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The Value Of Fixing The Root Of The Problem

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy

The first step to fixing any problem is to acknowledge there is one.

If you find yourself starting every email with ‘sorry’, question why you’re constantly doing that.

If the software doesn’t work the first time, every time, dig deeper before you need to use it again.

If your projects always run over budget look for patterns that reveal the holes in your estimates.

If deadlines consistently allude you be honest about what you need to do to change that.

The simplest way to create exponential value is to make promises you intend to keep and then to keep them. You know from experience hardly anyone does this. Promises are often hastily made and casually broken. Find a way to be the exception and not the rule.

Image by Tobias Toft.

How To Stay True To Your Brand Story

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy

You can spot the best restaurant on Melbourne’s Bourke Street a mile away. It’s the one with fresh flowers on the tables outside and the gleaming windows. If you’re there early enough, you’ll see a professional window cleaner meticulously washing and polishing the glass every other morning, long before the first groggy coffee order is placed at 7.

Story-driven brands pass every decision and subsequent action through a filter. Their story is lived, not just told. Being story-driven is less about following brand guidelines and more about choosing to act in alignment. We’ve recently witnessed how a company’s purpose and values manifest in the actions of its employees when a passenger was dragged from a United Airlines flight to accommodate members of staff. United’s customer commitment (the company doesn’t seem to have a mission statement) says:

“We are committed to providing a level of service to our customers that makes us a leader in the airline industry. We understand that to do this, we need to have a product we are proud of and employees who like coming to work every day.”

When a business strives to be ‘the industry leader’ the bottom line tends to be its first priority. The staff were acting in alignment, as was the CEO when he issued this apology that puts the airline’s interests before customers:

“This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United. I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers. Our team is moving with a sense of urgency to work with the authorities and conduct our own detailed review of what happened. We are also reaching out to this passenger to talk directly to him and further address and resolve this situation.”
– Oscar Munoz, CEO, United Airlines

He later released a second apology, promising to review policies and proceedures—which in every organisation are created to align with the company’s purpose, vision and values. Like Mr Munoz and United, we all need to start there.

How you apologise is a choice. The expression you wear as you greet the customer is a choice. Where you source your ingredients is a choice. What you include or omit from your terms and conditions is a choice. Investment in design. Location. Customer care and spotless windows.
All choices we’re free to make—not because we have to, but because we want to.

Questioning your choices before you act helps you to stay true to your story consistently.

4 Alignment Questions For Story-Driven Brands

Does this represent who and what we stand for?
Does this sound like us?
Does this look like us?
Does this feel like us?

Rather than feeling overwhelmed about getting it wrong consider these decisions as deliberately placed waymarkers on the road to creating the impact you want to make. It doesn’t matter whether you’re one of the world’s biggest airlines or a one man band. In the end, it’s easier to tell and live a story that’s true.

Image by Michelle Robinson.

Two Essential Characteristics Of Story-Driven Brands

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy

You’ve probably had a disappointing experience with a brand or business. Maybe you couldn’t put your finger on what was wrong or why? Customer dissatisfaction is a result of a gap between promises and actions. Filthy bathrooms at the restaurant with the elaborately embossed menu. The snappy flight attendant who wears a painted on smile. Uncomfortable plastic seats in the chiropractor’s waiting room. Out of date produce on sale in the organic grocery store. A damaged delivery that was carelessly packaged.

People often ask me about the secret of a great brand story. I think there are two. Truth and consistency. It’s hard to live one without the other. When our brands are story-driven, that story is lived in every single decision, consistently, on good days and bad. The delight is in the detail.

Image by Dukas Ju.

The Secret To Being Exceptional

filed in Brand Story, Success

You might remember when you were a high school student (as I do) trying to work out a revision system that helped you to maximise your chances of academic success. I never had much luck. Teachers held up model students as examples of how ‘hard work’ paid off. Straight-A students it seemed were just the ones who did ‘the most’ work. And ‘most’, being infinite was a daunting place to start.

It’s taken me a good thirty years to realise that exceptional performance is not a result of expending the most effort—trying to reach the summit in a single, spectacular leap. The secret to being exceptional is in the small choices we make moment-to-moment. The student who organises his notes from the very first lecture of the first semester. The hotel receptionist who consciously makes every interaction meaningful. The athlete who pushes through the last three uncomfortable reps. The CEO who intentionally seeks out and acts on the wisdom of his team. The doctor who greets her patients warmly by shaking them by the hand. Ordinary people making small choices that incrementally make them exceptional.

Small, deliberate choices, made moment-to-moment, have a huge impact over time—not just on the work we do and the people we serve, but on our belief about what’s possible. It’s easy to fall into the trap of complaining about things outwith our control that we can’t change. If we want to be exceptional, we need to get into the habit of finding reasons why we must, instead of making excuses why we can’t.

Image by Louis Vest.

The Power Of Expectations

filed in Brand Story, Marketing

The packaging on the flat-pack garden shed promised fast, easy assembly (80% faster than the competitor’s product), using 75% fewer screws, pre-drilled holes and a 30-year warranty. Taking the manufacturer at their word the customer’s expectation is set. The shed takes two people five hours to assemble, requires additional drilling, a trip to the hardware store to buy a special riveting tool and leaves the weary handymen with a bag of fifty extra screws and abandoned Sunday afternoon plans. There’s a clear mismatch between the expectation the company set and the reality the customer experienced.

Dissatisfied customers are not just created by products and services that don’t work. Dissatisfaction is also a direct result of the stories we the marketers lead customers to believe. Expectations once set are hard to shift. Our words have the power to change so much more than the customer’s decision to click the buy button. We should use them wisely.

Image by Melody Hansen.