We’ve all heard the saying, “You’re only as strong as your weakest link.” And that is never more true when it comes to branding.
You know what I mean. You have a bad experience with one clueless customer service rep and you talk trash about the company as a whole. You get bad service from one waiter at a restaurant and you never again go back. You get snubbed by one clerk at a local independent bookstore (as I recounted in my book) and you judge the whole business as unfriendly and rude.
Seth Godin just wrote a great post about the worst voice of the brand representing the entire brand. And it’s true. It may take years to build up brand value and loyalty and just moments for it all to be wiped away.
Granted, if you have a strong, consistent brand, people will be a little more forgiving of a faux pas. The mark of a power brand is that it has enough “brand capital” built up to withstand some PR gaffes and mistakes, as we’ve seen with JetBlue and Apple.
But too many businesses do not hire the right people who will embrace their brand. More accurately, they don’t “train” them on the brand at all. They assign them a desk, show them how to use the cash register, or review their benefits but do not offer a “Brand Education.” Mostly, this stems from many businesses not documenting their brand strategy and values somewhere. But it also stems from devaluing this important aspect of your business.
If you want to be a friendly, playful or approachable brand, you’d better hire people that embody that. If you charge premium prices and hide behind the name of a famous chef you’d better have the best waitstaff around, not clumsy and inconsistent customer service (this happened to me last weekend: The waiter didn’t come to out table for 10 minutes after seating, I had to ask for a coffee 3 times and they also brought the wrong meals to our table). If you value making he customer happy at all costs, then you’d better ensure your store staff are empowered to make decisions on the spot and not have to get 9 approvals for a return.
What is your weakest link? How can you strengthen it? PS: You may want to attend one of my upcoming Brand Strategy Retreats in Seattle or San Francisco to get some guidance on clarifying and documenting your brand for your employees or partners.