Branding and the Service Conundrum
Written By Dutch Hempel
â€œDo good first.Â Brand good later.â€
I have friends who claim I peg-out their Dork-O-Meters every time I speak about this subject, but the shiny new images and catchy taglines produced (by) for some companies fascinates me.
Whether by choice or necessity companies worldwide are using the culturalÂ shock waves generated by this recession to win market share or change their images. Surfing on this wave of change are the branding experts, adeptly manipulating the angst of nervous owners and executives.
Lucas Conley, author of OBD-Obsessive Branding Disorder writes:
â€œReaching beyond reason, branding throws off businessâ€™s true north. Disoriented, obsessed with surface and sentiment over substance, companies apply their ingenuity to the disingenuous, perfecting names and nuances instead of responding to consumer needs.â€ â€¦
â€ In the name of the brand, any idea can be defended as valid and any crackpot can assume the status of a guru. And when the snake oil salesmen roll into town shilling branding tonics and salves, anxious executives line up, their minions and dependents standing dutifully at attention. Branding now encompasses supply chains, partnerships, and in an especially unholy pairing, human resources. Corporate branding books dictate everything from language to dress to the font on internal memos. Along the way, the axis has tipped; something has gone awry. Once rooted in the physical world of consumer products, branding has transcended its humble beginnings. Now brands must have a smell, a taste, a sound. Voices, attitudes and â€œprocessesâ€ must be branded. What was once made up of products and services is now increasingly built out of nebulous intangibles. What was once a brand is now a Brandâ€
I have witnessed many examples of what Conley describes and have noticed a simple, direct correlation to the depth of branding theories and services applied to the depth of inept management and their belief of that this newest business philosophy will fix damaged, dysfunctional companies.
Accelerated by recession panic, and opportunity, branding has produced the inevitable gridlock of vocabulary and structure used to represent each brand.
In vogue are the left brain / right brain ( facts / emotions ) taglines loaded with words to sooth us and let us know that the associated company feels our pain and understands what is important to us.
By using, reading and buying their products and services our lives will be better
Watch TV commercials for awhile and you will notice certain words are being used repeatedly and a quick search of the internet for some of these produced this example of what I call â€œMessage Gridlockâ€:
Pay Less / Live Better
Live Better / Live Bundled
Invest Well / Live Well
Invest Well / Live Better
Eat Better / Feel Better
Drink Well / Live Well
Build Well / Be Well
Eat Well / Live Well
Do Well / Be Well
Live Well / Be Well
Age Well / Be Well
Be Well / Live Well
Be Smart / Be Well
Live Green / Live Smart
Drive Well / Sleep Carefully
These are associated with dairy products, construction, exercise, vitamins, investing, diets and cancer treatments to name a few.
Creation of most taglines often costs companies thousands of dollars, involves lengthy interviews with employees and in-depth forensic investigations into a companyâ€™s â€œcultureâ€. Is it worth the expense and effort?
Iâ€™ll let you be the judge.
Service is a verb, not a noun.
I want to bring all this back to the Service Conundrum part of the title of this article and I want to use my favorite and probably most visible example:
Walmartâ€™s newÂ â€œPay Less. Live Betterâ€ tagline which replacedÂ Always Low Prices.Â Always.
Walmartâ€™s aggressive charge to increase itâ€™s market share is focused and impressive. I know many people who claimed they never have nor ever will shop at Walmart. In my part of the world Target is Walmartâ€™s main competitor and Many friends have told me they are â€œTarget peopleâ€.
Iâ€™m not one of those people, I shop both.
Watch out â€œTarget peopleâ€œ, Wal-Mart is out to get you.
The yellow, bouncing,Â price cutting, caped, ball commercials are gone replaced by a stylized sun and attractive, happy, middleclass, families Paying Less so they can Live Better. Their print ads have been designed with fewer items per page with lots of space between each item that mimics the design principles Target has used for years in their print ads.
What Wal-Mart doesnâ€™t mention via itâ€™s tagline or TV and print ads is service andÂ believe me it hasnâ€™t changed.
My last visit to Walmart was to get one item in the garden center. It sent me searching for an employee to ask a question about the availability of a refill for a product I was using. I walked every isle, over to the areaâ€™s check out area, which was deserted and covered with paperwork and products, outside where I asked someone watering plants who answered my query about the product: â€œIsnâ€™t ( put name here ) in there?â€
I walk back into the store where I met the person who greeted me as I entered the garden center and asked if he could help me. He said that he thought ( put name here ) who could help me â€œwas on lunch break but should be back soonâ€.
I found what I needed at another store. I might have paid more but they didnâ€™t waste my most precious commodity, time.
Hereâ€™s the point of the story:
Wal-Mart attracts customers with low prices on products.
A&E and Construction Services companies canâ€™t because what they sell you, what distinguishes them from their competitors is service
Service is performed not promised.
Do you think you have the most innovative design? You donâ€™t because it will soon be copied or eclipsed and flashed around the world in days, hours or minutes!
Do you think you have a higher level of craftsmanship and manage better than anyone else, you better look around because you donâ€™t.
When service is what you sell, all the branding, marketing and advertising you can afford will not protect you from the inevitable decline and assured failure that follows poor service.
Poor service will destroy your â€œbrandâ€, chase away your customers, most valuable employees, devalue your company and condemn you to a single strategy for successâ€¦the lowest price.
Henry Hempel Associates / HHS Â©
Sales & Marketing Solutions For Your Business
firstname.lastname@example.org / www.henryhempel.com