. another indoor park, with their brand identity focusing on the high level of family entertainment. This national organization owns about a dozen of these indoor water park hotels. Their brand connotes “quality family fun”. Sadly, the hotel we visited was in a state of disrepair. Nothing was collapsing, but it was apparent by the 1/4 inch or so of dust on everything above arms reach that consistent cleaning was not a priority. The virtual game my girls played intermittently had technical issues. Bugs in the light fixtures and mold in the tub were unattractive to say the least. The park itself had highly chlorinated water, so that made us feel “safe” to swim. But, rusty steps leading to the water slides, large chunks of missing paint on handrails and the constant need to step over abandoned rafts was disconcerting. Luckily, each employee we interacted with made us forget about the lack of upkeep. The lifeguards focused on safety on the slides, and apologized when a slight mechanical issue resulted in longer wait times. The front desk staff went out of their way to answer questions. The waitress in the restaurant provided impeccable service. These employees were delivering on the company’s brand promise… even if their building didn’t.
- On the other end of the spectrum is a small business I hired to update some of my kitchen cabinets. This small business doesn’t have the money or time to invest in creating a brand. They stay busy without advertising or communicating their brand to the public at large. Unbeknownst to them, they communicate their brand during the entire customer process. They provided constant communication during the remodel. Two measuring trips ensured a perfect fit. They fulfilled all commitments they made. On the day of install both employees were professional, clean and thorough. Their work blended perfectly with my existing cabinets. Their brand is their employees and the quality work they perform. Now in the long run, if this cabinet business wants to grow, they should employ some traditional branding techniques. But for now, their employees trump any logo, tag line or marketing materials they could create.
In the end, remember with any branding effort, it’s the interaction with the consumer whether it is via email, Facebook, Twitter or in-person that truly matters. Your logo, tag line, office or any printed materials simply support the promise that your employees provide.
Keep this in mind as you hire staff. Keep this in mind as you give your employees raises. Keep this in mind as you motivate your employees via incentives. They are the front line of your brand and can make the difference in saving or losing a customer.
If you have a small business in Louisville, feel free to call me for tips or help with customer service or branding. (502-435-8825)
(As a note… I did send feedback to the water park management on the lack of cleanliness. It’s always important to let management know when they don’t fulfill their brand promise.)