Actually, you probably never did. But you certainly don’t now. With the growth of the internet and its reviews, social media and blogs, you now have as many brands as you have customer-facing employees.
The 18-year-old at your cash register, the retiree who greets your shoppers and the aggressive salesperson cold-calling prospects are your brand – and they create your brand message to a far greatr extent than does your CEO, your product development group or your advertising.
I was reminded of this as I spoke with a friend whose company has an outsourced pop machine. Recently, their delivery person began refusing to actually load the soda into their machine. I don’t know whether this is corporate policy, the result of an overscheduled route, or a difficult delivery person. But, since every company I know has their machines loaded for them, my suspicion is it’s him. The brand message is clear: “We charge you an extra 35 cents per can to drop soda off on your doorstep, and we’re not paid to do any more.” As you might imagine, this message does not resonate with the customers, and this brand will likely be replaced!
For another example of how the staff is the brand, let’s look at two nearby Caribou Coffee locations. My local neighborhood spot is fine, but nothing exceptional. They deliver my far-too-hot tea and generally smile. Just another coffee shop, with the requisite trivia question and the chalkboard with questions of the day. The brand message here is, “We have coffee. And a place to sit and drink it.”